Everyone wants to hear that they are loved and admired. It’s love that inspired Journey’s “Faithfully” and Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space.” Love is at the center of Shakespeare’s sonnets, and Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and Nicholas Sparks’ The Notebook.
“How do I love thee, let me count the ways,” wrote Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and then she went on to compose one of the most famous love notes of all time. But, what if you, being full of love for your spouse, are not a poet? What if you have all of the feelings, but not so many words? You do love and admire the person you married, but verbally expressing yourself has never been your strong suit. Well, you’re not alone.
Since I am a person that best receives love through words, as we discovered through The Five Love Languages, it’s not so hard for me to express love this way also. Tony, however, is more of an actions kind of guy. He tells me he loves me by making me coffee or giving the kids a bath in the evening or buying me a new pair of shoes. I’m a talker. He’s a doer. I’m a texter. He’s a hugger. I prefer a handwritten note over a gift. He definitely wants presents, preferably that new guitar pedal.
I’m not saying that his way of loving me is not enough. It is more than enough. Still, I’d like to hear something out of his mouth about it once in a while.
The best experience we’ve had to date in trying to express how and why we love each other was during one of the break out sessions at The Art and Science of Love Workshop hosted by The Gottman Institute. About mid-way through the first day, we were focusing on building up our feelings of fondness and admiration toward each other. According to their research, having high levels of affection and respect can combat relationship killers like criticism and contempt. Dr. John Gottman has said,
“Fondness and admiration are two of the most crucial elements in a rewarding and long lasting romance. Although happily married couples may feel driven to distraction at times by their partner’s personality flaws, they still feel that the person they married is worthy of honor and respect.”
We were learning that it is not enough to feel these positive feelings toward each other, but that they must be nurtured and cultivated and expressed. We can’t expect our affection to last without tending to it. This is where the exercise came in. It’s called “I Appreciate…” and it comes with a list of 71 positive adjectives. The idea is to look over the list, choose three that describe your spouse, and share them with each other along with an example or short story of an actual incident that illustrates this characteristic about them.
The list was great because, even though I think Tony is pretty wonderful, I hadn’t thought of 71 ways he is wonderful on my own. Looking through these words reminded me of things I love about him that I’d probably never shared before. I know it did the same for him.
If you ever get a chance to attend The Art and Science of Love Workshop, definitely do it. But, even if you don’t, you could easily do this exercise together at home. I’ve even used the list to send Tony a text during the day. Instead of just saying, “I love you,” or “I’m thinking about you,” I was able to get more specific. I chose the one about parenting from the list and sent him this text…
Now, you try. Take a look at the list, use one or three or all of these words to think of new ways to tell your partner that you love them and why.
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You don’t have to be a Taylor Swift or Nicholas Sparks or even Shakespeare to find the right words to express yourself. You’ll do just fine to use any of these words along with a real life example to express your appreciation. Make sure you spend some time cultivating those loving feelings and sharing them with each other to #staymarried.
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Interested in more posts like this? You might like…
♥ 51 Little Ways to Build Your Marriage
♥ The Art & Science of Love – 15 Favorite Moments from our Gottman Workshop Weekend
♥ Feed the Good Stuff – 10 Ways to Nurture Your Fondness and Admiration
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