Falling in love is easy. Staying in love requires a conscious decision and focused investment. Loving the Smart way is easy when you know how.
Our romance was a whirlwind of delight and passion. Over an intense two years, we courted with a dedicated focus: from the very beginning, it was clear that we were discerning marriage. But even before we got to the altar, the sparkle of those initial ‘in love’ emotions was losing their intensity.
Scientists call this early stage of the romantic timeline ‘limerence’. It’s characterised by intense emotions; a feeling of euphoria, obsessive preoccupation with the object of our affections, high energy, reduced appetite and need for sleep, suppression of natural inhibitions and heightened sexual desire. Falling in love is an exhilarating experience — no wonder we like it so much!
Our brain chemistry changes and our brain activity shifts. Pleasure centres are activated and the addiction pathways engaged, making our experience similar to that of an addict: we crave more and more of each other, we pine for each other when separated, and we obsess about how to get more time together.
As with all stimulants, over time, the body adjusts back to its normal steady state. And the same thing happens when we move through the state of limerence. The brain adapts to the stimulus (that is, our beloved) as their presence becomes normalised and the intensity of the euphoria wanes.
As a young couple, we wish we had known that this was normal and healthy.
When we found ourselves ‘losing those lovin’ feelings’ in our early newlywed years, it was bewildering. We worried that there was something at fault in our relationship. Thankfully, we were surrounded by wonderful, mature couples who mentored us through these early years.
A successful marriage is more than ‘falling in love’; it also requires us to sustain that love over many years.
As our love matured, it became obvious to us that navigating modern marriage without conscious, intentional up-skilling and personal development was practically impossible. Our search to sustain our own marriage eventually led us to author the SmartLoving series of courses and articles. But it’s not just a series of things you can read or do. SmartLoving is also a concept that revolutionises the very way couples approach their relationship.
So what is Smart Loving?
Very simply, SmartLoving is loving the other the way they like and need to be loved. It sounds kind of ‘d’oh’, but let us unpack it a bit for you, because it’s surprising how easy it is to miss this simple but powerful wisdom.
Your Unique Love Profile
Everyone experiences love uniquely. Loving gestures, actions and words from another will have varying effects on you depending on your own unique needs and preferences. Some of us have a strong need for affirming words and praise. Others crave physical touch and gestures of affection. Some bond through shared activity or intimate conversation.
We all have a Unique Love Profile. Similarly, certain gestures will also undermine the sense of love more strongly. For example, a partner’s silent withdrawal might be merely frustrating for one person, but a panic trigger for another. The point is, everyone is unique in how he/she experiences connection with the other and feels loved and secure.
We all have a Unique Love Profile or fingerprint… different words and gestures resonate with each of us differently.
This can be influenced by our sex, our history, childhood experience, our temperament and personality. Brothers, sisters and even twins will all have a unique love profile that is custom-made to them.
We all have a deep hunger for connection and validation by another, what we call our ‘love needs’. When someone meets these love needs, we feel loved, valued, worthy and accepted. The more someone meets our love needs, the more we bond with them and desire to reciprocate with our own love.
Most of us assume that the way we experience love is universal. So if we experience love through acts of service, we tend to express our love for others by doing acts of service for them. If we feel secure by financial stability, we tend to assume that financial security is equally important to the other.
The problem is that rarely do two people, especially when it involves a man and a woman, actually have the same love profile.
Most of us live our marriages expressing love the way we experience it, rather than the way the other experiences it. We call this ‘Dumb Loving’. Let us give you an example.
“I (Francine) experience love powerfully through listening and conversation, especially if I am stressed or upset. I feel loved when someone listens to me talk about it and allows me to process it as I talk. Naturally, when I see or sense that Byron is upset or worried about something, my instinct is to encourage him to talk about it.
Usually, he just wants a bit of space to think it through privately. He’s more introverted than I am and prefers to process things through thinking or writing. But no! I’m on a mission to love and I’m going to help by insisting that we talk it out!
So I lovingly ask: ‘Would you like to talk about it?’ He politely declines and retreats into his private thinking space, while I wheel around for another try. ‘Are you sure you don’t want to talk about it?’ And on it goes. Pretty soon, he’s feeling harassed and I’m feeling rejected. It doesn’t take much in this setting for an explosive argument to erupt.”
You can see how well this works for us, right? This is classic Dumb Loving! When we love by instinct instead of intention, most of the time we will miss the mark and our efforts will either not be noticed or may even irritate the other. It’s not that we don’t care or aren’t trying; it’s that we’re trying too hard in the wrong way.
A Smarter Way to Love
The principle of SmartLoving is simple:
Study the other person to understand and know their Unique Love Profile. This is a life-long endeavour as both of us are growing and changing (don’t get us started on the mid-life stuff!). It’s helpful to document it and to look for the Love Needs (the things that help them feel connected) as well as the Love Busters (those things that drive them away).
Love them the way they like and need to be loved, not the way you like to be loved. That means eliminating their Love Busters and consciously meeting their Love Needs.
This is genuine loving, because it is authentically other-centred — you’re thinking about what the other needs, rather than what you want or think is the right way to do things.
And it’s smart! We’re just too busy to waste time and energy loving in ways that don’t get results or even worse, communicate disrespect or indifference to the other.
When you love smart, all you’re doing is avoiding the Love Busters and meeting the Love Needs. It’s actually pretty simple when you break it down like this.
Marriage doesn’t have to be hard work if you learn to love smart.
Lots of people say that ‘marriage is hard work’. And if they’re not using the principles of SmartLoving, that will absolutely be their experience. It is hard work when we put a lot of effort into it and only get a small result for it.
Dumb Loving is hard work; it exhausts us and undermines our confidence in our marriage… it’s a great way to convince yourself that you are ‘falling out of love’.
No matter how good their intentions, if a couple lives by the rules of Dumb Loving, odds are that they will eventually become exhausted, give up and leave the relationship.
That’s a tragedy because it is so unnecessary. Learn how to ‘love smart’ and you’ll find love a whole lot easier and more fulfilling for you both.
Originally published at SmartLoving. Photo by Luke Miller.