When I work with couples I often ask them if they love each other. With the exception of those that are there for help navigating the end of their relationship, they almost always say yes. That’s the answer I would expect to hear. When they say yes, I quickly pose a follow-up question. Why? Why do you love your partner?
I’m amazed at how difficult this is for so many people to answer. I think some people have never taken the time to think about it. Others have become so focused on the issues that are causing difficulties that they’ve forgotten. When that happens I’ll get answers like, “I just am” or “because they are a nice person.” That’s an answer that confuses me. There are lots of nice people in the world. What made you choose to be in love with this “nice person” over another?
Another popular response is “because we have a lot of history.” That’s true now, but assuming you loved the person when you became partners, that history probably didn’t exist. At some point you didn’t have as much history and decided this was the person with which you wanted a relationship. What was it about them then that caused you to make this choice?
Why is this an important question? Because it can radically shift how people think about their relationship and how they want to approach it. Too often people come to therapy wanting to dwell on what is wrong with their relationship. When they flip that thinking, when they start focusing on why they love their partner, it suddenly becomes less about fixing or blaming the other person. Instead, it becomes about finding ways to enjoy the things that made you fall in love in the first place.
The other thing it does is to remind your partner why you value them. When the focus is about blame and criticism it makes your partner feel pushed away. Hearing what is wrong with you hardly feels like an invitation to work harder to connect. It feels more like a reason to give up. On the other side, hearing why your partner loves you, the things that made them fall in love with you, is an invitation for them to give you more of what you want. It becomes about rebuilding, rediscovering, and reuniting instead of being about fixing.
You don’t need to come to therapy to do this. You can do it yourself. Start by asking yourself the same question. Why do you love your partner? Think hard. Dig deep. Find real reasons that explain why you love THIS person and not one of billions of other people in the world. Why did you choose THIS person to spend your life with? You can stop there. Or better yet, share your answers with your partner. Let them know why you love them. Or be really daring…invite them to do the same thing. I bet you will view your relationship with renewed perspective.