Let’s jump into the idea of love. It is not just one, single emotion felt between two people romantically intertwined. Love has many more facets that impact us all everyday all day. Here’s our big picture:
One, the energy that we put into one part of our social health/connections/love to other humans will flow over into all our connections and daily interactions. If your social health isn’t in check, it is putting strain on all your relationships (you just might not see the cracks yet).
Two, love grows love and there are 7 kinds of love according to Greek philosophy. We can simplify the Greek philosophy by seeing instances of all love as Positivity Resonance. Positivity Resonance creates an abundance perspective for our connections to other human beings.
Three, the truth is that love quirks because no one is normal and all love has it’s quirks. So don’t expect that any one book, therapy, or piece of relationship advice works for everyone.
I know that this is supposed to be a “love and relationships” blog, but the truth is that our over all social health effects the kinds of relationships that we are able to energize and maintain. If our social health is bad, our romantic relationships are going to have trouble blossoming. Our social health is very similar to our physical health. When we don’t keep our bodies moving and stretching, they become stiff and tired and less adaptable. It is the same with our ability to hangout with people and make social connections; the less we practice the harder it gets. The harder it gets, the more we dread doing it. The more we dread doing it, the more social situations we start to turn down or avoid. It easily turns into a slippery slope of staying at home and mushrooming (that’s my word for cocooning at home in the dark and avoiding life/the world).
With the social disruption of the pandemic many of us are in the position of trying to get back into social health shape. We may have learned from the pandemic that we don’t want to be bogged down with a million draining social ‘appointments’ every week. However, we have also learned about the importance of being out in the world and apart of a social community. Studies done by the WHO and CDC on loneliness and social isolation have shown that isolation begets more isolation. However, they have also found that the opposite is true and that more opportunities for social connection creates more flexibility with engaging in a bigger variety of social connection opportunities. We can see how this can play out in our romantic relationships. If we are feeling socially energized, then we want to be more engaged with our partner. When we are more engaged, we can be more flexible, understanding and communicative which creates a collaborative dynamic rather than an adversarial one. It is easy to see how the big picture of engaging in any kind of positive social connection leads to boosting all of our relationships. And Bonus, the CDC also found that social connection leads to physical health benefits such as better sleep and increased recovery from stress, anxiety and depression. Bonuses that all help us have more energy, engagement and love for each other.
But what is Love really? The Greeks broke up the idea of love into 7 different kinds to highlight all the facets of the positive social connection feelings that humans experience with other humans. We have all come across some of these at some point: Eros (Romantic, Passionate Love Of the Body), Philia (Affectionate, Friendly Love), Storge (Unconditional, Familial Love), Agape (Selfless, Universal Love), Ludus (Playful, Flirtatious Love), Pragma (Committed, Long-Lasting Love), and Philautia (Self Love). As you can see from the list, we probably experience many of these types of love without even thinking about the fact that it’s a type of love. That means that many of us are walking around and not realizing the amount of love that we are giving and receiving on any given day. It’s possible that just this morning you experienced moments of eros, philia, ludus and pragma with your partner before you even left for work and they didn’t even register as moments of love.
The work of Dr. Barbara L. Fredrickson, PhD highlights the importance of being in the moment (or mindful) during our daily interactions with our partners and the world, so that we can recognize these different moments of love. She takes what the Greeks did with teasing out all the emotions that could be felt and viewed as love and puts it back into a big picture idea that she calls Positivity Resonance. The special thing about starting to recognize all these little moments of Positivity Resonance as moments of love and connection is that it leads to our social health cup and our love cup being filled up so much faster! If we only let our love cup be filled up with big gestures of affection, like an expensive dinner out or a fancy gift, then we end up waiting a long time to get our cup filled up and we may never get it full. We miss out on feeling special that someone made us our morning coffee or remembered to hang-dry a favourite shirt or asked us about the work project that we’ve been worrying over. We miss out on feeling community connection from exchanging small talk with the cashier at the grocery store or wishing a coworker happy or receiving a smile from a fellow jogger going the opposite way. If we could be mindful of all these moments everyday, our cups would be so full. We would feel so much more loved, connected and energized towards our world and our partners.
Lastly, and maybe most importantly, know that there is no one absolute way to grow and strengthen a relationship. There is no one-size-fits-all formula for love and relationship bliss. There are too many different people in the world and combinations of people in relationships with each other for there to only be one way or just a few ways to create the loving relationship that is right for you. This is especially true if you are a neurospicy person or in a relationship with a neurospicy person, since a lot of the advice and books don’t take into account how different brains process feelings and communication. So if your relationship isn’t like the ‘norm’, that’s okay. If your friends’ advice never seems to help, that’s okay. We are all quirky in our own ways which means that we need to find the ways that help us to grow and learn. The first step is to know the big picture of your relationship, so that you can find the smaller steps and the right path to get you there.