”I’m not sure which love song to sing at this point. At times, I think I should sing Whitney Houston’s:
‘If I should stay, I would only be in your way.
So I’ll go, but I know …
I’ll think of you every step of the way
And I will always love you.’
Or if I should sing Vince Gill’s:
A wounded love, walks a real thin line
And no communication
Will kill it every time!
So open up your heart, Baby we can work it out
‘Cause we’ve got the kind of love people dream about
Don’t let our love start slippin’, Love start slippin’ away!’”
We both chuckled as my client asked the real question: “I don’t know if our love is gone? Or just stale? But regardless, how do we stoke it up again? Or can it even happen?”
Because she used songs, I prefaced my real response with: “Maybe we should sing the Doors’:
“Come on baby light my fire, Try to set the night on fire!“
We both laughed, but then, in all seriousness, I said to her what I would like to share with you this week:
Love left un-nurtured, un-tended to, un-invested … WILL fade away!
It’s really pretty simple:
Love + Passivity = Disappointment and/or Contempt.
Last week I shared about “what’s love got to do with it”? I named seven reasons we should love passionately:
- Love is a core, basic need.
- Love is a survival need.
- Love extends your life expectancy.
- Love relieves depression.
- Love decreases anxiety.
- Love advances career and finances.
- Love heals trauma and builds trust.
I love the way Scott Peck speaks about love. He says:
Love is the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth… Love is as love does. Love is an act of will — namely, both an intention and an action. We do not have to love. We choose to love.
The person who truly loves does so because of a decision to love. This person has made a commitment to be loving, whether or not the loving feeling is present. Love is not effortless. To the contrary, love is effortful.
What did my client who came in with a dilemma of what songs to sing or what to do need? What do you need to do to amp up receiving all of the benefits listed above? What do you need to do to light the fire and set the night on fire?
You can (and honestly, you should) enrich your love quotient. How?
1. Change your narrative about love.
We all have a story about love. If you’ve made it through your 20s, and likely even earlier, you have been hurt by love.
Since we are on a roll with songs, I think Leona Lewis’ song, “Bleeding Love” has some very interesting lyrics about how we’ve all been hurt. The song says:
“Closed off from love, I didn’t need the pain
Once or twice was enough, And it was all in vain
Time starts to pass … Before you know it you’re frozen.”
Most of us heal when hurt by love, but we never examine the narrative we create as a result of that hurt. In the song above, she closed off her heart and became “frozen.” That was her response to love being painful.
I’ve heard every narrative in the world about love in my office through the years. I usually know what a person’s narrative is in the first 10 minutes by listening intently … and they usually have no clue.
We start with what we learned about love growing up. Then once our heart has been broken, we make a new set of rules, values, and beliefs about love that unconsciously drive our love experiences for the rest of our lives.
Change your narrative. Take the time to explore your narrative. Keep the parts of your story that work well. Edit or delete the rest.
With the client above, I’ll began helping her explore her narrative. It looked like this:
- Love is what draws you together when you’re young
- Everyone’s love fades away over time
- Then you have to figure out a way to get it without destroying your marriage
- Or leave and try it all again
It’s no wonder that the fire of love had died, and that the wood was wet!
She had begun volunteering at a woman shelter, working with the children of abused moms. I told her it was honorable trying to get her need for love met in ways that did not destroy her marriage. But if she invested the same kind of time and energy she was investing in her volunteer work, but the love in her marriage could and would be revived!
But first we had to do some work to change her narrative. I challenged her to think about what her current narrative would create. Or fail to create. Then I asked her enough questions so that she finally re-wrote her narrative to this:
- Love is for everyone, regardless of their age
- Love can stay alive if you fan the flames
- It’s never too late
What about you? Likely you’ve been hurt. But what is your narrative about love? Update it and set your life (or the night) on fire! Write a powerful narrative about love.
2. Speak the words “I love you” … and demonstrate it.
Speak it? Yes! Say it out loud. Say it sincerely. Say it while making eye contact. Say it! (Not only does it mean something to your partner, but your own reptilian brain hears it and believes you are speaking it to a wounded version of you, and it embraces your words).
Someone confronted me with their thoughts about me a couple of years ago: “You say ‘I love you!’ too much.” Here’s my belief about that: I desire, and am determined, to say it to everyone I love as many times as possible.
At the end of a phone call, the end of a text, the end of a lunch meeting, as often as possible. However, that’s not where it ends. I make sincere efforts to say I love them in a very conscious and meaningful way in addition to saying it often.
At the end of last weeks blog, I asked: “How long has it been since you said “I love you” to your partner? Since you touched their face, and looked lovingly into their eyes while you said the words with tenderness?”
Say it often, but also take time to say it with great meaning.
I love hearing and reading the words “I love you.“ But it becomes more real when it is also demonstrated. We all need and desire to have love shown to us.
How do you show you love someone?
- Find out what they’re interested in and do those things with them.
- Find out their love language and lavish their love language upon them. If their love language is words of affirmation, make a conscious effort during the day to text them things they do well, or notice when they go the extra mile and be grateful for what they’ve done.
- Spend time with them, being completely present.
I often work with couples who come in with great contempt for one another and then say, “But I tell you I love you all the time, so you should know it!“
I inform them, as I am informing you… Five minutes of contempt wipes out your last 100 “I love you’s.”
Love isn’t always gooey… You can address issues and concerns with love. Love is always consistent. Not just in word, but in deed as well.
One of the things I do when working with couples is have them write a list of 100 things that make them feel loved, require less than five minutes of time, and cost less than a dollar.
They often look at me with absolute horror about trying to think of 100 things. I get them started by asking this question: “What made you fall in love with him/her early in your relationship?”
From two sentences I can usually get their first 10 things:
- Held my hand in the car
- Opened the car door for me
- Turned off the radio
- Had conversation with me
- Showed true interest in me
- Made eye contact with me at dinner
- Smiled at me often
- Told me I looked beautiful
- Asked questions about my day
- Left your cell phone off when we spent time together
Then I have them turn those into wishes/desires. 100 of them!
Many times people make attempts to show us love, but miss the target. We miss their effort, because they miss our target. The greatest gift you can give others is to give them a list of 100 things that hit your target!
I hope you will pause right now and call or text three people and tell them how very much you love them … and why.
If you have a spouse, I promise you it will dry out the wood and set your night on fire. Say it, demonstrate it, and do it often!
3. Stand up for love, and fight for it.
I am so surprised at how many people come into my office and say things, such as:
- It looks like the love is gone, so I guess we need to move on
- It just doesn’t feel good anymore
- I just lost the love
We seem to think nothing of just walking away from love. As if it never meant anything.
If you love someone, stand up for them. If your marriage relationship is faltering, stand up for it! Do something!
Fight for your love! Love is worth fighting for. I am astounded at how easily people give up, and walk away.
I met with a couple recently, and had begun working with them on their list of 100 things on their love target list. He had asked her to send him three texts during the workday encouraging him and telling him that she loved him.
When they came back the next week, I asked how that was going? He said that she had done a great job for two or three days, and then stopped.
I inquired why she stopped, and she responded, “Because he didn’t say anything about, it so I just stopped.“ I asked her if she believed that their love was worth fighting for? Her response was one that I hear often: “Of course, but I can’t do it all by myself.“ And yes, he was doing things from her target list consistently.
Sometimes fighting for your relationship means sacrificing what you might wish you would get in return.
No matter how bad your relationship is (as long as there is no abuse involved), it is worth fighting for. But if you do not stand for it, or fight for it, it will fade away!
How can you stand up for, and fight for, your relationship today?
4. Study love.
Yes! Study love. I bet you studied the news and know the score from every NFL game from this past Sunday. (Or studied the newest recipe’s from the Food Network).
Why would you not study love? The NFL scores or the newest food creation on the Food Network will do nothing to keep your love alive. But studying and loving better will!
I read about love, I read about the science of love. But I also study people in love.
Recently I was the fifth wheel (or actually the seventh wheel) at a table with three couples at a wedding. I noted that the couple sitting across the round table were just absolutely glowing with love.
When another couple got up to go to the dance floor, I got up and moved over to sit near the couple I noted. I asked about their marriage (37 years), and complemented them on how alive their love appeared. They both nodded affirmatively and I asked: “Tell me the secret of keeping your love alive for over 37 years?“
He shared how easy it was to keep it alive, because she was constantly loving on him. I asked for some examples? He shared she did things like:
- Massaging his feet
- Turning down the bed
- Putting a bottle of cold water on his nightstand
- Bringing him coffee in the morning
- Telling him often what a great man he is
- Watching football games with him (even though she’s not really interested in it)
- Making sure his iced tea glass is full and having popcorn or nachos prepared
- Keeping her body, just as sexy as it was when he met her
He said other things as well but those were the ones I could remember.
I then turned to her, and she said, “It’s all because of him.” Then she listed things such as:
- Bringing home flowers frequently
- Cooking the most delicious steaks out on the grill
- Never speaking harshly to her
- Telling her how sexy she is
- Telling her how blessed he is to have her
- Being very present and interested about the things she is involved in, always asking about them
- Taking her shopping (but she thinks he enjoys that more than she enjoys football!)
- Always taking her calls
- Sending her “sweet nothing” texts during they day
Then I asked them some other questions, all which were very informative. But I loved their response to this: “I believe every marriage that has great love in it has their own ‘secret sauce’. What is your secret sauce?“
Her response: We laugh together every day about something.
His response: We pray together before we go to bed at night.
It’s pretty hard to be upset with someone after you pray together.
How can you study love? Who can you ask about their love and their ‘secret sauce’ because you see great quality and fulfillment in their love? What can you read to become more affluent in love?
The more you learn, the more inspired you will become!
5. Flood with love.
I’m not sure why it is that we’re all stingy with our love at times. I guess we somehow think it will run out. To continue on our theme with songs, it makes me think of OneRepublic’s song:
“And we’ll start a fire, and we’ll shut it down,
‘Til the love runs out, ’til the love runs out.”
When I invite couples to begin flooding one another with love, I almost always get a response from one of them that says: “No matter how much love I pour out on them, it will never be enough.”
They hate it when I ask this question: “How do you know? Have you ever really flooded them with love before?“ It shuts down that conversation quickly.
No matter how much someone craves and needs love, flooding them with love is the answer. Of course, it must be love according to their love target.
A significant way of flooding with love is giving hugs. When I give people the prescription for hugs, they always ask (as if it were a horrible burden), how many times do I have to hug them each day?“
I usually retort with, “How many times exceeds the worth to see them healed and full … pouring great love out on you from the overflow?“ I actually said that to someone this very day and with a shameful smirk on his face he responded with one word: “Touché!“
Interestingly enough, the more love we give, the more it multiplies back, filling our heart and soul. (More on that in #7).
How long has it been since you flooded someone you dearly love with your love? Saying “I love you“? Leaving sweet notes? Sending meaningful texts? Helping them with something they are doing? Telling them how much they mean to you? Planning a fun event to do together?
By the way, I mentioned hugs. Here is the formula and result of giving heartfelt, 10 second hugs:
- 4 hugs a day = survival of relationship
- 8 hugs a day = maintenance of relationship
- 12 hugs a day = rich relationship
How many heartfelt 10-second hugs have you given your spouse or partner today? Flood them with hugs and see what happens! I dare you!
6. Receive love.
Sad to say, many people who give love bountifully live behind walls, and do not receive love.
There are a number of reasons for this:
• People who lost their mom at a very early age and a nurturing stepmom, nanny, or grandmother did not appear
• People who have been traumatized by someone they deeply loved, usually early in life
• People who are connection disordered
Most people are gracious when they deny the love that we attempt to give them. They may smile or nod, but at best, they “put it in their pocket” until we are gone, and then they “discard” it.Yet we know they are not accepting the love we give from your heart. Because we can see in their eyes, that our love simply does not register or take root.
If you are one of those people who have been traumatized by someone you love, or lacked nurturing in your early years, or certainly if you are someone who is connection disordered… Do what you must to learn to receive love.
Find a mentor, therapist, Coach… Anyone who can help you melt the walls of ice or steel, and open your heart to receiving love again. There was a song many years ago that had a line of powerful truth in it: “Only love can break a heart, Only love can mend it again.“Many of us were taught that it’s better to give than to receive. Although I totally agree with that, it doesn’t say it’s better to give and never receive.
I believe there’s a fine art and balance to pouring love out on those we love, but also graciously receiving love given to us.
Love is meant to be reciprocal and infinite. Become a better giver, but also learn how to become a better and gracious receiver of love.
7. Invest love.
I learned many years ago that one of my “special touches” with my clients, as well as training people to be extraordinary Coaches, was to look at giving love as an investment opportunity.No one expects to receive dividends on money under their mattress. Yet we often tuck our love away, and wonder why it is not growing us personally, growing the people we love, or growing our marriage or family to greater and richer places.
Any great financial advisor would tell you to invest often and consistently. To make withdrawals only when absolutely necessary. And as a result, your long-term gains would be rich.
The same is true with love. You must frame it as an investment. Invest it consistently, and avoid withdrawals (harsh tones, hurtful behaviors).
I invest love intentionally and often. Into my important relationships, in my family, in my friends, in my clients, and in my Coaches.
Recently I was being interviewed on a live broadcast and the host asked me a closing question: “Dr. Neecie, your life has been rich, and each time I interview you, it appears it is richer. What would you say is the one thing most responsible for that?”
I paused for a moment, because many things rushed to my mind. I responded with this: “I believe God‘s presence makes my life rich, and I believe my practice of gratitude makes it even richer. But perhaps the greatest richness comes from the love I have invested through the years.
Although I love to receive love, watching my investment of love growing people, and then overflow to other people, is the richest thing in the world!
I always attempt to close the loop on my clients’ stories in my blog, because I get texts and emails asking the outcome when I fail to do so.
To summarize the story of my client who came with her song dilemma, after we changed her narrative on love, we brought him in, and did the same work with him. They both completed their 100 targeted ways to feel loved, and began flooding the other with them. They took on the 30 hugs a day challenge, and it obviously dried out the firewood. And set the night on fire!
Because we had shared our fun with songs with him, he sent me a follow-up text (after a number of sessions and an assignment to take her out dancing, as she loved, and they used to do). The text was lyrics from one of my favorite Chris Young songs :
“Honey, I know you love gettin’ dressed upAnd you know I love showin’ you offWatchin’ your baby blue eyes, Dancin’ in the candlelight glow …
All I can think about … is gettin’ you home
Walkin’ through the front door, Seein’ your black dress hit the floorHoney there sure ain’t nothing, Like you lovin’ me all night longAnd all I can think about … is gettin’ you home!”
I feel pretty safe in saying after reading that, and knowing that they had followed the seven things to enrich their love, it was a successful venture!
What about you? Which of these seven things can you do to raise the bar on love? And/or to see love come alive again?
Remember, without doing some of those seven things regularly, your love will become passive and fade away.
But following the seven ways to enrich your love quotient will pay off richly. Not only will your life be richer, but you can actually make other peoples’ lives richer too. Not to mention that your marriage and relationships will come alive in ways that will fulfill you beyond your fondest dreams!
Start today! Enrich your love by doing at least one of the seven things. Love heals, love fulfills, and love reveals the very best in all of us!