Improve your relationship with one simple question.

Love strategiesSometimes when you meet a person for the very first time it can really feel like you are a great match. As you improve your relationship you may notice how much you have in common. You:

  • like the same films
  • come from the same town
  • have the same dark sense of humour
  • both like running, or knitting, or bottle collecting, …etc

It’s a frequent pattern in forming relationships that we delight in our connections and our similarities.  There will be many differences to add excitement, interest and imagination to the mix of course. In many relationships the focus is still on how similar, or how in tune we are.

As you get to know that person better you begin to realise that while there are many things about them that match your own experience, there are many significant differences at a deeper level. Fundamentally we are all very different in the way we structure our experience. We have different values, different beliefs about ourselves and we approach life with a different set of strategies. Most of the time this is fine, it is what makes a relationship so rich and varied.

Can you improve your relationship?

It can also cause some of us to doubt occasionally and we start asking the question ‘does he really love me’?

  • “He tells me he loves me, but I don’t really feel it.”
  • “She’s always giving me a cuddle but I can’t really see the love in his eyes”
  • “He gives me presents all the time, but he doesn’t say the right things”.

These are all things that I hear from time to time when people are struggling in a relationship.  What they are describing are the ‘love strategies’ of their partners and themselves.

We tend to recognise ‘loving behaviour’ according to our own personal strategies.

How do you know you are loved?

When we first get into a relationship:we tend to show our love to our new partner in lots of different ways. We buy them gifts, we tell them we love them, we kiss, we hold hands and we look at them in a certain loving way. For each of us, some of these strategies may tend to resonate more than others. Some may even be a turn-off.  But because they are all being used, there is enough to go on for us to be aware of the love of the other person.

As a relationship matures though and we ‘settle down’ it is not unusual for people to fall back on their own favourite method of showing love. If you consider being stroked on the arm as a loving gesture then you may stroke the arm of the one you love in order to show him how you feel. If you like to hear the words ‘I love you’, then you are likely to say them too.

What if your partner’s strategy is different from your own?  What if he feels loved by a certain way you look at him, but you show love by giving hugs?  These simple gestures may be totally at cross purposes and one or both of you can become insecure and feel less loved than you should.

So here is one really great question to ask each other if you want to improve your relationship: ‘How do you know when someone loves you?’ Is it a gesture, some words, a touch of some sort. Perhaps it’s a tone of voice or the way someone stands or something they do?’

Ask each other this question and listen carefully to the answer.  No matter what your own love strategy is, be aware of the strategy that works for your loved one. Show your love in that way too. It can really help strengthen your day-to-day relationship.

If you want to explore this idea in depth, read ‘The Five Love Langages’ by Gary Chapman.

Robert Sanders is a therapist and life coach, supporting people in their present and helping them create their future.

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