Do you struggle at times to love your partner? Many people do. Some, because they’re with the wrong partner. But for many of us it’s because we never learned how to make love easy. One reason is that very few people actually believe love can be easy. We hear so much about relationships being hard work and challenging. As a result, often, that’s what we create.
Now, that’s not to say that just because you believe love can be easy it will be easy. There are certain skills, learnable skills that are necessary to make love easy, and I’ll get to those later in this article. In addition to believing that love can be easy, and developing the skills, there’s another key—it helps if you’re crazy about your partner.
Are you crazy about your partner?
Were you ever? Was that sparkle there back in the beginning? If so, maybe it can be rekindled.
Let’s begin by considering one of the obstacles to making love easy, which is that we live in a culture in which people spend endless hours asking “why” and trying to explain away behaviors that they don’t like—their own and their partners. The idea is that if I can explain why I behaved immaturely or inappropriately that makes it okay in some way, and with sufficient understanding I’ll stop behaving in those ways.
I was rude to you because the way you spoke to me reminds me of how my mother used to speak to me when she withheld her love.
I ignored you because you excluded me when we met those people at the concert last night. Being excluded triggers a response in me because that’s how my first husband treated me.
I wanted to come toward you and support you, but that’s not something people did in my family of origin so I’m not very good at it.
The thing about all of our explanations and interpretations is that the answers are made up. Sure, there may be some truth to them, but the path from cause to effect is seldom a straight line.
- Two sons can be ashamed of their father because he never gets his life together. One son grows up to be a derelict and he blames his father. The other son grows up to be an admirable man because he took a vow not to turn out like his father.
- A young woman is sexually abused and she grows up to believe she is damaged. Another young woman is sexually abused and she grows up feeling strong and proud because she is a survivor who can overcome anything.
- One introvert uses being introverted as a reason why he can’t ask for the things he wants. Another introvert writes a book about the value of being an introvert and ends up giving a talk about it at a TED conference.
My point is that the events in our lives don’t have a singular meaning, yet we often attribute our current behaviors to past events. So here’s the question, “Do you have a choice?” Imagine someone offering you a lot of money to never be rude to your partner. Never again. Could you do it? Maybe not for $100, but what if you were offered a million dollars? Ten million dollars?
What does it take for you to stay awake and behave intentionally?
I remember spending some time with a foul-mouthed man who mostly spoke in four letter words. He was fired from one job because he cussed so much. But when his mother came to visit he only used one foul word during the entire weekend. That happened when it started to rain at the family picnic and he said, “This foul weather is ruining my picnic.”
To develop this kind of self-awareness and intentional behavior does not necessarily require understanding why I behave a certain way. The foul-mouthed fellow didn’t need to understand why he used foul language in order to stop, nor did he need to spend time examining his past, he simply chose to stop using it when his mother was present.
I’m not saying that we aren’t affected by our pasts, nor am I saying that there is never value in being self-reflective and trying to learn from our pasts. I’m saying that maybe we’ve gone too far and as I wrote about previously, maybe we’ve become self-indulgent.
Certainly, there is some value in attempting to understand our behaviors, and for some people this is more helpful than for others. But I’m skeptical that understanding alone solves my problems, and I’m concerned that doing this—searching for why—feeds the myth that there is a why, an identifiable answer. If my “answers” don’t result in a change in my behaviors then they are little more than excuses.
Try replacing explanations with declarations
I think that instead of explaining my misbehavior it’s more constructive to embrace the moment, establish clear intentions and wholeheartedly act upon them. When I do this I can transcend my history and even my habitual tendency to behave in certain ways.
So . . . if I want to make love easy, the first step is to believe it can be, and the second step is to stop using the past to justify my inappropriate behaviors today.
The idea that my past fully determines who I am today is a myth. There are four other myths that I encourage you to question if you want to learn to make love easy. They are:
- Relating needs to be hard for people to grow.
- Other people make us feel the way we do.
- We can’t love another until we love ourselves.
- Love is/should be unconditional.
None of the above are true. They are all made up ideas. If you believe them to be true the question to ask yourself is, “Do those beliefs serve me well?” In rare instances maybe one of these myths could be constructive, but in general, I think they are dysfunctional.
To make love easy, Hannah and I have adopted the following beliefs and actions. In this article I have spoken about the first one—believing that love can be easy. If you want to better understand the other six, I invite you to watch a replay of a recent webinar we presented. In the video Hannah and I go into detail about the following points.
- The belief that love can be easy.
- Anything can be discussed in two ways: immaturely or maturely.
- Treating a marriage/partnership as if it’s fragile makes it feel robust.
- Accepting 100% responsibility for our own feelings and behaviors.
- Having 4-5 clear agreements that reduce our anxiety.
- Returning to NOW.
- Turning toward one another instead of away from one another, even in times of stress.