Dr. Pat Love describes four basic actions to take that constitute a concrete offering of love and can, therefore, dramatically improve a couple relationship:
There are really four things, let me just tell you, four things that every baby needs, every child needs, every adult needs. It’s just basic to homo sapiens, to the human species. We need people in our life. And we’re looking at maybe 3 – 5 people. But if you want to be a love partner, if you want to be a good parent, here’s what you do:
1) You’ve got to show up. You’ve got to be present, you have to be under the same roof. You’ve got to log some hours with each other. And you don’t just show up for what’s fun for me. If it’s important to you, it becomes important to me. I mean, some people say that we’re, those of us in the West are living in a state of friendly narcissism: I’ll do it if it’s fun for me, but I won’t do it altruistically. I won’t put myself out for the act of love. But I say, show up and it’s especially important – think about it – do you go to funerals, do you go to graduations, do you go to those ceremonies? People evaluate relationships around holidays, birthdays and special occasions. How many of us don’t even go and don’t attend and don’t show up and how meaningful is it when someone does show up? It can change a relationship. I wrote about this in my most recent book that I had this sort of loose knit group of friends. One friend’s husband died. Everybody coalesced around that. And that took that loose knit group and made it a close camaraderie. It just really forged a friendship that’s now been almost 30 years. And it did because people showed up. So that’s the one thing. You got to show up. You got to have your body there.
2) You’ve got to tune in. Attunement means that when I’m present with you, that I am not multi-tasking, which is the number one detriment for women because the number 1 cause of stress in women, the number 1 cause of accidents, the number 1 cause of forgetfulness. We think, you know, it’s the low estrogen, (but) it’s because we’re doing so many things with our brain. Number 1 cause of mistakes. But if none of that impresses you: You cannot be intimate when you’re multi-tasking. So, during those important moments when I look at you, I really see you. And you can tell when I look at you with soft eyes and I really hear you and I’m present, so I tune in. I mean, such a difference in taking someone’s hand and holding their hand and feeling their hand. And just think how this is for children, because they long for it. When a baby’s born, they just gaze and they look at you and they want that limbic resonance. And resonance means feedback; that I’m not only looking at you, but you know I’m looking at you and I’m tuned in. So, show up, tune in, that’s the second thing.
And the third thing is:
3) I tune in long enough to understand you, to see how you are different, that I tune in long enough to get you or understand you so that number 4) my behavior, will be congruent with that understanding. And, I tell you, we love people who love us. It’s pretty simple. But we really love people who get us. And then their behavior shows it in those subtle little ways. You know, when you lose a friend, when you lose a partner, someone leaves your life, what you miss are these subtle little nuances that you know that I take cream in my coffee and I like it to look like the color of your jacket. You know that; you get me, and that means we’re not alone. And because cooperation is a survival strategy, it calms us and gives us pleasure. So I would say those are some things that improve relationships.
Order a DVD of Dr. Pat Love’s full interview with PsychAlive, “On Relationships and Parenting“
In this DVD, Dr. Pat Love covers a variety of topics regarding relationships and parenting. She begins by defining the concept of love and what it means to be loving. She discusses values in a loving relationship and offers tactile tips for couples on improving the quality of their relationships. Dr. Love also addresses the importance of equality in a relationship, sexuality, and what she has learned from her years as a couples’ therapist. Shifting her focus to parenting, Dr. Love offers her perspective on how to raise emotionally healthy children. “Parenting is simply about providing love, structure and protection,” she explains, emphasizing that it is important for parents to set limits for their children but not “hover” over them. This DVD is packed with useful information for introspective individuals and mental health professionals alike.