As part of our Mental Health Mondays: Love Series, we will look at four different types of love (self love, romantic love, agape love, and philia love). Last week, we highlighted self-love, which you can read by clicking here. This week we are highlighting romantic love, due to it being Valentine's Day.
"In all the world, there is no heart for me like yours. In all the world, there is no love for you like mine." - Maya Angelou
If you are a Whitney Houston fan like me, then you will remember one of her songs titled "You Give Good Love". What is implied in this song is that the singer has found the kind of love that she has desired for so long; a love that meets (and maybe exceeds) her expectations. Who wouldn't desire a love like that?
Romantic love is more than just good sex (though there are some that would disagree with me). Romantic love is intimacy and closeness; a strong desire for that person that goes beyond the physical. Romantic love includes friendship, support, a level of understanding and trust, commitment and attachment.
Have you ever seen an older couple that still laughs together and enjoys each other's company? Maybe you've seen couples that are really good at respecting each other's boundaries? Better yet, perhaps you've noticed couples that can literally find a way to have fun no matter where they find themselves? These are all examples of romantic love.
While sex may be a part of romantic love, it does not take center stage. Romantic love has a foundation (i.e. friendship, mutual trust, respect, etc.), and it is from this foundation that the relationship is built and sustained. Here are a few ways to show romantic love (yes, outside of sex) to your spouse, fiancé, boyfriend, or girlfriend during Valentine's Day and any other day for that matter:
1. Listen and Respond
One of the most significant components of a relationship is communication. Being able to listen to what the other person has to say and then respond is one of the keys to a healthy relationship. Make sure you maintain eye contact and that you do not interrupt while your partner is sharing. Then respond. Engage in dialogue. Repeat what you heard your partner share in your own words. Ask a question. All of these are forms of responses to what your partner is sharing, and it demonstrates your ability to listen and understand their point of view. These basic communication skills are essential to any healthy relationship. This creates a safe place for sharing the vulnerable pieces of ourselves and helps to build trust.
2. Do Something Meaningful
This requires you to know something about your partner, their wants, their likes, their dislikes, etc. Doing something meaningful might mean doing it without being asked or prompted. For example, if you know your partner is a sports fan, maybe buy them tickets to a game. Or if your partner loves beauty services, schedule a relaxing spa day for them. Sometimes, this means just cleaning the house, washing the dishes, or folding laundry so that your partner doesn't have to. There are so many things you can do for your partner; the key is to make it meaningful to them.
3. Date Night
Really this should be a part of any romantic relationship, though many couples have gotten away from this. Date night allows you and your partner to enjoy time away from home life and work life, and to focus on your relationship. Date night allows for continual bonding throughout your relationship, not just the beginning stages. There are endless possibilities for date nights, from simple picnics in the park to a weekend trip in a cabin. Make sure your partner has your undivided attention and that you spend time genuinely connecting with one another.
4. Show and Tell
We have all heard the cliché: actions speak louder than words. The truth is that both are equally important. The musical group, Brownstone (1995), released a song titled, "If You Love Me." Part of the lyrics says, "If you love me say it / If you trust me do it / If you want me show it / If you need me prove it." Show and tell, that's what people look for. Tell your partner that you love them and what you love about them. Then show them that you love them. Do not just assume that your partner knows that you love them. Make sure that they have no doubt in their mind how you truly feel about them. This creates a sense of safety and security, while increasing the intimacy in the relationship.
5. Spend Quality Time Together
If there is one thing that we can never recover, it is time. When you spend quality time together, the focus should be on the two of you. No phones. No social media. No friends. No family members. Just the two of you. Those moments together are something that you will never get back, no matter how many pictures are taken. Quality time spent together strengthens your relationship, regardless of the activity. Whether you are watching a tv series together, cooking together, traveling or eating out together, these moments are precious and priceless.
Romantic love is a type of love that goes far beyond infatuation. It's intimacy and passion for a person that digs deeper than just the physical. Romantic love is friendship, trust, understanding, and commitment with someone that you are attracted to. As Maya Angelou said, "In all the world, there is no heart for me like yours. In all the world, there is no love for you like mine." Romantic love is special and focuses on the quality of the relationship. It's realizing that the type of love you share for one another is unique and cannot be bought or found anywhere else.
Happy Valentine's Day!
Bree Vanley is the CEO of Heart Matters Therapy, PLLC. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in the State of Arkansas who focuses primarily on anxiety, depression, and trauma. She is committed to helping others become mentally, emotionally, and behaviorally healthy. For more information, please click here. You can also follow Heart Matters Therapy, PLLC on Facebook and Instagram.