In my book Communication Miracles for Couples, I talk about how it’s necessary to realize each person has different rules or laws as to what true love is. Case in point: many years ago I was with a girlfriend I’ll call Bonnie. I was giving her a nice shoulder massage when she suddenly blurted out, “Would you cut that out!” Totally caught off guard, I said “Cut what out?” She annoyingly stated, “You’re always massaging me. You’re always touching me. Why do you have to be so grabby?” It was true—I frequently massaged her. So I said to her, “I do that to show you how much I care about you.” She quickly responded, “Well, I don’t feel very loved. After all, you never tell me you love me.” She was right again; I never actually said the words “I love you” to her, although she frequently said such things to me.
Bonnie and I had a long discussion about this episode and we finally realized what had been going on. While I was growing up, whenever I was being spanked or punished, my parents would say, “We’re doing this because we love you.” Therefore, the words “I love you” had a negative connotation to me. I figured, talk is cheap. The way to really show a woman you love her is to touch her in pleasant ways. That was my “rule” of how real love should be expressed. On the other hand, while Bonnie was growing up, she had an uncle who frequently gave her massages. One day, this uncle sexually molested her. Therefore, she took my massages as being a precursor of impending doom. We both thought we were expressing love to each other, when in fact we were unconsciously pushing each other’s buttons!
The way we tend to express love to another person is, in most cases, the way in which we would like to receive it. I gave Bonnie massages because that’s what makes me feel loved. Even if a gorilla gave me a massage, I’d feel totally loved. Bonnie frequently told me she loved me because that’s what she wanted to hear. When people are unaware of their partner’s preferred ways of feeling loved, they end up expending a lot of energy that goes unappreciated. Yet by knowing exactly what helps your partner feel safe and loved, it becomes infinitely easier to create intimacy on a consistent basis.
There is a simple exercise you can do with your partner to find out how best to charm his or her heart. Have him or her become comfortable in a chair, and then say the following: “Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and begin to think of a specific time you felt really loved by me. Remember that time as clearly as you can. Remember where we were, what we were doing, and exactly what happened that let you know I really loved you.” Give your partner a minute or so to fully re-experience such a moment. Then proceed, “What was most important in letting you know I fully loved you? Was it something I said, or the way I looked at you, the way I touched you, or something else? What exactly helped you to know that I really loved you?” Listen carefully to what your partner says, because the answer(s) to this question can transform your relationship.
By knowing how your own heart is charmed, you can reveal this important information to your partner. Try the previous exercise on yourself, or have your partner read it to you. You may be surprised to discover exactly what your partner does that creates a warm feeling of safety and love in you. Once your mate knows how to help you feel loved, he or she can more easily and consistently show you affection.
Every time you charm your partner’s heart, you’re making a “loving deposit” in to your “shared love account.” Your shared love account is like a bank balance you share together. When things are going well, there’s a lot of love put into “savings.”When both of you consistently make deposits into your shared account, you feel abundantly in love. It’s much easier to handle problems when there’s an abundance of love in your love account. Therefore, make frequent deposits of love in your relationship account by charming your partner’s heart. Remember to do the little actions that make a big difference in how your partner feels. It will immediately help both of you feel wonderfully intimate, and when problems arise, you’ll have plenty of love “banked” to help you ride out the storm.
Excerpted from Find Happiness Now by Jonathan Robinson. Reprinted with permission.