Lesbian Couples (#19) – What can we learn about happy relationships from “This is us”?
Strategy 19: Give to Give. Not Give to Get.
Have you been watching “This is Us?” It’s a new (2016) NBC series and I love it. The entire show is based around a young couple who got pregnant with triplets, lost one during delivery and adopted a child who was serindipitously brought to the hospital that day after being abandoned at a local fire station. The series is based on the lives of this couple and their children and it flashes back and forth between their early marriage / childhood, and their elderly years (parents) and adulthood (the triplets). I have cried at least a little during each episode.
Almost always, they are joyful, albeit sentimental, tears. I almost always find myself missing my dad a lot (you can read about him here), and fondly recalling my own childhood. I thought it was just me, but as it turns out, most other people who watch the show get tearful, too.
One of the things I love most about the show is how well the characters love one another. I absolutely delight in the love that Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) has for Rebecca (Mandy Moore). He is playful, flirtatious, open, vulnerable, consistent, adoring, and consistently doing whatever it takes to be the best father and husband he can. It is clear his mission is to be the opposite of his own father; and so far, he is succeeding.
Strategy #19 for happy couples reminds me of Jack from This is Us. The best love there is comes with no expectations. When you load up your gifts with hidden expectations, both you and your partner are in for a disappointing outcome. For example, do not surprise your partner with a romantic candlelight dinner because you want to get her in the mood to make love. Do it because you want to nurture your partner and treat her to a delicious, romantic meal—no strings attached. If by chance your evening moves you to a more physically intimate place, enjoy it – don’t expect it. When you give, give to give: don’t give to get.
Mean what you give, and give what you mean.
If you give dinner, you must mean dinner. If what you really mean is an invitation to be sexual, extend an invitation to be sexual, and don’t disguise it as a dinner. And when you give, don’t keep score. Give because you want to give, not because you want to add points to your side of the scoreboard.
Giving to give is still giving to yourself. We ARE fifty-percent of our relationship. You cannot add to your relationship without also adding to yourself. What a great investment; one that always gives back. When you nurture your relationship, you nurture yourself.
This shift from giving to your partner, to giving to your relationship, makes giving easier. Your relationship is an investment container. Yes, a container. The relationship literally HOLDS that which the two of you have to offer. It is from this shared container (the relationship) that you draw from, whether it is resources you contributed or your partner contributed doesn’t matter – what matters is that the relationship container is full.
If you find yourself always giving, ask yourself if you are giving to your relationship—that which also enriches yourself—or if you are giving to your partner in hopes of getting something in return? If you are focused on your partner and adding to her life, you might be adding to her while taking away from yours. Ultimately, when we cease to take care of ourselves, we end up being a drain on our relationship, not an asset.
When you take care of your relationship, you both win. You cannot take care of each other if you are not first taking care of yourself. Just as players on a team can’t work out for each other; each has to strengthen their skills themselves.
What you can do, and must do, is take care of the relationship. The relationship is your shared resource. The investment offers you dividends and keeps on giving back to you if you keep giving to your relationship. Give to give and you will always receive in the end.
And, here is one of my favorite Jack (from This is Us) quotes to his adopted son, Randall who is not the same ethnicity as the rest of the family:
“You’re adopted, and we don’t talk about that enough. Because to me, you are every part my son. And maybe I don’t want you to feel like you stand out. But I need you to know something. I want you to stand out. I want all of you to be as different as you can possibly be, in all the best ways. I love you as much as a human heart can, kiddo. You are an exceptional young man. So don’t let your old man’s poor choices make you feel afraid to be different, OK? OK.
In order to feel love, you must be loving. Think about the start of your relationship and how you were driven to express your love. Perhaps you wrote notes and emails, sent flowers, called, left voice messages or text messages, you left gifts and surprises or arranged special outings.
It is by expressing our love, and by being loving, that we in fact experience love. Love is felt by giving. Sure, it is felt by receiving, too; the difference is in the planning, preparation, thinking and mindfulness involved in giving love.
Love is an ever-changing resource that encourages our growth and our healing, and it is both a motivation and a reward for the expression of our care and concern of others.
In a committed relationship, love must be nurtured through action.
For love to sustain and grow, it must be treated as a verb, not a noun.
Love is a constantly changing emotion that has the capacity to expand and contract in accordance with the rhythms of our life and our actions.
Think about today. What did you do that was particularly loving for your sweetie today? Ideally, you will have at least five things that come to mind quickly. For example: made her breakfast, refilled her coffee, text to say “I love you,” just because, greeted her with a kiss and a hug, read to her before she fell asleep. Sometimes love is as simple as saying “thank you,” holding open the door for her, smiling at her, playfully dancing with and singing to her, or leaving her a love note. When you do something that makes her life easier, makes her heart fill up, eases her mind, comforts her body, or leaves her knowing that she lights up your life… you will know you are doing something right.
When you become frustrated with your partner about something she has done, is your first instinct to be critical? Lesbian couples who want happy relationships must lean into curiosity before launching any criticism.
Imagine your partner is often asleep on the couch when you come home from work. After many days of this routine, you find yourself irritated, thinking, “Again?!!”
Your choices are to be curious, or to be critical. Curiosity sounds like this: “Now I wonder what is going on with her that she needs to take a nap everyday?” This inside voice helps you prepare a thoughtful question, like, “Honey, have you been feeling okay? I’m worried about how tired you seem lately?”
Criticism sounds like this: “You are sleeping your life away, and mine too for that matter! Everyday I come home I find you on the couch, asleep; the dishes are dirty, the house is a mess, the bills need paid, there is a lot of stuff to do around here and what are you doing? You’re sleeping!”
To enter the land of happy lesbian couples, slowly begin to shift your perspective about how you see your partner. NOTICE the thoughts you are having. If they are critical, turn those critical thoughts into useful questions. Here’s a helpful tip: questions that start with “WHY?” tend to be judgmental and really questions disguised as criticisms.
If you find yourself having critical thoughts and feelings about her on a regular basis, you may want to start a gratitude log and work to find things about her that you appreciate. Share as many of these appreciations you have for her out loud so she can know that you do have kind, loving thoughts, too. I’m guessing she is craving them.
Perhaps you feel like she is equally critical of you? This is not a game you want to win. In fact, here’s an article I wrote about the power of competing to be the kindest. That’s the kind of game you want to win with your partner!
Happy lesbian couples know, criticisms are toxic, negative, hostile thoughts and expressions that lead to anger, resentment and frustration for both parties. Get more curious, seek understanding and offer up more appreciations. You get what you give.
Strategy 16 for Happy Lesbian Couples: Do you know what the five love languages have in common?
While there are five love languages, (Gifts, Physical Touch, Quality Time, Acts of Service and Words of Affirmation), they all have one thing in common – GIVING ATTENTION. When you give gifts, give attention, give time, give acts of service, or give words of affirmation, you are giving your attention.
By the way, if you have not read the Five Languages of Love by Gary Chapman, I view this book as required reading for all couples, and lesbian couples are no exception! I just checked, and there are 10,652 customer book reviews with an average rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars. So, yep, it’s a good one for your happy relationship reading list. If you don’t like to read, get the audio version here and listen to it together.
I do not know of a more basic method of expressing love, than that of simply giving someone your full attention. Your attention may simply be listening, spending time together, or holding your partner when she needs held. Or, it may involve calling to check on her when she is feeling sick, or asking her to talk about her feelings when she seems blue. Maybe you pick up a special treat from her while you are out, and bring it home. Leave her a note on her car seat if she leaves after you do. The possibilities all include the five love languages, and they are endless.
Happy lesbian couples know that attention comes in many forms, and when you intend to let your lesbian love know she’s your priority, the one you choose, and that she matters to you, be sure you offer her your gazing, smiling, dancing eyes; your open, allowing and listening ears; your laughing, loving, and kissing lips; your soothing, sexy, complementing voice; your helping, healing, loving hands; and your embracing open and accepting arms. Be present, aware, and engaged. You are what she wants. Give her more of you.
Giving someone your full attention is possibly the single most powerful way to show someone you love them. Be among the happy lesbian couples who take time to better their relationships a little step at at time. You will be sure to increase your ability to speak the five love languages, too, if you keep expanding your list of ways to give her your attention.