Loving On Purpose
A couple of times a year, I teach a 6 week non-credit course at Emory called “Living on Purpose”. Intentional, meaningful living –identifying values, and creating a lifestyle that organizes life around those values so that we are living a concious, intentional, meaningful, passionate life.
My day job is therapy, much of it with couples. I’m on a little campaign to help people live — and love — with intention and purpose. Part of loving intentionally is “caring behaviors”. I find that couples pretty well know each other. It’s amazing, really. Couples know how to push buttons, and they do it well. I’m even more amazed by the predictable fact that they also know how to light each other up with caring behaviors, and don’t always do it! Now why is that?
I suspect it’s the power struggle phase of the relationship. Forgive the following reference to comedy because the power struggle is actually very painful, but it does remind me of the old slapstick where two of the Three Stooges were always trying to go through the door at the same time and constantly got stuck. When we insist that “You and I are one and I’m the ONE”, we’re not *seeing* the other person, which really hurts. In the romantic phase, there was SO MUCH hope for being seen and accepted, so it is underestandably disappointing and painful when we feel ignored or invisable. When our partner hurts us, we react defensively, which often involves hurting them back. Then it’s chain reaction back and forth until both hurt deeply, a point at which we either give up or hopefully seek help.
My job is to help restore the connection. One of the ways we do this is by intentional loving. It seems so simple, but you gotta show your love with tender, caring behavior. Instead of REacting, try, REsponding — thoughtfully — intentionally. The intention being a caring statement instead of something hurtful. Take a deep breath, and say “let me see if I understand you, because I really want to”. “I really do love you, and I want you to be YOU.” When you do this, you are putting your partner back on your caring radar, which is healing, and you make room for both people in the relationship. Then it’s “You and I are … well, you and I”. We are two different people sharing life. And there is room in this life for you to be you and me to be me, and that is not a bad thing at all!
That, in itself, may be the most caring behavior of all. Try this, also. Think back to when you fell in love. You did things for each other so easily. You know what your partner loves. Give it freely, NSA (no strings attached). Do it lovingly, tenderly. Yes, you’ll be vulnerable, but isn’t that the definition of intimacy?
Restore your connection by seeking to understand the naturally occuring *otherness* of your partner. Love is a verb; do it with intention. Love on Purpose!