SALT LAKE CITY — Falling in love is actually a lot of work, more than it is any kind of falling. When we are first in love, we work hard at enjoying every minute of it.
We see the best in our partner. We work hard to do things for them. We listen carefully and attentively. We take good care to present ourselves well. Falling out of love is far easier, because to fall out of love means to fall away from doing the simple things that keep us in love. It isn't a change of chemistry. It's a change in behavior.
We stop presenting ourselves well. We stop being kind. We stop doing things for the other. We stop appreciating what our partner does for us. We don't fall out of love because we don't feel it anymore; we stop feeling it because we stop expressing it. That's the best way to fall out of love, if there were such a thing.
Be kind. The first thing that I loved about my husband, long before he was my husband, was how kind he is. In fact, being nice at all was not a strong point of my own, and so I really had to work at being kind in the way he is kind. He does not say mean things and does not criticize. He tells people his best marriage advice is "if you think of something nice to say, say it." Listen. Being attentive to someone you love is the best way to learn who they are and how to meet their needs. We learn and grow everyday, and so we are not the same as we were yesterday — much less 10 or 20 years ago. Listening well to your spouse will help you feel connected, understand personal development struggles, support in challenges and discover ways you can help. It also is a good way to unwind or problem solve — my husband and I like taking walks when we have a big challenge to tackle because it gives us time to talk away from everything else. We like to cuddle when we just need time alone together to catch up from busy days.
Remember the three Ts. Laura M. Brotherson, the author of "And They Were Not Ashamed: Strengthening Marriage through Sexual Fulfillment," points out that women need talk, touch and time to feel loved and to be prepared for physical expressions of that love. Talking will help you feel emotionally connected, time will help you both feel appreciated and understood and non-sexual touch will help her feel loved without the pressure of expectation. This creates a safe and inviting environment in which she can respond with her own demonstrations of love and affection. It is emotional intimacy that improves physical intimacy.
Serve. I told my husband that when he takes out the trash without being asked it makes me want to kiss him as much as anything else he does for me. He also helps with dishes, puts the dogs out in the morning and leaves me a note by my bed each morning. I know everyday in a hundred ways that he is thinking of me and that he loves me.
We don't fall out of love because we don't feel it anymore; we stop feeling it because we stop expressing it. That's the best way to fall out of love, if there were such a thing.
Appreciate. The one thing I am good at is saying thank you. It is so simple and easy! Sincerely appreciating the positive things about our spouses trains you to notice the good things they do. This makes it easier to let other things go, to ignore distractions of contention and to accept the challenge of living up to caring for spouses well by following their example.
Falling in love is exciting, with growing passion and the intensity of discovering the one you love. But intensity is not the same as intimacy, and intimacy takes courage and work. It is the simple daily interactions and service that maintain, strengthen and grow love into something solid and good.
C.S. Lewis said, "Being in love first moved them to promise fidelity: This quieter love enables them to keep the promise."
Emily Christensen lives with her husband in Oklahoma. Her Ph.D. is in marriage and family therapy and she is pursuing a second degree in Hebrew and Jewish studies. Her blog is housewifeclass.com and her email is email@example.com.