This is a topic near and dear to my heart! I just love the sparkly moments that make your heart sing with love for your partner. What could be more cool than focusing on how to make those moments happen?!?! Most couples know that it's delightful to share loving "extras" with their partner. The key conclusion of my ATLOSCon talk was, in fact, making those efforts to do something special isn't really "extra", it's part of the essential joy of a vibrant romantic relationship! Wanting to share loving actions with a partner isn't the challenge for most people though, it's figuring out how to make that happen effectively over the life of a relationship. It's fun! It's work! It's worth it! Happy couples know it's fun to share these moments and they also know that it doesn't just happen, it takes work to make them happen. Finally, it's worth it. This person is the one you have chosen to cherish. If you want the best possible joy in the partnership, it's worth the investment in romantic "extras". In the talk I shared three tips which I'd like to share here too. I'm even going to be talking this Wednesday on the Philosophy in Action podcast about this cool topic!
Find Out What Makes Your Partner Feel Loved
Always Be Collecting
Find out what makes your partner feel loved. Of course, if you've been with a partner for awhile, you know some of the things that they like, but that's not what I'm talking about. It takes a serious conversation to find out what really makes them feel that overwhelming, joyous I-love-you feeling. This is different for different people. For example, I love anticipation. My husband will buy me a gift and give me riddle hints for a week and I just revel in that glorious anticipation of some kind of fun... what could be more grand than knowing there's an especially cool something selected for you by your love and you're getting closer and closer to enjoying it?!?! My husband finds anticipation to be a horrible, upsetting, anxiety-producing experience. If I want him to feel loved, I can get him a surprise, but I need to just present it. In this context, I would not be communicating love if I did the same things that make me feel loved; I'd be torturing him! Finding out, having the conversation, is so important to gaining that most in-sync level of joy in a loving relationship. It may require some time and introspection for you or your partner if you haven't really thought about what feels most loving, but it is time well spent. Also, preferences can change! You may find flowers the sweetest gift and then attend a surprise funeral and find flowers no longer feel as loving because of the sad association. My husband feels most loved when I save him time by buying socks or putting together dinner, but if he suddenly found himself with lots of unscheduled time, that could change. The point is that what makes someone feel most loved must be discovered and given due attention to successfully communicate powerful caring.
Once you've figured out what kinds of actions are perceived as loving, it's time to keep your eyes and ears open i.e. always be collecting. The variety of particulars that your are able share communicates attention and caring. If you find out that your partner loves roses and then you get them a rose every couple weeks and that's it... you'll miss the vibrance and instead have anything from a pleasant routine to a chore. Again, the variety of ways you can communicate loving shows that you're investing thought, that making your partner feel loved is of great value to you. This is where a trusted organizational system like Getting Things Done can come in really handy, but whatever tool you use, you want to have a place where you collect ideas. Did they express interest in a particular vacation spot, restaurant, activity, or item? For example, my husband knew that I had loved horseback riding and set up horseback riding lessons for us to try together (over the years we've learned multiple new skills together including playing the flute, voice lessons, and ballroom dancing). You can put a gift certificate to the clothing store they mentioned in their lunch box or have a flower they love delivered to work. These passing comments can be golden opportunities for showing you're listening and you care. Then, when you move on the next step, you have a treasure chest of delightful ideas that you know will make your partner feel especially cherished.
So, now that you've figured out what makes your partner feel loved and you've gathered this wealth of ideas, it's time to schedule. Stressor and the business of life happen and it is very easy to let weeks or months go by without doing anything "extra" for your partner. This is the person you have chosen above all others, the person whom you cherish most. This person belongs on your calendar. They deserve more than a birthday and anniversary appointment if they are a top value in your life. It's not less spontaneous if you make sure to remember and invest in your romantic relationship. So, set yourself a reminder in your trusted system that you'd like to do something. When that reminder comes up, delve into that treasure chest of ideas and do something special that says I-love-you. Those actions aren't really extra; they're essential to fuel your relationship. As for frequency, I like to do something small weekly and bigger things more rarely depending on how big is big. The largest things we've done for each other are pre-planned trips where the partner has everything scheduled... location, driving music, activities, dinner reservations, everything! The spouse just knows they're being sent off for a certain time period and then they follow the clues for their custom-designed vacation. This is a picture of the ideas that the class I taught came up with:
The left has ways that people felt loved and the right shows particular ideas that they had used for making a partner feel loved. (Again, it's important to do step one and find out what your partner feels as loving because they may hate some of these things. I do not enjoy clothes shopping and my husband isn't into public displays; it's important to know if you want to communicate effectively.) Again, regarding magnitude, you're obviously not going to get a new car surprise on a regular basis, but you can slip a note in the underwear drawer or a flower on the pillow much more often. All those little moments of loving actions add up to a big message of I-love-you passionately, vibrantly, actively. It keeps the joyous feeling as feeling sparkly with fresh edges and no complacency.
It’s worth it! Nourishing your relationship with romantic "extras" is worth the investment. I get a bit enthusiastic on this topic because I have so much fun with these extras! A relationship nourished by these extras sparkles and gives you the full delight of a romance that is fueled for your enjoyment of each other. If that is the kind of relationship you want, romantic "extras" are not really extra. I'd love to hear more ideas of what you've done in the comments, like I said, I love this topic!