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  • We can spend a lot of time in relationships, to which we are ostensibly committed, wondering, maybe with a fair amount of anxiety,

  • Do they love me?

  • Is this solid?

  • Might it all suddenly end?

  • But, perhaps, less time asking the more salient question: What can I do to help this valued relationship endure?

  • We can fall into an error of seeing love as a passive, mysterious gift that we are in no position to generate, direct, or guarantee,

  • rather than conceiving of it as an emotion that, for the most part, flows fairly logically, steadily, and naturally on from things that we are in a position either to do or not to do.

  • And, to come to the central thesis, love tends to be a consequence of a partner feeling cared for and heard,

  • in the way that they have almost certainly frequently signaled to us that they need to feel in order to be inwardly assured that they are in safe and tender hands.

  • To hazard a generalization, most people tend to signal their emotional requirements pretty directly.

  • If we are in the mood to listen.

  • In other words, there is much we can choose to do or not to do right now, today, in order to weaken or strengthen our loves.

  • We are, for the most part, active agents, not passive, victimized spectators.

  • The other's love should, under normal circumstances, be thought of as a predictable reward rather than a random benediction.

  • There are surely cases where people are keen to maintain a relationship, but are then left for no reason that they could ever have guessed at or influenced,

  • normally by people deeply and secretly ambivalent around the terrors of commitment.

  • But in the end, there are probably not so many of those around.

  • To maintain love, we need, more than anything, to follow a few simple-sounding rules

  • that can, nevertheless, be very hard for what we should acknowledge to be complicated, psychological reasons on our side to act upon.

  • Firstly, the partner must feel heard.

  • Secondly, they must feel that we are on their side.

  • Thirdly, they must feel appreciated according to their own distinctive love language.

  • This might mean that we need to leave the kitchen a certain way or that we have to take their views of social life or intimacy into account.

  • Fourthly, the partner must know that we are making an effort in their name.

  • Fifthly, they must feel wanted, emotionally and physically.

  • Sixthly, insofar as we are difficult to be aroundand we all arewe must explain why.

  • We need to give our partner an accurate map to our areas of immaturity.

  • We need to tell them, calmly and with grace, how we are a little mad and, with reference to our pasts, why.

  • We must never insist proudly or defensively on our normality.

  • "I'm so sorry" and "I'm listening" should be our two most habitual phrases.

  • Lastly, seventhly, we must strive to remain calm around our partners' most trying sides.

  • We mustn't humiliate them about their flaws.

  • We must become excellent teachers and diplomats of difficult messages.

  • If we do all this and a relationship ends without us wishing to, we are entitled to feelings of acute bitterness and grief.

  • The fault has really not been with us.

  • We have had the misfortune to love someone who was not ready to receive our gift.

  • But if the relationship ends and we have somehow been distracted or busier, we should start to wonder whether, or perhaps why, we have wound up with an ending we told ourselves we didn't want.

  • We may need to reflect, under the full glare of the truth of singledom, that we might be a lot more ambivalent, conflicted, or lackadaisical about sustaining love than we have imagined.

We can spend a lot of time in relationships, to which we are ostensibly committed, wondering, maybe with a fair amount of anxiety,

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