Being the best partner — 04 December 2012
Love your partner in his/her way

We are all accustomed to viewing the needs of others as reflections of our own. We assume, with kind intentions, that what pleases us is also satisfying to those we love. Yet, due to our individual differences our loved ones may not enjoy everything we may find pleasing. Learning to tailor our actions to please our beloved is a goal, skill and worthwhile life task.

To be a truly loving partner, develop a pleasing curiosity about how best to enrich your mate’s life in his/her preferred way. Doing it your way may be well intentioned but misguided.

Most pairs learn a great deal about each other’s preferences when they date and assume that these wishes stay constant. This incorrect premise leads to great misunderstandings. Keeping pace with your mate’s needs and wants through gentle inquiry is essential to couple happiness.

In his book, “The Five Love Languages,” Dr. Gary Chapman delineates five types of behaviors that resonate with people’s sense of being loved. One can seek: Quality time, Words of affirmation, Gifts, Acts of Service or Physical Touch as his/her most pleasing love expression. “If you express love in a way your spouse doesn’t understand, he or she won’t realize you’ve expressed your love at all. Perhaps your husband needs to hear encouraging words, but you feel cooking a nice dinner will cheer him up. Or, maybe your wife craves time with you-time away from the kids and television. The flowers you gave her just don’t communicate that you care.”

In addition to our love languages hierarchy, we crave different activities at different times to satisfy our current needs. The adventurous trip of last year may need to be replaced this year by a relaxing resort stay to please your overworked and stressed mate.

Asking your partner about his/her thoughts, feelings, needs and wants on a day to day basis helps couples stay close and connected. The inquiry needs to be stated neutrally without emotional approval or dismay.

In “Passionate Marriage,” Dr. David Schnarch defines the concept of intimacy as a blend of ‘Individuality’ and ‘Togetherness’. “Individuality propels us to follow our own directives, to be on our own, to create a unique identity,” Schnarch writes. “Togetherness pushes us to follow the directives of others, to be a part of the group. When individuality and togetherness are expressed in balanced, healthy ways, the result is a meaningful relationship that doesn’t deteriorate into emotional fusion.”

To be in a loving union, be clear about the needs, wants and desires of your beloved and stretch to meet them to the best of your ability without losing yourself in the process.

Love your partner well:

¨     Always ask- do not assume what your spouse needs or wants at any moment.

¨     Oblige graciously as long as you are not submitting or accumulating resentments.

¨     Negotiate a compromise, if needed to please both of you.

¨     Love your partner in his/her way. It fosters mutuality, tenderness and true intimacy.

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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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