4 Ways to Be More Loving
Today is the day of love. This holiday surprisingly has roots that date all the way back to ancient Rome which I found interesting. It’s morphed and twisted and evolved into the card giving day of romantic love we know today.
This is a day that can make you feel on top of the world or have you feeling low in the valley depending on how you view the relationships in your life. And also how you view the idea of Valentine’s Day and indeed love in general.
My own view on love has changed considerably since I was a teen. I am a romantic at heart so I enjoyed the ideas of love portrayed in Hollywood and Disney. Whew...definitely not the best place to understand love at all as far as I am concerned now. 💕
I think of love now as both a verb and a noun, not just a feeling. Love is a decision. Just like everything else.
Especially long-lasting love. It’s a choice.
The ancient Greeks had 7 words for love. 7. One for every different type of love the Greeks could define.
Eros: romantic, passionate love
Philia: intimate, authentic friendship
Storge: unconditional, familial love
Ludus: playful, flirtatious love
Pragma: committed, companionate love
Agápe: empathetic, universal love
Many of these types of love build on each other and are connected to one another and even exist at the same time with the same people. But I think it’s interesting to see this as a way to define relationships. It gives you lots to think about.
In English, we really only have one word for love, though we have different kinds. We tell our kids we love them. Our friends. Our partners. Each type is different though we use the same name for each. All of these types of love though are important in our lives. In fact, I would say that relationships are the most critical component in our lives and have the biggest impact on the quality of our lives.
So today let’s look at 4 ways you can be more loving; to yourself and all of your relationships, so you can get the most out of this critical part of your life.
No. 1 Listen to understand (empathy)
I am going to go out on a limb here and say this one is the most important. Guys if you can’t be real on this one you’re just screwed. Truly. Even when you are talking to yourself the most important thing you can do is to seek understanding.
The goal with this isn’t just checking off the boxes of actively listening. (though admittedly if you do that you do give yourself a fighting chance). The essence of this is to actually get behind the eyes of the other person. Take what you know about who that person is (including yourself) and ask questions. Why is this important to them/me? What is motivating them in this? What am I learning about them that is new, the same, interesting? What can I learn from this?
These questions are important and you really should ask them of yourself too. Loving yourself is about threatening yourself like you would someone you love (go figure). Whether you opt for parenting your child-like self, or just loving on yourself the way you would want a partner to, it in parts begins with learning to understand yourself.
No matter who the other person is there is at the very least something for you to learn from them. Always.
There are some simple things that you can do that can help you listen to understand. These all come from Harville Hendrix Ph.D., author of Finding the Love you Want.
Mirroring which is really paraphrasing in many ways.
Validating which isn’t the same thing as agreeing or condoning
Empathizing which is where the rubber hits the road and you ensure you are accurate in how they feel and understand why
There is more to this process but those three steps are enough to get you going through Dr. Hendrix Dialog process. If you can work with whoever you are talking with to get these three steps you are WAY ahead of the curve.
And you really can do this with anyone. Kids, parents, partners, friends, coworkers, whoever.
But the goal is UNDERSTANDING. It isn’t to be right. You put the relationship before your need to be right.
It’s not about agreeing. It is perfectly fine to not agree with every person about everything all the time.
It’s about understanding. It’s about the other person feeling heard. It’s about the other person feeling seen.
It’s about making them (and yourself) feel valuable and respected.
No 2. The gift of time
I don’t care what love language you are, spending time with someone (and with yourself) is gold. The gift of time I would say is the most precious one we have. Without this time people can feel, dismissed, unimportant, ignored. Including yourself.
Giving your time is about quality, not quantity. It’s about being real with that person and connecting with them. Or with yourself.
Most child development experts say that just 20 minutes of undivided attention to your child every day can stop behavior problems before they even surface. Just give your kids time.
Give your partner time. TIme doing something THEY enjoy every once in a while. Go on a new adventure together. Try a new thing.
Spend time with your friends. Man - this one is super important. We have come to live very isolating lives and I’m not just talking about COVID. For at least a few decades we have become increasingly more isolated from each other. Families no longer live in close proximity to each other and we have all become so “busy” that it is easy to find reasons to NOT spend time with people.
This is a mistake.
Relationships require time. Have a busy day at work but have dinner plans with some friends? Do NOT skip dinner. Sometimes, even when we don’t feel like it, we have to be there for the people that we are closest too. That is how intimacy is fostered. By spending time sharing experiences with others.
There has been a huge push in recent years for boundaries and “saying no” and these are good things. But don’t let them swing so far out of bounds that you neglect people around you. There is a very simple cause and effect process happening here. If you aren’t there for others - others won’t be there for you. It’s really just that simple.
No 3. Show appreciation for all the things
Another thing that is simple but we often fail to do is to focus on the good.
Dude - say thank you. Just say thank you.
I find a lot that couples that have been together a long time don’t do this all the time. Say thank you for the things that you KNOW are not a big deal to the other person. Did he let you steal a fry? Say thank you!
Did your friend hear you out the other night and talk you off the ledge? Say thank you.
Did you do an awesome job at work today? Tell YOURSELF thank you.
Say thank you and show some sort of appreciation for the things others do for you. No matter how small they might be. Challenge yourself to find all the things they do that you can say thank you for! Make it a game!
When you do this you are forcing yourself to focus on the good things in your life. And when you spend your time focusing on the good stuff more good stuff happens because you feel good so you make choices that help you act good! It’s so simplistically beautiful!
And for the love of all that is holy don’t forget to thank yourself.
Thank yourself for smiling at the person at the grocery store.
Thank yourself for killing it in a meeting at work.
Thank yourself for giving yourself TIME with yourself!!
Thank yourself for all the things just like you would if someone else was doing it. Imagine reinforcing a child - every time they do something well, good, right, to be proud of you tell them. Tell yourself!
You won’t believe the difference this will make in your relationships.
No 4. Share with kindness
No matter how much you care for and love the other people in your life there will be moments of stress, tension, and disagreement. That Dinsey fairytale happily ever after thing? Bullshit.
But just because there are moments of stress doesn’t mean you get the excuse to be an ass.
Deep intimate relationships are formed with trust and transparency. That means being real with the people you are in a relationship with. I rely on my friends and partner to tell me when I’m missing the mark. But if they didn’t tell me with kindness it would be damaging, not loving.
Equally with me when I have to share something challenging with others I work very hard to do so with kindness first. And I am kind to myself as well. If I fail at something (and I do, often) then I think about that without destroying myself for the failure. I can even fail with sharing with kindness - but I don’t let the guilt take me out past the point of being helpful. I look at my mistake, learn from it, give myself a talking to and move on.
I will also share here that it is REALLY important that we do this with the people we are closest to. I’ve read the meme several times that talks about judging a person by how they treat a stranger, and yes that is true. But it is equally true that we sometimes treat the people we say we love the most the worst.
Why do we do that?
It’s because we feel safe. We feel safe to be an ass to people we don’t think are going to leave. Or with people we think will allow it. And you know what happens? They leave. It erodes the relationship and people will only tolerate so much unkindness from others before they move on.
You cannot stop this process. Your children will check out. Your spouse/partner will check out. Your friends will stop being there. You must be kind. ESPECIALLY when what is being shared is difficult or uncomfortable.
Don’t kid yourself into thinking that you can treat the people at home like they will always be there - they won’t be if you aren’t nice. Be kind.
Alrighty guys there you go. Four ways to be more loving to yourself and everyone in you come in contact with. Valentine’s Day is a day to share love and this world certainly needs it right now.
This is also not a conclusive list. There are countless ways to show love for people. Share some of your favorites I would love to read them.