If you want to know what love is, and how to keep alive, follow these seven pieces of advice from a marital and sex expert.
Psychotherapist Nikki Green, who also provides sex and marital counselling, shared these tips with the South China Morning Post:
1. Stay 'in touch'.
This is very much about keeping our partner in our awareness.
Staying in touch allows us to maintain the priority of the connection.
Often, there’s one person in a partnership who likes to keep in touch more than the other, and that has to do with our attachment styles.
However, if couples do keep in touch well, eventually the person who initially needed less connection learns to rely on it, and finds great comfort in it.
2. Being positive
Green cited the work of relationship expert John Gottman, and his research on partners who give one another positive comments.
John Gottman, renowned for his work on marital stability, has conducted 40 years of research on thousands of couples which shows that in happy, secure marriages, there are five positives to every negative; that’s a lot of goodwill, empathy and support.
Most of us don’t realise that when our partners mess up, if they’re good people – and most people are – they will be giving themselves such a hard time that the best thing we can do, if we love them, is to be accepting of them so they can learn to be accepting of themselves. Acceptance is the greatest gift we can give anyone.
It’s what real love is all about.
3. The problem of children
Often when children arrive it’s the beginning of the end for many relationships.
That’s because one – or both – parents turn to a child to meet their needs for connection, and they stop meeting each other’s needs.
More often it’s the mother. If I had a dollar for every man who told me how lonely he got when the baby came along, I would be a rich woman.
And lonely husbands can be tempted to look for love elsewhere.
The important thing is to put your relationship with your partner first, then your relationship with your children.
That’s not an excuse to ignore them, but you need to consider that children will grow up and leave home one day, and if you don’t have a deep and meaningful connection that supersedes the kids, that’s a time when marriages can fall apart.
Secondly, we need to give our children a positive example of what a loving, supportive and mutually prioritising relationship looks like so that they can emulate it themselves.
4. Argue with a point
This is something that we all need to develop, as most of us didn’t come from families who taught us how to do this.
Most of us came from very patriarchal families where somebody needed to receive blame, and where there was always a winner and a loser.
Most of us carry this approach into our adult relationships.
The good news is that you can learn how to argue constructively.
The key is being able to agree to disagree, and respecting everybody’s different take on a situation.
Few of us know how to listen to another person without being reactive and being compelled to add our tuppence worth.
For most of us it’s so difficult to allow our partners to have a completely different point of view because it feels as though we’re admitting that they are right, ergo, due to our conditioning, we must be wrong.
5. Keep the sex alive
In a marriage that’s not in a great place, putting sex on a to-do list seems impossible to most women, because women need to feel loved before they can have sex.
But men need to have sex to feel loved.
Green's advice is echoed by psychotherapist and author of the book The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity and Mating in Captivity, Dr Esther Perel.
People are horrified when you tell them that you have to schedule sex, because they want it to be spontaneous and to fall from the heavens while you’re folding the laundry.
But sex only happens if you make it happen.