In honor of Valentine’s Day, I’ve asked my friend and relationship guru Dr. Jay Ferraro, whom I also featured in my book, Vibrant, forthcoming in March, to write a guest blog about romance. My husband and I have worked with him for many years, and he is the expert at teaching what successful relationships actually require. Let me know what you think and whether you’d like to see more of Dr. Jay in this space. And may your February be filled with romance!
The Truth About Love
A soul mate is someone to whom we feel profoundly connected, as though the communicating and communing that take place between us were not the product of intentional efforts, but rather a divine grace. This kind of relationship is so important to the soul that many have said there is nothing more precious in life.
Thomas Moore, Soul Mates
Another Valentine’s Day in the midst of a pandemic. It may seem that over the past year, relationships and romance have taken a backseat to other concerns, and the restrictions necessitated by this killer virus have also revealed the cracks in many relationships. Many are discovering just how vulnerable “love” can be and it has brought many couples to the breaking point. Yes, divorce rates are up, sadly, but just because many relationships are suffering doesn’t mean yours has to. In fact, relationships can benefit from pain and struggle because relationship challenges can create a sort of alchemy of resilience that can result in a truer form of love—not the Hallmark-card-and-long-stemmed-rose approach, but a love that can withstand future challenges without breaking.
The Truth About True Love
When people have relationship problems, their first thought is usually that they must be with the wrong person. If you demonize your partner and decide they are wrong for what you want, then you have already made the existential case for a break-up. After three decades of working with couples in the trenches of their relationships, I’ve discovered that in most cases, the mistake is not who you are with, but rather, how you love.
Most relationships are emotionally anemic–the demand, or the desire to get something, is far more developed than the willingness to give something. This is bad alchemy for love and a formula for the absence of the kind of romance necessary for true love to bloom.
Let’s redefine “romance” and strip it from its sentimental roots. You may think of romance as that feeling of excitement and mystery associated with love, but when I work with couples, I explain that romance isn’t about flowers and candy, or even sexual attraction. It’s about the quality of commitment and presence you bring to the relationship.
In other words, the key to romance and a successful relationship is not finding the right person, or finding the right feeling, but learning how to love the person you have found. You can “make love” every day in the way you show up and actually do love in the day-to-day course of your relationship. Stop asking, “What has my partner done for me lately”? and start asking, “Who do I have to become to have what I say that I want from love and relationships”?
Love is a VERB
We don’t “fall” in love; We do love. As Aristotle wisely observed, “We are what we repeatedly do.” You “do love” by investing time, energy, and focus into the relationship. Get curious: What do I know about my partners current needs, wants, desires, wishes, hopes, frustrations, fantasies, fears? What questions can I ask to find out what they need? Sure, those storybook moments are fun and important to have, but they are the icing, not the cake, and alone, they are totally insufficient for a mature loving relationship.
What do you do in the face of disappointment, or the mundane, boring parts of life? What do you do in the face of unattractive habits, or when you don’t get your needs met, or when you really want to escalate that argument? You can love anyway. You can love without conditions. You can be present, always, for your partner. Sometimes, you will have to call forth your best and highest self in order to do what is required for the person you claim to love, but that’s where resilience is born.
As you celebrate Valentine’s Day this year, consider raising your standard for yourself and for what it means to love. You can choose to live by a decision to love consciously and invest in your relationship with your time, energy, and focus. Here are some suggestions for some things to do with your partner this Valentine’s Day (or any day):
- Tell your partner 5 things you adore, admire, and respect about them.
- Tell your partner a story about something they did that illustrates why you love them.
- Share your story of “us” with each other. How do each of you tell that story of your relationship?
- Tell your partner why, of all the people on the planet, you chose them.
- Do 3 specific actions that contribute to your commitment, and be more generous in doing them than ever before: Give a gift, have an erotic experience together, say positive things, engage in physical touch/affection, go on a special date, or make your partner “King/Queen for the Day.” These are just suggestions—do what is right for your relationship.
Relationships don’t happen to you. They are the product of your design, conscious or not. Let this Valentine’s Day be the beginning of a new phase in your relationship construction, and watch your dynamic grow deeper, more intimate, and more resilient. If not now, when?
Jay Ferraro, Ph.D., MBA
Dr. Jay Ferraro is a Concierge Coach working globally with successful people committed to mastering the areas of life and work that matter most to them. He and his soulmate, Liseth, are founders of Soul Mates for Life™ (www.soulmatesforlife.us). Through their public speaking, private sessions, and powerful workshops across the nation and abroad, they teach Relationship Mastery to singles and couples committed to designing relationships that are fulfilling and satisfying. For life design consultations, you can reach Dr. Jay at firstname.lastname@example.org.