Such a broad and abstract topic as love, not surprisingly, is hard to define. And, of course, many writers, artists, musicians and psychologists have tried. Tons of theories exist and persist. (Here are four theories of love.) We spoke with two couples therapists to get their thoughts on this elusive subject.
“Being in love is an agreement — made consciously or unconsciously — to participate in the experience of personal growth and transformation,” according to Judy Ford, licensed clinical social worker and author of Every Day Love: The Delicate Art of Caring for Each Other. “When we are in love we are saying ‘yes’ to the process of becoming our best selves.”
Terri Orbuch, psychologist and author of 5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage from Good to Great, believes that true love includes both the arousal-producing, can’t-stop-thinking-about-you passionate love and the supportive and emotionally intimate companionate love. She underscored that both do “wax and wane,” and may need work. In fact, a decline in excitement is “a typical progression or development of a long-term relationship,” she said. (Here’s Orbuch’s advice onreigniting the passion in a relationship.)
6 Signs of Love
Orbuch shared six signs that indicate a couple is in love. She said that a couple might have some or all of these signs. (In other words, if your partner isn’t much of a sharer, it doesn’t mean he’s not in love with you.)
1. Personal information.
- You reveal intimate information to your partner that you don’t tell others, and they do the same.
2. Mutuality. “You think of yourself as a couple rather than two separate entities or people,” Orbuch said. In other words, you think in “we” terms, not “I.” If someone asks what you’re doing this weekend, you consider your partner in your plans, and respond with something like “We’re not sure yet.”
3. Affection, caring and support. Do you both care if the other has a bad day? Do you automatically turn to your partner for support?
4. Interdependence. “You’re interdependent with each other socially, emotionally and financially,” Orbuch said. So whatever you do will affect your partner, and vice versa. If you’re offered a new job in a different city, the decision you make affects your partner.
5. Commitment. “You have a desire to have the relationship stay, endure and last,” Orbuch said.
6. Trust. Both partners are honest and have each other’s best interests at heart, she said.
Discussing Love with Your Partner
People have different ways they express their love. One of the ways you can develop or cultivate love, Orbuch said, is by talking with your partner about it. For instance, an important talk may be your views on commitment. Do you see monogamy as part of commitment? Do they?
Also, do you think of other love signs similarly? For instance, your partner might solely share his private information with you, whereas you tell your close friends everything. This may be upsetting to him, but it doesn’t mean you love him any less. Or your partner has a medical scare but never comes to you. You think this means he doesn’t truly trust or love you. However, his notion of love might mean working this out on his own and then coming to you.
Cultivating Love Every Day
Cultivating love is a lot easier when things are going your way. As Ford said, “It is easy to be loving when the setting is romantic, when you’ve got extra jingle in your pocket, when you’re looking good and feeling fine, but when one of you is out of sorts, exhausted, overwhelmed, and distracted, behaving lovingly requires conscious effort.”
True love shows up in the tougher moments. “It’s in those moments of restlessness and upheaval that you find out who you are and what it truly means to love each and every day,” Ford said.
Below, Ford offers several techniques for cultivating love daily.
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