Today I was asked for five tips for improving the love between spouses but I would extend my answer to any loving, committed relationship.
1. Love as if this could be your partner's last day on earth.
If you always love your partner as if today could be his or her last day with you, you will love completely and tenderly. This is what our heart craves. And we all have expiration dates. You never know the exact day so wouldn't you want to love your partner that way every day, just in case?
If your partner has done something that you perceived as harmful, forgive him/her. Have you ever heard the expression, holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die? That's what you do when you are holding some perceived wrong against your partner. Forgive. It can heal both of you. Along with forgiveness, comes acceptance. Everyone does things that annoy, and can even infuriate, others. If you can take the behavior or characteristic your spouse has that you don't like and accept it as a part of who he or she is, you will get to that place of serenity spoken about in the Serenity Prayer. I like to make an adjustment to that prayer that goes like this: God, grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, courage to change the one I can, and the wisdom to know that person is me.
3. Focus on the Positives
So many times when something bothers us that our partner does, it becomes magnified and takes on monumental importance in our lives, when in actuality it is only a very small thing in the overall scope of your relationship. Instead of focusing on the one or two things your partner does that you don't like, try making a list of all the things you appreciate about him or her. Even better if you share it with your partner.
4. Use the Platinum Rule
As children, our parents teach us the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." This might be helpful when you are a child but as you grow and mature, life becomes infinitely more complicated. Two people in a relationship usually don't want exactly the same things. Have you noticed? If we do for our partner what we would want in a similar situation, we are often missing the mark. I instead recommend using the Platinum Rule, which says, "Do unto others as they would have you do unto them." This requires you ask, listen, and understand what your partner wants and then, you give it to him or her instead of giving what you would want if you were in their shoes.
5. Change your Perception
Yiur mind is a very powerful tool. Your perception determines your reality. All day long, you tell yourself stories about what other people do and their motives for doing so. People frequently make up stories that create stress and misery for themselves. I'm suggesting that if you are going to make up a story anyway, why not make up a story that makes you happy instead of frustrated? So, for example, if your husband doesn't take out the garbage or your wife doesn't cook dinner, instead of telling yourself the story that s/he doesn't care about you and is only doing this to hurt and annoy you, tell yourself a story about how hard your spouse must have worked to be so tired to not do something he or she normally would. It will change your entire experience of situations. This is something that requires practice but if you put in the time learning to do this, I guarantee, it will change your life.
With Valentine's Day being tomorrow, which one are you willing to give your partner as a gift? Do it consciously for the entire day. If you do, please come back and tell me how it went.