Managing Love

There are five pillars of love. I’ve written about them before, although I didn’t call them that until I realized that these are universal and apply to every situation in life where you care for at least one other human being. Which, in my not-so-humble opinion includes the job of management.

In brief, here they are, as they apply in personal life.

  • Feel kindness toward each other and act on your feeling every day. If you aren’t feeling particularly kindly on a given day, make the extra effort.
  • Always think more highly of your partner than your partner thinks of him or herself. It’s really important to have someone who dreams for us and believes in us, and most of us never got enough of this when we were children. Relationships are supposed to help us finish growing up, and nothing grows people better than someone believing in them.
  • Learn the emotional balms and bandages your partner prefers, and keep them on hand. When the outside world has caused them pain, and you need to do some first aid, you can care for them the way they like to be cared for. Soothing your partner’s hurts needs to be done their way – not necessarily your way.
  • When there are pebbles in your partner’s path, sweep them away quietly; if possible, invisibly. Before long, they will begin to see that their path is easier when they are with you than when they are not.
  • Listen to the way your partner is talking, and not just to the words. Whining, crying, moaning, and complaining all sound childish to the adult ear – because they are. You won’t help your partner (or your children) to recover, or to grow, by resorting to the same behavior. Hold them, rock them, speak soothing words, and dry the tears. Then remind them of all their wonderful virtues and how they are growing every day.

But there are also five killers of love, and they too are universal. They apply to all forms of love from that of lovers or spouses, to parents and children, friendships and other affiliations, and – of course – within teams. Love holds people together. And the five killers drive them apart.

It isn’t that every misdeed turns into a love killer, but that given any particular combination of people, there is likely to be at least one area in which going over the frequency limit causes the relationship to derail.

Here are the big five, in no particular order, because the most important one is the one that you stop from happening to you. If, in fact, you want to keep the relationship going.

  • Entitlement is a big word that stands for expectations. Now while some expectations make sense, because relationships have some agreements naturally built in, many situations result in out-of-control, unreasonable, insanely-one-sided entitlement affairs. Sad, these are particularly prone to being handed down to children. Not because they’re genetic, but because the overentitled person often ends up being a bigger influence than the other parent.
  • Not believing in the relationship – or anything – is another big one. Imagine being excited about something. Almost anything. Maybe you want to start a business, or learn about something new, or just change the world. And the one you care about the most – or need to be on board with you the most – just scoffs at the very idea. They might even go to the extreme of denying that what you believe in doesn’t even exist. Or maybe that it does, but they’d rather it didn’t.
  • Then there’s the big communication issue. Not the usual way people think of this, which is the ‘soft’ end of a big spectrum. Consider the exercise often prescribed for quarreling couples: to repeat what the other person has said before adding your next thought. Not that hearing isn’t important, but hearing with the ear is only a small part. If you have ever truly heard, and been heard, you know that hearing belongs to the province of the soul. When you are truly hearing, you feel the resonance. The words become less important than the meaning. And, you know, especially if you have used the ‘wrong’ word and been misunderstood, there’s a big difference.
  • The other communication issue is one of timing. Admittedly, some of us have a better handle on timing, so we don’t get into much trouble here unless we err and then fail to make up for it. Or, sometimes, even to simply acknowledge our shortcomings. You can think of it as ‘failure to set expectations’ or, to give a concrete example, that you really didn’t remember that you were supposed to be home in time to take over domestic leadership (that is a euphemism for being primary parent) so your partner could go to something they planned.
  • Finally, there is the failure to provide care. Or to put it in crass terms, to starve the relationship. To give nothing of yourself to it. Not temporarily, because given enough time, we may all reach a point of feeling so depleted, giving will be painful. But when it becomes a chronic condition, more than one person is starved of whatever they need. The relationship itself ceases to be the ‘perpetual energy’ machine that good ones feel like. It dies.

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