Ideas for Getting Better at Love


Why Haven't I Found My Soul Mate?

To me, a soul mate is someone you feel you've known forever. It's not necessarily your most passionate relationship, or even the person you marry. I don't think there's only one partner for each of us; we can find happiness with a number of different people, and waiting for some ideal match may keep you from seeing what's right in front of you. People don't necessarily know what they really want, anyway. I see this with clients who say, "I want him to be self-confident but not arrogant. Wealthy but not concerned with money. Super-successful but available to spend all his time with me."

So many people say, "I always thought I'd just run into someone—that fate would bring us together." But there have been times when I've met with a client and the very next day, in walked the person that client wound up marrying. Who's to say that's not fate?

How Can I Fall Back in Love with My Partner?

Try looking at your spouse with the eyes of a new lover. We can forget that our romantic partner is always changing, just like we are, and we develop fixed ideas about who he is. But when we label a person—even if it's something positive, like "my rock"—we're solidifying him.

Drop your story about who your partner is and see him with a "fresh-start mind." Decide that today you're going to learn three new things about him, or you're going to really listen when you have dinner together. As someone once told me, if you're dancing with someone and aren't paying close attention to the way he's moving, you step all over each other. And then you don't want to dance anymore.

Will We Ever Swing from the Chandeliers Again?

Sexual passion is prone to "hedonic adaptation": We get habituated to even the best things in our lives. One way to counteract that effect is by introducing variety, so try new things with your partner—especially challenging activities. In one study, couples had to complete a task that was either novel and physiologically arousing, or mundane. The partners in the exciting group were attached with Velcro straps and had to crawl while carrying a pillow between their bodies; the partners doing the mundane task just rolled a ball. Afterward, the novel couples reported more loving and supportive feelings for each other. Sit down with your partner and create a list of exciting things to do, like rock climbing. Some researchers think that when we're in danger, our physiological response—racing heart, sweaty palms—may feel like sexual attraction.

Why Am I Attracted to Jerks?

Some women may recognize the theoretical appeal of the nurturing male, but cannot deny the superior sexual attraction of those cruel bandits who will take off for another continent the moment the lovemaking is finished. I call it the nice guy–bastard complex. The bastard's appeal is that he's unavailable, so he can't act as a permanent witness to one's sexual vulnerability and strangeness. But the truth is that most of us consider ourselves strange; it's rare to get through life without feeling odd about sex in one way or another.

Domestic Harmony

"The secret to getting a man to pick up after himself is to use a reward system. Socks and shoes are worth a sandwich. Underwear is worth more, like sex. Threaten to destroy the TV remote, and he will do anything you say."

We're Fighting—Are We Doomed?

Peter Pearson, PhD, and Ellyn Bader, PhD, are the founders of the Couples Institute in Menlo Park, California.

Peter: When I see couples who have been together 20 years without a cross word, I think, "Can this marriage be saved?" The people who grow in relationships are willing to test each other.

Ellyn: When you learn how to repair your partner's hurt feelings, to give when it isn't convenient—that's when you're building the emotional muscle you need for a truly intimate partnership.

Peter: You have to ask each other questions and listen to the answers without personalizing too quickly. Not "Why are you doing this to me?" but "Let me understand why you believe this or want that."

Ellyn: One of my favorite lines is "Can you be curious instead of furious?" Pretend you're a reporter doing an interview.

Peter: Ask your partner, "What does this really mean for you?" Relationship conflicts can trigger painful memories from the past—of rejection or abandonment—and that's when a person gives you a 50-cent response to a 10-cent stimulus. If you're really stuck, there are three words that might be more important than "I love you": "Maybe you're right."

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Love Magazine: Ideas for Getting Better at Love
Ideas for Getting Better at Love
Love Magazine
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