Keeping the love alive in your relationship: surround yourself with lasting passion and contentment

Love is around you everywhere. In a partner’s touch, a dog’s attention, a child’s smile, work done with passion. Love is an energy, a force, that transforms our lives and makes us want to get up in the day; it can bring us joy and contentment; peace and well-being. Yet, love can also go away, especially in intimate and personal relationships, leaving us with pain, confusion, and heartache. When you’re married, or dating someone for a while, you may see that the spark of excitement and love seems to dim; you may no longer feel the same way about the person as you did in the “honeymoon stage”—when everything about your lover brought you joy and contentment.

Fortunately, here are some scientifically proven ways to keep the love alive in your relationship:

*Do a Love Self-Analysis. Ask yourself: “What kind of lover am I? What do I value in a relationship?” Is sexual attraction very important to me? Or friendship? Or practical or spiritual considerations? Am I a lovable person, as I am right now? The more you know about yourself, who you are, and what your talents and needed areas of growth are, the better you will be able to contribute to a lasting and successful love relationship,

*Love Map Your Partner: Write down the things you want in a partner (or the thing about your partner that you like). Also note the things you want that they may not have. Consider if this is something they can develop (joining you in certain activities) or if it’s something they can’t or won’t change (their social style; lifestyle habits). Decide how important these things are to you, and if the other positives your partner brings to you compensate for what is lacking.

*Establish Your Presence While Preserving Your Space. Research shows that couples thrive when they do exciting things together; traveling to new places; trying new experiences (hot air ballooning), learning new things (ballroom dancing). At the same, time, they do better when each person has a sense of personal space and independence to pursue individual hobbies and interests. A crime novelist married to a criminal court judge can share ideas with each other; yet, they can be distinguished and accomplished in their respective fields—thus feeding the attraction they have toward each other for their individual successes.

*Develop “Love Blindness.” Research shows that the number one compatibility trait that happily-in-love people have is that they see their mates in a very positive light—almost as a positive illusion—in which they idealize their mate and see them as attractive, loving, charming, funny, and a “great catch.” This may not seem to be the case to a disinterested observer, but to the mate of that individual, it is definitely so. The key, therefore, is to constantly reinforce—think about and express—what you love about your partner. Although they may have some flaws you may want to help them work on, you are much better served to focus on their strengths, as doing so feeds the love between you.

*Respond to Emotions, Not Words. When couples argue or fight, they may hurt each other’s feelings because they focus on the words (critical/judging) or tone (harsh, loud), instead of the feelings behind them. Ask yourself: “What is my partner really feeling here?” Don’t look at the obvious but go deeper into the feeling. If they’re yelling at you because you didn’t call them when you said you would, you may see anger, but underneath that, they may be fear (abandonment). By understanding their true feeling, you can respond appropriately (“Honey, I will be here for you; what would make you less afraid?”). This type of honest, deep communication can make a big difference in your relationship.

*Cultivate Joy for Life. Studies have found that couples who maintain loving, long-term relationships have an inner excitement and joy about living. Every day they wake up, they look forward to doing things with their love partner, partaking in fun and exciting activities, sharing time with loved ones, doing work they love. As a result, they bring their positive enthusiasm and joy for life into their relationship as their partner does the same. In the same way, on a daily basis, do the things that bring you joy; whether it’s exercise, meditation, creativity, a spiritual practice, caretaking, teaching, learning, or trying new things. Listen to uplifting and educational podcasts and videos; read inspirational material that can help you increase your joy and excitement for life and your partner.

It is possible to maintain, and even increase, the love you have for your romantic partner, and life itself. You just need to remember two simple principles about love:

Love is a Deep Understanding of Another. It’s a full appreciation of the person by your side; putting yourself in their shoes and feeling as they feel. It’s embracing the entire person—flaws and talents—and loving them as they are.

Give Love Without Expectations

This is the greatest secret of all. When we are kind, loving, and patient to our mate—and others—without expecting anything in return, we are practicing the highest form of love: Unconditional love (Agape). In this way, love becomes a discipline—it flows from inside us. We don’t worry if others will return our loving energy in exactly the way we want them to. We’re not disappointed, frustrated, or angry if they don’t do what we want. Instead, we have a relaxed and carefree feeling—knowing that we have a great resource of love to give. The more we give, the more it is replenished internally—and the more love those around you (especially your love partner) will give you in return.