Valentine’s Day isn’t always roses and heart-throb. The reality is most couples struggle over time to maintain the appreciation, connection and desire for one another they once had. Resentments build up and create distance, which if not attended to can become insurmountable.
The good news is that there is a plethora of positive practices you can implement to continue to infuse your relationship with meaning, depth, and freshness.
Somatic Attachment and Trauma Expert, Diane Poole Heller has some sound advice for couples on how to cultivate and restore connectedness:
“Every relationship can at times be difficult to navigate, but the one thing that can always be relied upon to build on, restore, nurture your attachment is LOVE.
I thought of giving you some essential tips, made easy to remember by using L.O.V.E. as acronym for a few simple and effective implements that can keep your relationship alive, healthy, and meaningful:
L as in…
•Limbic-to-Limbic: Our ability to receive, feel and show love originates in our emotionally sensitive limbic brain. Emotions are contagious—and easily caught and spread. Limbic resonance grows by sharing your deep emotional states with your partner. Practice lightness, a vital part of personal interaction. As Daniel Goleman says, “Laughter may be the shortest distance between two brains.”
•The Five Love Languages: This seminal book by Gary Chapman clearly articulates the main ways people tend to express their love: physical touch, acts of service, quality time, words of affirmation, receiving gifts. Recognizing your love language—and your partner’s— can help you communicate with more grace and finesse. Speaking your partner’s love language means going out of your way to do things in the style he/she can best receive. If your spouse’s language is words of affirmation, try giving him/her a compliment every day.
O as in…
•“Oops!”: Initiate and receive repair attempts as soon as possible, to heal mis-attunements and to build relationship resiliency! As Stan Tatkin says in his new book Wired for Love, one of the ten commandments of Relationship Essentials is “Thou shalt correct all errors…and not make dispute of who was the original perpetrator.”
•Orientation: Shift your orientation away from the instinctive defensive response that can be triggered in relationships (since our brain is biased toward survival threat) and toward regaining and sustaining openness. Defensiveness makes us feel constricted, fearful or avoidant, whereas cultivating our willingness refuels our receptivity to our partner.
V as in…
•Valuable down-time and up-time together: Remember how to “up-regulate” your partners when they need help accessing their own aliveness, and how to “down-regulate” them when anxiety takes over. For example, to get energy moving, try playing some catchy music or using affectionate touch or tickling to bring some giggles to life. For more soothing down regulations, emphasize taking the nervous out of the sympathetic nervous system. Hugs, massages, hot baths, or candlelit conversations will do wonders for strengthening the bond between you.
•Victory: When injuries occur and get repaired, make it so you both benefit. Discover a true mutuality by figuring out solutions in such a way that what is good for me is also good for you. As Tatkin recommends, search for the Win-Win versus compromise. Hint: It involves shifting your partner toward friendliness and away from threat. The solution needs to be meaningful and worthwhile for both of you. “Many a war has been avoided with a friendly smile, a well-placed touch, and a reassuring voice,” says Tatkin.
E as in…
•Emphasize Novelty: According to Norman Doidge, Bill O’Hanlon and Joanie Borysenko you get a dopamine blast from newness. Maintaining a long-term relationship means you’re going to have to do certain things to inject some novelty into it. Learn something new about your partner’s passions and dreams. Support and participate!
•Electronic touching is ok but Embracing for at least 20 seconds or Emotional connectedness with Empathy is MUCH better. Never underestimate the power of Eye contact. New research from Helen Fisher stresses how important frequency of face-to-face contact is in building stronger attachment bonding with our partners (or kids, family, friends…) to stay healthfully tethered.
Much L.O.V.E. to you all!”