Silva Neves is partnering with us alongside other Experts on some beautiful new Episodes this year. Silva shares his perspective on, “What is Love?”
What is love? How is it born? how can it die? And how to maintain it?
As Valentines Day approaches, people talk about love and relationships. Some really enjoy the occasion, others hate it. Some don’t want to be in monogamous relationships, some do. Some don’t like commitment, others love it. Some feel that love is not for them, and some keep searching for it.
We are bombarded with perfect images of love and good relationships on television and on social media, it can be confusing to really make sense of what love really is. The media represents a good relationship as finding ‘the one’ and then living happily ever after.
Some of us don’t always recognise love when it comes to us because we may have some pre-conceived ideas of what love looks like. I hear my clients say: ‘a good relationship should start with love at first sight’ whilst others say: ‘ I don’t trust love at first sight, for me it takes time to get to know someone before I feel love’. The truth is, love can take many shapes and forms and can come your way when you least expect it. There isn’t one perfect way to fall in love with someone.
When people start a relationship with someone they love, they often make the mistake to think that everything should be easy from now on. That is not the case. Love is not only feeling the butterflies in your stomach. Those butterflies will go at some point in your relationship, usually quite early on. For some people, it can be distressing. I often hear: ‘I don’t feel the same way about my partner now that we’re committed’. Feeling differently as the relationship goes on is normal and it doesn’t mean that you are falling out of love with your partner. It means that you are entering a new phase of your relationship with a different kind of love: the one that needs to be maintained by regular small gestures.
The high peak erotic is replaced with fitting sex in your busy life.
The butterflies in your stomach get replaced with a sense of contentment when you’re around your loved one.
The high intensity passion gets replaced with the everyday gentle flow of care and kindness.
And, of course, the ‘he’s perfect for me’ gets replaced with ‘He’s annoying sometimes’.
All of it is still love.
Some loving people can sometimes do unloving things to each other like shouting at each other, intimidation, shaming, insults. If these are one-off occurrence, it is best to learn from those destructive behaviours and ensuring you honour your love for your partner by not behaving like that again. When those behaviours become a regular occurrence, it is when love can die.
For a lot of people, love doesn’t die because of toxic behaviours. It dies because it has been left unattended. Love is a living entity and it needs feeding on a regular basis. Some people think they fall out of love as soon as there is a problem and are prepared to throw in the towel too quickly. Others leave the relationship once the butterflies leave their stomach in search for new butterflies.
Love can be long-lasting if you keep working at it to maintain it. To help you guide through the maintenance, here are a few tips:
1- Never assume what your partner thinks or feels. Always be curious about them and how they are doing.
2- Hug and smile at each other daily. Make it part of your routine to hug, kiss and smile at your partner when you leave the house in the morning and when you return home in the evening. It provides a tender, loving and caring frame for the relationship.
3- Make small, reasonable requests and meet your partner’s requests: the small gestures of making a cup of tea, for example.
4- Surprise. An occasional small gift for no reason can bring some lightness to the daily grind.
5- Spend quality time with each other, talking, laughing, playing and staying away from phones, laptops and tablets for that moment.
6- Develop a positive language. Make sure you express to your partner when you feel warm, loving or sexy towards them, don’t keep it to yourself! And praise them for the things they do well.
7- Learn to like the things about your partner that you can’t change. There will always be some things your partner does that will irritate you. Bring empathy to your life and learn to like those things. Would you rather put up with those things or lose your loved one? If you’re in the right relationship, putting up with the small irritations are worth the trouble to keep your gorgeous partner!
If you and your partner can navigate the daily grind of life and continue to feed love, you are both more likely to have an enduring satisfying relationship. There is no happy ever-after as in fairy tales. But it is a matter of creating the space for love to thrive every day. Whether you are happily single, looking for love or in a relationship, I wish you all a happy Valentine’s Day.
Psychosexual and Relationship Psychotherapist.