I have a $500 question for you: Could you make your spouse feel upset in under one minute? Most people answer an emphatic, "Yes!"
To accomplish this, you would probably bring up some event, person or question that invariably irritates them. The term for this is called, "pushing my buttons." When someone pushes your buttons, it is commonly accepted that you have no choice but to get upset. Over time, your spouse usually learns where all those buttons are.
While pushing my buttons signifies a way for your husband or wife to easily make you upset, you have no phrase for the opposite effect—when your spouse does something that invariably makes them feel loving. You could call it "pushing my love buttons," but there's no poetry in a phrase like that.
I prefer to call it, "charming my heart." When someone charms us, it's as if they have cast a spell of enchantment over our heart. A wonderful way to experience more love in your relationship is to learn of "automatic" ways to charm your spouse’s heart. When they feel fully loved by you, guess how they'll treat you? Soon, you'll both be charming each other's heart in an upward spiral that leads all the way to heaven. Ahhh, how sweet it can be!
In my book, "Communication Miracles for Couples," I talk about how it's necessary to realize each person has different rules or laws as to what true love is.
Case in point: Many years ago I was with a girlfriend I'll call, "Bonnie." I was giving her a nice shoulder massage when she suddenly blurted out, "Would you cut that out!" Totally caught off guard, I said, "Cut what out?" She annoyingly stated, "You're always massaging me, you're always touching me, why do you have to be so grabby?" It was true. I frequently massaged her. So I said to her, "I do that to show you how much I care about you." She quickly responded, "Well, I don't feel very loved. After all, you never tell me you love me." She was right, again. I never actually said the words, "I love you" to her, although she frequently said such things to me.
Bonnie and I had a long discussion about this episode and we finally realized what had been going on. While I was growing up, whenever I was being spanked or punished, my parents would say, "We're doing this because we love you." Therefore, the words "I love you" had a negative connotation to me. I figured, talk is cheap. The way to really show a woman you love her is to touch her in pleasant ways. That was my "rule" of how real love should be expressed. On the other hand, while Bonnie was growing up, she had an uncle who frequently gave her massages. One day, this uncle sexually molested her. Therefore, she took my massages as being a precursor of impending doom. We both thought we were expressing love to each other, when in fact we were unconsciously pushing each other's buttons!
The way we tend to express love to another person is, in most cases, the way in which we would like to receive it. I gave Bonnie massages because that's what makes me feel loved. Even if a gorilla gave me a massage, I'd feel totally loved. Bonnie frequently told me she loved me because that's what she wanted to hear. When people are unaware of their spouse’s preferred ways of feeling loved, they end up expending a lot of energy that goes unappreciated. Yet, by knowing exactly what helps your significant other feel safe and loved, it becomes infinitely easier to create intimacy on a consistent basis.
“Listen carefully to what your spouse says, because the answer(s) to this question can transform your marriage.”
There is a simple exercise you can do with your spouse to find out how best to charm their heart. Have them become comfortable in a chair and then say the following: "Close your eyes, take a deep breath and begin to think of a specific time you felt really loved by me. Remember that time as clearly as you can. Remember where we were, what we were doing and exactly what happened that let you know I really loved you." Give your spouse a minute or so to fully re-experience such a moment. Then proceed, "What was most important in letting you know I fully loved you? Was it something I said, or the way I looked at you, the way I touched you or something else? What exactly helped you to know that I really loved you?" Listen carefully to what your spouse says, because the answer(s) to this question can transform your marriage.
By knowing how your own heart is charmed, you can reveal this important information to your spouse. Try the previous exercise on yourself, or have your spouse read it to you. You may be surprised to discover exactly what your spouse does that creates a warm feeling of safety and love in you. Once they know how to help you feel loved, they can more easily and consistently show you they care.
Every time you charm your spouse's heart, you're making a "loving deposit" into your "shared love account." Your shared love account is like a bank balance you share together. When things are going well, there's a lot of love put into "savings." When both of you consistently make deposits into your shared account, you feel abundantly in love. It's much easier to handle problems when there's an abundance of love in your love account. Therefore, make frequent deposits of love in your relationship account by charming your spouse's heart. Remember to do the little actions that make a big difference in how your spouse feels. It will immediately help both of you feel wonderfully intimate, and when problems arise, you'll have plenty of love "banked" to help you ride out the storm.
Jonathan Robinson is a psychotherapist and the bestselling author of "Communication Miracles for Couples," as well as other books. He is a frequent guest on Oprah, CNN and other shows. For more information on marriage tips and to learn about his books, or to e-mail Mr. Robinson, you can go to his web site: www.howtotools.com