A young woman told me that she had fallen out of love with her husband. She explained that while there was nothing negative in her marriage, there was nothing positive either. They were co-parenting but not feeling the romance that had once existed. They tried couples therapy, but she decided it was time to tell her husband that she wanted a divorce and refused to consider otherwise.
Is there any way to recapture feelings of love that were once there but have now, somehow, dwindled?
A recent Wall Street Journal article informs us that yes, you can rekindle love. In a new study, psychologists have found that you can use your thoughts to boost the love that you feel for a person. (And if a person is trying to deal with a painful breakup they can actually decrease their feelings of love.) Researchers call it “love regulation.”
It all comes down to thought. Participants who looked at pictures of their beloved and thought positive increased their attachment and upped their love. The opposite happened when negative thoughts entered the picture.
The lead researcher tells us that “people think they can’t control love so they might not even try. But this study shows that you can.”
There is a famous Chasidic saying: “Think good and it will be good.” Now we can add, “Think love and there will be love.”
Love does not just happen or die with time. We have the power to revive that love even if we thought we were powerless.
Up Your Love
Here are a few of the tactics suggested to regulate our love and control the emotions we are feeling. The advice is to use these cognitive and behavioral suggestions often and early:
1. Think Positive
Focus on what you like about your partner. Remind yourself about the good that you have in this relationship. Think about your partner’s positive qualities. What attracted you in the first place? (We are not speaking here about emotionally or physically abusive relationships). Write down a list of your spouse’s virtues and refer to it. Researchers suggest imagining happy future scenarios, such as dancing together at your child’s celebrations. When we use our minds to picture happy thoughts we influence the way that we feel.
Write about the love that you feel. Studies show that people who write about how they love their partner better their relationship.
2. Small Tweaks Matter
A couple who lets their relationship simply coast will end up seeing their love deteriorate. Think of small acts of affection you can do to heighten your engagement. Some examples given are hugging goodbye in the morning, listening attentively when your partner speaks or giving a warm greeting at the end of the day.
Turning off your phone while having a conversation or dinner together conveys that you are interested in your partner’s words and allows you to transmit the message that you are present in both body and mind.
3. Build Intimacy
Keeping the physical and emotional connection alive is crucial. The bond between partners can easily be reduced to ‘stuff’ about the kids or household arrangements. We need to work on utilizing our time together to strengthen our relationship. This means making the time and overcoming daily stress to be there for one another. Building intimacy means that I am invested in this relationship and will not allow the love to dissolve.
4. Smile At Your Partner
This one sounds simple but anyone who is dealing with challenges know that it’s not. We are encouraged to smile so that we create a ‘feel-good loop’. Usually one smile brings another. An atmosphere is created, that person will smile back and now there is a better feeling in the room.
Try being the first to offer a beautiful smile or positive body language. Watch what happens over time.
5. Widen Your Horizon
Often we view our partner through a narrow lens and fall into seeing the negative. Stop focusing on what is lacking or what our partner did not do and broaden your outlook. One tool is to envision the people who love our partner and imagining why they do. See the qualities they see. Transform the way you look at your spouse.
6. Let It Go
There are those little things that drive us crazy. Dr. Susan David, Harvard medical psychologist suggests changing the way we think of these pet peeves. That sock on the floor? It’s not that he doesn’t love you; he’s just messy. No one is trying to be hurtful here. We’ve got to learn to let go of the resentment and take the drama out of the picture. Dr. David adds, “If he weren’t alive, you’d do anything to have that sock back on the floor. Remember that.”
7. Try New Things Together
When partners attempt something new, research shows that they feel more attracted to each other. When was the last time you changed your go-to restaurant, tried a new hobby, or did something beyond the same old, same old? It’s easy to fall into patterns and then think that the relationship is dull. Be proactive. Be innovative.
8. Ask Questions
Remember your first dates and how you wanted to know more and more about each other? What happened to those conversations? Studies show that love can happen between two strangers simply by asking a series of questions that create a bond as the responses grow increasingly intimate. Surely we can do this as husbands and wives. Begin by asking questions. Be interested in your partner’s day. Don’t give the message that you are unconcerned and that your partner’s day or feelings are boring to you. Even the small details should not be unimportant.
Ask about hopes and dreams, what makes you happy, sad and fearful, and where you would want to explore in this vast world of ours.
Knowing that we can increase our love allows us to try. Don’t be discouraged. Think love.