Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The secret to staying in love, forever!

By Russ Hardesty, PhD

“I don’t love you any more!” These words have been the cause of cold chills and wrenching gut pain for many reading this. The words often come as a complete surprise. In an instant the “unloved” becomes focused on the sick feeling in the pit of their stomach and the whirling of their mind.

Things were O.K. until they wasn't
Over the years I have counseled many individuals seeking help to cope with the pain of a relationship that was coming to an end. For many, it was the first time in their life they had sought professional help for their relationship. They had believed things were okay until it wasn’t. And then they believed that everything would work out in the long run if they loved their partner “enough”.

Did you expect love to be free?
Love may be the only thing that we expect to be free! We fall in love without any apparent effort, so why wouldn’t it continue in the same way? There is a physical law called conservation of energy that applies to relationships. This law reminds us that we don’t get something without putting forth some effort. Simply, this law means that if you put a little in, you get a little back. On the other hand if you put a lot in you get a lot in return.

Five Dimensions of commitment!
Passion and love are measures of a meaningful and fulfilled relationship. With commitment there is assurance that both love and passion will remain and grow over the years. In research conducted by social psychologists* over the years five (5) dimensions of a sustainable and prospering commitment have been identified. These dimensions include: an assurance of future rewards; personal identification with the relationship; effort; investments in the relationship; and personal responsibility. Alternatives to commitment to the relationship erode quality and fulfillment in the relationship.

• Future Rewards
It is important to have a clear picture of what’s in the relationship for you! This is “Why” of the relationship. Too often, relationship seems to happen and expectations are based on experience from previous relationships or our family of origin. Future rewards motivate people to commit to a relationship. Fantasies or fairy tale versions of relationship are the framework for some relationships.

• Moving from “I” to “We”
A quality commitment allows both partners to take on the additional identity of “we”. This kind of identity shift indicates the evolvement of a third entity – a team. Neither partner loses their individual identity, but each “I” has a rich and nurturing partner that promotes their growth.

• Effort –
The importance of a relationship is measured in the time and effort that each partner gives to the relationship. This effort is demonstrated in a variety of ways such as helping each other to succeed in their personal growth; listening to increase understanding; working together on a mutual concern or shared project; and most importantly – spending time together.

• Investment –
Some partners treat their relationships like they do their finances. Their withdrawals exceed their deposits. Eventually, the overdrafts decrease trust and value. Wise investors always increase their net worth through investment and saving for emergencies and dream fulfillment. When the investments are minimal in relationships, the investment becomes a “have to” commitment, which takes away the passion and intimacy of a quality relationship.

• Responsibility –
A growing relationship is marked by increased personal involvement with your partner. Making and keeping agreements generates deeper commitment. A parent understands this concept in every cell of their body, freely giving to their child during the first years to ensure a life long of involvement and concern for their well-being. “Free Choice” love is full of personal responsibility for the health and prosperity of our loved one and the relationship.

Alternatives to commitment –
Commitment is often limited because of alternatives we choose in our lives. Sometimes, just like the “Pause” or “Hold” feature of a DVD, one partner seems to put the relationship on “Hold” while they give their attention to a hobby, sport, work, religious endeavor, or another person. Unlike the electronic devices we are accustomed to manipulating, our partner’s life continues to evolve and change. When we activate the “Play” feature, it doesn’t start where we left off; nor does it have a “Rewind” button.

Action Steps:

The secret to staying in love! (Make frequent and significant deposits)

Remind yourself each day of all the amazing things that your partner does and is! Not how they forgot to take out the trash or put their socks in the laundry

• Share with your partner the “Why” for your relationship at least once a week.

• Spend time regularly with your partner on a shared activity or interest.

Close Relationships ed. Ann L. Weber and John H Harvey


  1. Russ - I agree with the "I" to "We" concept but still have the independence as an individual. But I don't "stay" in the "We". I also agree with love isn't free - takes energy etc. I have visualized - but NOT experienced YET - trying to find a balance of giving when my partner needs something and asking for or accepting when I need something. It seems like it's really "un-even" & out of balance. So I run out of energy. I'm figuring out to be grateful when we are both healthy and up and doing something creative, fun and light. And I'm figuring out to ask for love and understanding when I need it. I feel the best when the "Teeter Totter" is VERY balanced, seeing eye to eye, moving very slow up and down, my tip toes know when to touch the ground and when to lift up, and not being "flipped" way up - or "thrown" way down hard, ouch, on the behind. The 5 "book theories": future reward, D,effort,investment, and personal resp.are just theories I think - it's the nitty gritty of eye contact, hold hands,and tip toes that make me stay in love forever...

  2. I really like your "teeter totter" metaphor! This could be a great word picture for your partner to perhaps better hear you requests. Too often our words are spoken and sound like a foreign language. Sometimes the cost of love is speaking in an unfamiliar language. Let me know if you have interest in this concept - could be great material for future blog posts. I encourage you not to 'settle' for less than what your dream for in your relationship. The categories are social psychologist's way of summarizing a lot of data - I agree that theories are no substitute for the "here and now" connection.


Reader Comments

"...My spouse and I have been married for 32 years and I've experienced our relationship from giggly in bed, to passionate in bed, to mad in bed to "sleeping" in bed...As we grow older the intimacy definition changes for me. Intimacy also for me is just sitting quietly, or driving for miles quietly or walking just hearing our footsteps crunch the leaves, holding hands. My usual struggle in intimacy is in my head - I have to intentionally stop my daily to do list, my past and future stuff and live in the present moment..." Pam

it's ... smaller things to celebrate that create the real passion

“We have found that passion ebbs and flows but we set a goal for our relationship a number of years ago that is working for us. At least every six months we do something that will create a lifetime memory. For us, we love to travel, so it's been pretty easy to find something big to do that will create that lifetime memory, but sometimes it's the finding of smaller things to celebrate that create the real passion.” Steve Rae

What'll arouse passion more than the feeling of being forgiven?

“The "typical beliefs that people have when the “fire” seems to have gone out of a relationship" I believe are a) that you feel your partner should have changed or should not have changed and b) that you feel you should change or that you should not have changed.

Acceptance of yourself and your partner leads to forgiveness. What'll arouse passion more than the feeling of being forgiven?” Brian Massey

A word from Russ Hardesty

The realm of relationship is mysterious; filled with magic, surprise, excitement, passion, intimacy, loss, disappointment and creativity. I am fortunate to have a life partner who is at once a mirror, teacher, lover, nurturer, student and companion. In this place of mystery, I continue to grow into a mature, loving and free man. I welcome feedback, suggestions, and comments – which is a gift to me! Thanks for joining the expedition! Russ