From a young age we’re inundated with ideas about love. From the perfection of Hollywood movies to the romance of classic novels, like sponges we absorb ideals of what the perfect relationship should look like.
It is rich with red-hot desire and passion, holds the patience of a saint and the utmost respect. But best of all no matter who or what we are, we all deserve it. In fact, isn’t it our basic human right to experience the ultimate romantic love?
True love doesn’t require effort or patience, or a compromise of ourselves. True love just happens, regardless of our own imperfections and selfishness. If it takes work, surely it’s not real?
Then at some point along the path to adulthood, a sharp prick bursts our bubble and reality is revealed. Love isn’t easy. It does require effort. A great deal of effort at times. In fact it’s an ongoing balancing act that requires active participation and very clear and concise levels of communication. Like a garden requires nurturing, a loving relationship needs feeding, pruning and plenty of room for mistakes and growth. Unless you’re incredibly lucky, it doesn’t come easy.
But how do we know how to love and the skills we need to use if we’re never taught? Or even made aware the muscle of love exists and is very tender – that it takes energy and time to grow stronger.
Surely something this important and vital to our human happiness deserves a lesson at school? Apparently we’re more likely to need the Pythagoras theorem than the skill of effective compromise though.
In a bid to encourage more positive relationships and help couples learn the art of love, American psychologists Gottman and Silver identified seven principles for making love work. It might not provide a full blown GCSE but it’s certainly a good starting point.
Gottman & Silver’s Seven Principles for Making Love Work:
Principle 1 Enhance Your Love Maps
Take the time and effort to know what matters to your partner i.e. their values
Principle 2 Nurture Your Fondness and Admiration
E.g. Recalling and communicating their strengths
Principle 3 Turn Toward Each Other Instead of Away
Respond positively to your partner when they invite your attention. I.e. active & constructive responding.
Principle 4 Let Your Partner Influence You
Sharing power & decision-making in a relationship is crucial.
Principle 5 Solve Your Solvable Problems
Some problems can be solved with good will, empathy & good listening. Don’t try to win, try to find an answer you can both live with.
Principle 6 Overcome Gridlock
Focus on figuring how you can live with your different positions.
Principle 7 Create Shared Meaning
Let each other know about the values, rituals and beliefs that guide you. You don’t have to agree on all these things.