March 16, 2022
What does “build love” mean?
Sometimes we get caught on a very specific way that love “should” look. This can create expectations that increase tension and resentment in our relationships – when often we’re looking to each other for acceptance and support.
Does this situation feel familiar? You’ve been exercising more, so you start to expect compliments as your clothing fits better. Meanwhile, your partner is so distracted he hasn’t even noticed your appearance! And your hurt feelings accumulate.
By the time he shares the romantic Canada road trip he’s been planning, you give it a cold snub. He shrugs and mumbles that he probably can’t take the time off work, anyway. You retreat from each other to let things thaw out – and wonder what happened.
Both of you were reaching out in a real way. You’re trying to build love… but missing each other.
Connect with Your Needs – and Realistic Expectations
– and You’ll Build Love
Of course, we do have genuine needs in a relationship: Affirmation, Affection, Consistency, Excitement… And it will create more problems in the long run if you deny your core needs.
But since no human is perfect – and no relationship is perfect! – we also need to incorporate compromise and balance. That means training ourselves to see what our partner intended. Even if their choice didn’t meet our needs in the moment.
In other words, you have to work to build love.
What does that mean?
When you feel disappointed by your partner’s actions, take a step back. Look at their whole situation. These questions can help you start to widen your lens:
- How is my partner’s physical health?
- Does my partner have any current or recent stressors?
- How are things going at work for my partner right now?
- How has my partner’s mood been lately?
These initial questions can signal how much extra energy your partner has to give. Perhaps they’re sagging under a heavy workload. Plus, they have stress related to aging parents and sadness from thinking about their own aging.
This could mean that they’re giving all they can… and it’s still not “enough.” Because it’s not exactly what you expected. The perfectly-timed compliment. Proactive date plans. High-energy conversations.
These are the times to approach your partner with compassion. Maybe they were late and anxious, but they did show up to dinner. Maybe the house is messier than you’d like, but they’re putting in extra hours at the office.
Can you see how this effort is meant to benefit you, your family, and your relationship? When you do see it, can you tell your partner that you appreciate their effort?
Voice Your Own Effort
Especially when you feel you’ve “failed” your partner, it can help to tell them how you got there.
“I called 10 different restaurants to make reservations for our anniversary, but they were all full. I’m sorry that I didn’t call sooner. I’ve been so strapped for time while we’re short-staffed.”
You might be tempted to judge yourself and believe “It doesn’t matter if I tell them. They’ll be disappointed anyway.”
But disappointment often comes from interpreting a partner’s actions as a sign of indifference. Show them that you do care, because you tried.
When your partner feels secure and cared-for, they’re more likely to lighten up.
“That’s all right. The weather’s nice. Let’s make it a picnic anniversary dinner.”
Present Clear Solutions
Does this mean you should never ask for what you need from your partner? Because they’re trying their best? No. Relationships need to function as a blend of both partner’s real needs, compromise, and forgiveness.
What can really help your partner: clear, non-blaming requests. This is another way that you build love — communicating what you need in a way that shows trust, respect, and compassion.
Let’s go with the lateness example. For a few months, your partner is consistently late to appointments and events. Sometimes they even drag you down into the lateness with them. It’s starting to wear on you.
You’ve stepped back, and you understand their circumstances. Time to formulate a caring but clear request.
“I know that you’re dealing with a lot right now. But I would really feel less stressed if we can be on time to family events more often. Can you schedule extra buffer time on days when you know we have a family dinner planned? And what can I do to help take some of these responsibilities off your plate?”
Build Love By Working Together
Remind your partner that you love them, and you’re a team. And remember that, if you two are struggling for a sense of direction, you don’t have to solve problems on your own. You can always reach out to a relationship counselor for help.