During February our attention is drawn to love and relationships, and commercial messages may distort our view of what it means to love. I’m not suggesting that it isn’t nice to receive candy and flowers, but here’s another perspective on what it means to LOVE.
L is for Look. Look deeply into the essence of your loved one. Look beyond their roles in the world and your assumptions about who they are. What are their values, their likes, dislikes, joys and fears? When your loved ones talk, listen with the sole intent of understanding—what is their world like, who are they, what’s important to them?
O is for Open. Open yourself to noticing, honoring and respecting the differences between you and your loved ones. We often assume that others see the world the way we do. This can get in the way of our truly knowing someone. And, if they don’t see things the way we do, we assume that there is something wrong with them and we try to set them straight through persuasion or worse, coercion. Imagine instead that you were honored and respected because of the differences. Then work on offering this richness to your relationships.
V is for Validate. Validate your loved ones by telling them what you value about who they are. Authentic compliments are gold in relationships. When you disagree, remember to look for any areas of agreement and point them out before you articulate how you see things differently. If there is truly nothing you agree on, demonstrate that you understand their perspective and respect their right to disagree. Part of validating is taking responsibility for your part in any difficult situation and apologizing where that is appropriate.
E is for Engage. Engage whole heartedly, bringing all of you to the relationship. Part of loving is trusting your partner to accept all of you, and trusting the relationship to be able to withstand the challenges of the diversity inherent in all relationships. Hiding parts of yourself or withholding your perspective because you fear your loved ones won’t like it, may keep the peace in the moment, but little skirmishes in the moment, handled lovingly and respectfully, can prevent all-out war in the future. Caustic resentments can build up from holding back the expression of the little disappointments.
Enjoy your relationships. Have fun, appreciate what you’ve got. Find little ways to be with and support your loved ones. It’s the little things that count in the long run. If you want help reviving the LOVE in your relationship, call 415-256-2573.