We all have our image of the ideal relationship. For most of us, it’s about constantly supporting each other and being tender, adoring, and happy together. After all, this is the promise inherent in “living happily ever after,” isn’t it?
It turns out though, as anyone who’s been in a relationship for longer than a few months knows, that happily ever after takes work. The truth is: your partner isn’t perfect. But there’s another problem that’s equally true: your partner’s partner isn’t perfect either.
So given the curse—or blessing—of imperfection, how do we make our relationships thrive? Or what do we do when the initial spark that ignited our relationship is no longer there, when the passion that carried us over the horizon goes down like the sun?
Many people believe that the answer lies in generating extraordinary relationship experiences, something as grand and powerful as a wedding or honeymoon. Perhaps the secret to a happy long-term relationship lies in buying our partner a multi-carat diamond ring, or taking a trip together around the world, or raising Pavarotti from the dead to serenade us in our bedroom? While the above are undoubtedly wonderful gestures, a more important ingredient of a happy relationship is the consistent sprinkling of “love moments.”
The famous architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe once said, “God is in the details.” Similarly, I would argue that “love is in the details.” Love lies in the warm embrace and silly face, the kind word and approving smile; we nurture our relationships when we go out for a romantic meal or take time to make love, when we write a lust letter or remind our partner how much he or she means to us.
Love moments are the building blocks of every relationship. These ordinary moments, tended to with love and care, are what make a relationship extraordinary. But how do you begin to incorporate them into your life?
Look for inspiration. Make a list of past experiences you and your partner have shared. Which ones, no matter how small, stand out as being special? Was it the time you went to a concert together? Or when you surprised your partner with a massage and movie night?
Commit to future love moments. Make general commitments—and particular commitments—for future love moments. For instance, as a general commitment, you might set a calendar alert to seek and initiate more love moments in your relationship. Memorialize particular commitments by making a list, such as going to a play with your partner, embracing him or her when you get home in the evening, or finding a nice word to say before you leave for work.
Accentuate the positive. In 1945, Johnny Mercer’s song “Accentuate the Positive” was number one on the Billboard charts—and Johnny’s advice is essential. Make a list of things you can do with (or for) your partner that will increase the positivity-to-negativity ratio in your relationship. This could be sending a brief text message, or going out for a meal together, or just spending some time talking and offering support. Keep adding to the list and keep it with you so that you can consistently boost your ratio.
Don’t eliminate the negative. The second part of Johnny Mercer’s advice is to “eliminate the negative.” Here Mercer is not entirely correct. You’ll want to reduce the negative, but not eliminate it. If there is a recurring conflict in your relationship, think of ways to deal with it. Commit to being present in the conflict without hostility and contempt. Recognize that differences are inevitable and can actually deepen your relationship.
Remind yourself in writing. Take a minute or two to appreciate your partner, yourself, and your relationship. Remind yourself, preferably in writing, what you fell in love with in the first place. Write down the things you love about your partner now. Relationships are a gift, not because they provide us with constant happiness and joy—they don’t—but because they provide us with cherished moments as well as moments from which we can learn and grow.
Transforming the everyday into Valentine’s Day isn’t a complex task. We don’t need to radically transform the way we live and love. All we need to do is pay attention to these details, to those moments that are the building blocks of life and love.
**Originally published at Mindful Word