20 ways to love your lover in the middle of a global pandemic!
These really are unusual and uncertain times right now. We're all living and working in very different ways at the moment, and this will likely present some opportunities and challenges. Here are 20 ways to love your lover that can be applied in the midst of this madness that’s a global pandemic.
These truly are unusual and uncertain times right now. And we are living and working in very different ways at the moment. Take today as an example, as I am writing this I’m sat on my bed, with my laptop as my Husband - a Principal in a secondary school - is currently conducting interviews from our office space. Working from the bedroom goes against everything I know and believe about creating a conducive working environment. In normal circumstances we’d have a kitchen table to work from but we’re halfway through a small extension and most of our downstairs space has been boarded off. Work on the house ground to a halt for three weeks, yet this week there’s movement - there’s a lone builder in the background occasionally banging and grinding away at something. It's raining, I love listening to the rain, though it has put a dampener on today's walk. Aside from a daily walk/run I haven’t left the house since the lockdown.
At home, we’ve both been riding a bit of a wave of emotion, motivation and focus. There have been moments when we’ve felt closer than ever and experienced the deepest sense of love, gratitude, respect and pride for each other. And there’s been other moments… you know those moments… when you’re feeling grumpy, getting snappy, tensions are higher and the smallest thing can get right under your skin.
In my role as a mindset and leadership coach I help people to lead a life they love and create high performing teams, that could be in the workplace or at home - the ultimate dream team. So I came back to what I know, to share 20 ways to love your lover that can be applied in the midst of this madness that’s a global pandemic. Most won’t cost a penny and they take up very little time. Because it’s the little things that are the big things. It’s not about grand gestures. Twenty might sound a lot. You’ll probably already be doing some of them, so use this as an opportunity to check them off and celebrate all of your efforts. Though I invite you, if you are willing, to make a commitment to doing one or two little things over the next month or so. Use it as an experiment and just see what you notice.
If like me you are a bit of a brain geek, you may be interested to know that many of these ideas featured in this article can be linked to stimulating oxytocin. Oxytocin is a powerful hormone in the body and neurotransmitter in the brain. Often called "the love hormone”, it plays a huge role in bonding, trust and intimacy. It’s also an antidote to depressive feelings and stress. So let’s get it on…
#1 KNOW THEIR ‘LOVE LANGUAGE’…
Now I thought this one was common knowledge these days, but when I last asked a room full of entrepreneurs only one person put their hands up to say that they had heard of this. The Love Language concept is best known thanks to Gary Chapman, and his bestselling book The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts. And it can be a real game changer in any relationship. In a nutshell, we all feel loved in different ways, and we have a tendency to show our love in a way that matches our own love language. Great if you and your partner speak the same love language. But if your way of receiving love is different to your lover’s and you haven’t realised this, and responded accordingly, the chances are the love you are trying to give is getting lost in translation. Overtime, it’s easy to lose that loving feeling. You might experience it as a disconnect, like a glass wall separating the two of you. It’s confusing and frustrating because you do love each other. Take some positive action, either go online with your partner to take the test here. Or swat up on it, take a step back, observe, talk about it or experiment a few times with numbers 2-6 and see which ones get the best responses. What’s your language of love and what is your lover’s?
#2 SAY IT. WITH WORDS OF AFFIRMATIONS, ENCOURAGEMENT, COMPLIMENTS AND GRATITUDE
Some of us want to hear it. And not just those three little words all the time. ‘I love you’ is nice but overused can start to become vague and empty. Let’s get really specific and speak from your heart. What qualities do you most value in them? What are their strengths? What do you admire in them? What are you most proud of them for? Tell them as soon as it feels right. We all need encouragement from time to time. We all have dreams and moments of doubt. What words might they need to hear from you right now that encourages them to be the amazing person you see? What are you grateful for? Is it that they make your mornings easier and your days more worthwhile? Is it just knowing that you have them in your corner? Might they love to hear the words “thank you for…” just a little more often? And there are so many different ways we can communicate these messages these days: face-to-face, in a love note left somewhere for them to find.
#3 GIVE IT. THE GIFT OF GIVING.
Some like to receive love in the form of gifts. It demonstrates that you’ve been paying attention and thinking of them. They love to know that they have been on your mind, and that you have taken the time to think of something they might love. Anticipation and surprise can play an important part in this. Online shopping is still an option or plan ahead when you next head out for supplies. You could get something you know they like to treat themselves to - their favourite chocs or fragrance. Or something you know they’ve been wanting a while, but keep putting off because they’ve put other things or people first. It’s not about the price tag, it’s the thought that counts. What thoughtful gift would your lover like to receive from you at this time?
#4 JUST BE. SPEND QUALITY TIME TOGETHER.
Time is precious. Some feel loved in those moments when you can both be present and spend some quality time together. And at this time you may find there’s plenty of that to go around. Perhaps not sat in front of the TV with your smartphones and laptops out. Could you take a digital detox and put the distractions away? Give them your undivided attention in the here and now. Take a time-out to talk, laugh, sing, dance, sit, or walk together. Find something novel to do together. These moments build positive memories, which can always be relived when you take time to reflect on them together in the future. Maya Angelou said it best when she said “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”. How do you make your lover feel when spending time in your presence?
#5 DO IT. WITH ACTS OF SERVICE
Some feel loved most when you do something for them. What job do they feel they have to do, that you could do for them? Is there something they always do for you that you could do from time to time in return? You might make them breakfast, some lunch, cook dinner (you can tell food is the way to my heart), or do the food shop, service their car, take the kids for a walk, run them a bath… the possibilities are endless. These acts show your lover that you notice what’s going on in their world, you care for them and want to help. It’s easy for us each to take up certain roles, sometimes without question. It’s also easy to sit back and let them get on with it because they do it better (of course they do, they’ve had so much more practice). But life changes, boredom sets in, and sometimes we just need a change. What one act of service could you do for your lover to show you care?
#6 GET PHYSICAL. FOR A DEEPER CONNECTION.
Some people need to feel your love and affection through physical intimacy. If their primary love language is physical touch, nothing says “I love you” more than being held or touched. Create an oxytocin overload with big hugs that last for at least 20 seconds, set your alarm a few minutes earlier to enjoy an early morning cuddle. Kiss deeper, kiss longer, know the places they like to be kissed and hit the spot. If you don’t know, ask. You could give a massage; back rub, foot rub, full body or head. How can you express your love and intentions through touch?
#7 JUST DO IT. I’M TALKING ABOUT SEX BA-BY…
In the past you’ve both either been too busy or too tired, got a headache, not in the mood. We’ve all been there. Perhaps the two of you haven’t figured each other’s love languages yet, to help each other get in the mood. Now is the time. Our drives can increase and become more in sync. It’s like anything associated with the brain and the body, it works on a use it or lose it principle. The more you do it, the more you want it. It ramps up our testosterone levels, delivers more oxytocin with more touching and cuddling, and gives you a hit of the reward chemical dopamine, which can make you want more.
#8 DATE NIGHT
Date night is not just for Valentine’s days, anniversaries or birthdays. Even is this situation you might schedule a weekly date night and get a regular night off from the usual routines. That could mean getting dressed up or keeping it casual for a night in together with good food and without the usual distractions. If it’s not in the diary it won’t happen, so get it dialled in. What would a great date night for you and for your lover look like at this time?
#9 ASK ABOUT THEIR DAY
Ok so there may be less going on in our lives right now, yet if you’re taking some time to focus on your own things, ask them about their day, or specifically about something you know they’ve being doing. Ask what was genuinely their highlight for the day, what were their lows. Listen with curiosity and with fascination in sharing moments and gaining insights into the way they think. We all think differently, we’ve different priorities, we take in different levels of details - some lots and some not so much.
#10 REALLY LISTEN.
You have two eyes, two ears and one mouth for a reason. Listen with your eyes and your ears. Your eyes are the windows to your soul, they don’t lie. Eyes tell us a lot about the emotions and intentions of their owners. So make eye contact as you listen and notice all of the little things -their movements, their facial expressions, the words they use - they all give away clues and important information, far deeper than it might appear on the surface. How long can you listen to your lover for, without interruption?
#11 FOCUS ON THE POSITIVES: KERB YOUR CRITICISM 5:1
In a reading I did at my brother’s wedding, ‘The Art (and Science) of a Happy Marriage’, I offered some similar pearls of wisdom (in much fewer words). The feedback I got from couples in the congregation was that out of all of them, this one really stopped them in their tracks! Scientific studies have shown that lovers who live in love for longer focus on five times more positive things than negative things, and they have five positive interactions for every negative one. Positive illusions are helpful, that’s not to say being deluded is the way forward. We just recognise that our brains are naturally wired to focus on the negatives; for dangers and threats. So shift the balance back to reality. Next time you catch yourself getting drawn into the negatives pause for a moment, and think of five things you love and appreciate before you respond. What five things could you list right now?
#12 STOP LOOKING FOR PERFECTION OR TRYING TO FIX THEM
Nobody is perfect. No relationship is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. There will be bumps in the road. Love is loving and accepting your lover as they are right now, not an idealised version you imagined them to be. They will not always be at their best. Love is standing together to deal with the challenges we each face… and there’s no doubt about it this situation certainly presents many challenges. When your lover shares their problems, fears or concerns, the analytical among us or those of a rescuing persuasion, can fall into the trap of trying to fix them. It comes back to listening, that’s your job. Ask questions to help them understand the problem better and let them find their own solutions. They are capable. If they specifically ask for your advice then share how you might approach it, or how you’ve seen others approach it, but help them to weigh up options for themselves. Don’t assume the problem is as it appears to be on the surface. For that, you might need to dig into it a bit deeper… “How does that feel?… And what is it about x that makes you feel this way?… And what is it about that…”. Get to the bottom of it. Accept their reality. You don’t need to agree, or do anything, just understand.
#13 TRY SOMETHING NEW TOGETHER
Scientific studies have shown that lovers that experience romantic love for longer change things up from time to time, by doing new things together. Novelty get the dopamine systems going. We all like to experience something new, get a taste of the unknown to a degree. Doing it together only associates those rushes of emotions with our partner as opposed to something we only ever experience when we are apart. Now what new stuff you try together depends entirely on you and your lover. What might put a smile on their face, so you can fall in love with that smile all over again? It could be something as simple as learning or trying something new together. What little adventure could ignite a spark for you and your lover?
#14 DARE TO DREAM TOGETHER AND ASK ABOUT THEIR OWN DREAMS AND GOALS
So often we’ve found we can get caught up in the busyness of life, with our daily routines and distractions. As an avid Psychologies reader you might know your dreams and goals like the back of your hand. Could you take some of this down time to dream together? That is, talk about what you both want for the relationship. Sometimes we put this off because we are so focused on our own stuff, or because we fear other goals will get in our way, or sometimes for fear of it not coming true. Shoot for the stars. Working together towards it can bring you closer together, even if you don’t quite get what you wished for. And let’s not forget that you’re independent beings. It can be easy to lose our identity in a relationship when working hard towards our common goals. Many partners put off their own dreams for the sake of ours or other people’s. Show your love, attention and support by carving out some space to find out more about theirs and how you can help them get there. So what are your couple goals? What dreams do they hold for themselves?
#15 KNOW YOURSELF AND TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF
You owe it yourself, your lover and your relationship to know yourself well. To know what you want from life, to know how you tick. Know your patterns - the helpful and unhelpful ones - and own it. Know what your needs are and take care of them. We all have needs. Don’t rely on your lover to fulfil them. Take good care of yourself physically, mentally, and spiritually. Keep growing, to help your love grow for each other. The best way to love you lover starts with you. What one thing could you do to better meet your needs in this current climate?
#16 LEARN HOW TO ARGUE CONSTRUCTIVELY
Arguing well is a skill. That’s not to say we need a good fight to clear the air, get it off our chest, so we can feel better about ourselves and make up for it after. It means having an adult discussion about something that needs to be resolved. If you find your arguments leave you further apart instead of closer together, there’s some work to do. If tensions are high, take a time out to simmer down, until you can both get your points across without being overly emotional or getting personal. Be honest about how you feel. Take turns to talk and to listen. And get to what you don’t want and what you do want to happen in the future. Because every good argument needs a point to it. How well do you learn from your arguments and move on from it?
#17 DELETE THE WORDS ‘ALWAYS’, ‘NEVER’, ‘SHOULD’ FROM YOUR VOCABULARY
Language is powerful. These are just three words that come up in disagreements. They leak out of our mouths unawares and can be incredibly damaging to the person on the receiving end. They are a signal that we have lost perspective and lost touch with reality. We use them when we are thinking in black-and-white and all-or-nothing terms, making sweeping generalisations, thinking emotionally, irrationally and holding unrealistic expectations. It’s shaming language, and it needs to stop. Avoid ‘always' and ‘never’ and get specific. Turn the ‘shoulds’ into ‘coulds’ - it’s a subtle but effective difference. How do you talk to your love when emotions are high?
#18 STOP PLAYING THE BLAME GAME
The part of our mind that keeps us safe can default in a disagreement to try to win. If there is a winner, the other by default becomes the loser. And we risk winning battles and losing the relationship. It’s normal for the mind to search for the initial point where things took a turn in a sequence of events but in doing so it piles all the blame onto the other party, absolving ourselves of any part to play. We hear the line “Well if you hadn’t…”. It’s pointless. Own your part of a problem and give them time to reflect. Work it out together. How easy do you own your part to play?
#19 SAY SORRY AND FORGIVE QUICKLY
Usually, in our essence of Britishness, we can find ourselves saying sorry for all manner of things when they aren’t our fault, for example when someone accidentally bump into us in the supermarket! The exceptions, it seems, can be when we actually have something to be sorry for, or it involves someone close to us. It’s almost as if on some level we think saying sorry gives them reason to leave. Be brave. Find what you can be sorry for and own your part. In that moment of vulnerability trust can be restored. And more often that not, when we take the first step it invites them to take the next. Love does not hold grudges. If you can reach a resolution it’s time to forgive and move on. If you can’t get to a place of acceptance and forgiveness, then it might be time, for the love of the both of you, to go your separate ways. When does sorry seem to be the hardest word for you? What might you still need to apologise for to help your lover let go of something they still hold on to? When is ‘sorry’ not longer enough?
#20 GET A RELATIONSHIP CHECK-UP
Under normal circumstances, in our workplaces we have annual reviews, our cars go in for a regular service and M.O.T, we’ve health screening for our major concerns, all to ensure that we are functioning as best as we can be, and to catch things early before they become a big problem. For many, the thought of getting a regular ‘review’ for our relationship, either with a coach or counsellor, seems taboo. Yet, in many cultures it’s considered normal; many couples seek support before they get hitched. Super-stars like Jay-Z and Beyonce and the Obamas are widely reported to have gone to therapy to strengthen their respective relationships. And studies have shown that couples taking part in a relationship ‘health’ check and planning were significantly happier years down the line, compared to those that didn’t. Reviewing, making plans and taking action can lead to more intimacy, acceptance and love. In our closest relationships there’s much to be enjoyed. And not only can you enjoy a longer and happier life, it strengthens your immune systems, and reduces stress and depression. Most definitely worth the investment.
How are you guys doing in your relationship at this time?
Now if you’ve read this far I know this really matters to you. I would love to hear your thoughts and reflections on this, or if you would like to find out more about how I support people drop me an email.