Tools for Couples Happiness — 29 February 2004
How to fall in love: The grandparents’winning formula

Everyone’s grandchildren are smart, cute, adorable and fun. And indeed they are because we view them that way and treat them as truly precious. We can all learn from grandparents the formula for deep love and intimacy.

Grandparents look at their grandchildren with adoring eyes, admire their every gesture and see them as the manifestations of all that’s good. Even the children’s annoying traits are viewed as endearing. That’s the formula for love.

From the deep love come loving acts. As grandparents, we take the time to listen to the grandchildren and please their every whim. We tell them stories and play their repetitive games with delight. We walk slower to accommodate their pace, push them on the swings until they tire. We rock them long after our arms go numb. We play blocks and feel amused as they quickly destroy what we have just finished building. We read their favorite stories to them over and over without frustration because it delights them.

We answer their unending series of questions with pleasure. We generously allow them to braid our hair and paint our faces for their joy. We avail ourselves to their needs with graciousness and cooperation. None of it feels hard because these behaviors stem from our deep love and the desire to please.

The language we use with our grandchildren is positive, reassuring, supportive and approving. When they err, we correct them while emphasizing that the bad behavior was inconsistent with their goodness. We praise them often and brag to others about their accomplishments and greatness. We spend time thinking about ways to please them, know their current interests, and find creative ways to enrich their experiences.

Parents perform all of these loving behaviors as well. The difference is that contrary to grandparents, parents have the responsibilities of rearing, correcting, teaching and guiding their children. These duties require exercising discipline and even punishments that children do not view as loving.

As grandparents we love unconditionally. We cherish the preciousness of our grandchildren as they grow and mature.
We find their innocence captivating, their exuberance for life rejuvenating, and their lust for learning awe-inspiring. We lavish in their accomplishments and are their greatest fans.

Grandparents love their grandchildren without expecting anything in return, but the children often reciprocate the love with interest. As we delight by just being in the presence of our grandchildren, they respond by wanting to sit by us, listen, hug and cuddle and just BE. That’s the nature of intimacy.

You don’t have to be a grandparent to be in love, act lovingly or share true intimacy. You have been a child and may recall how you felt about your dog, cat, pony, hamster or turtle. How you wanted this living being to be well cared for, happy, safe and nurtured. You suffered when your pet was hurt and nursed him back to health throughout the night. You exercised patience, deep concern, and self-sacrifice in your quest for the best for your beloved pet. You knew then, and still know now what loving energy feels like and the rewards it generates.

You may also be privileged to have had grandparents with whom you shared intense love. Children “know” who truly loves them and create brain pathways to loving behaviors for life.

As adults this love can be recreated and even deepened. It gets derailed from the initial admiration and awe only when we forget about being loving and become preoccupied with ourselves.

The grandparents’ formula is based on true unconditional love and giving. Expectations of reciprocity and preoccupations with oneself only contaminate the formula. As long as we love authentically, practice loving acts, see the best in our mates and minimize the rest, keep our eyes adoring and our language approving, there is no need to worry about getting our needs met. Love will be reciprocated with the same fervor that it is given.

Ask yourself whether you have been practicing the grandparents’ formula of unconditional love toward your partner:

  • How often do you look at your mate with admiration and awe?
  • When was the last time you told your partner what a treasure he or she is?
  • When was the last time you felt blessed to have such a wonderful partner in your life and shared this sentiment?
  • What percentage of the time do you think first and foremost about your partner and not about yourself?
  • When did you last feel deep unconditional love for your mate and for how long? How did you convey it?
  • When did you last take the time to listen and give your mate your undivided attention? For how long?
  • When did you last see your partner’s annoying traits as endearing?
  • How much energy do you spend in learning your partner’s needs and wants in order to accommodate them daily?
  • How tolerant are you of your partner’s wishes that may not be yours as well,
  • Are you your partner’s best friend and fan?
  • Are you a gracious, patient, considerate and compassionate partner most of the time?
  •  Is your love open, freely expressed in words and actions?
  • Would you be thrilled to be in a relationship with a partner who acts as you do toward your mate?

Your answers give you the clues to improved love and intimacy.

February 29, 2004

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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