These are the qualities and attitudes we should cultivate if we want our relationships to be more satisfying.
We all know it in theory: if we want to grow in love and make our relationship more and more solid, we need to nourish it; we need to satisfy each other’s emotional needs. A marriage that is not fed with the right nourishment will starve. It’s true of any relationship.
But not just any “food” that will do. We need to love others in the way they most want to be loved. And to do that, we need to be open, willing to learn their most important love language and fill their “love tank” to the brim.
Therapist and marriage counselor Gary Chapman’s book Love as a Way of Life: Seven Keys to Transforming Every Aspect of Your Life gives us just the practical tips we need to learn to express our love effectively. Specifically, he suggests developing 7 qualities that are not just about vague feelings or good intentions, but are habits that we must practice if we want to become people who love deeply and genuinely.
1. Kindness (or goodness)
Kindness is the joy of satisfying the needs of another person before our own; it means putting the relationship first. We are kind when we learn to see the other’s needs and put them ahead of our own. We need to understand that we can never truly love if we are not willing to sacrifice ourselves. The true act of kindness is one that is born naturally, spontaneously, and with no other interest than to bring joy and well-being to the other.
It is the ability to accept others’ imperfections, recognizing that we are all in the process of transformation. Patience helps us allow others to be imperfect. If we want to love others well, we must have patience with ourselves as well!
It takes sincerity, compassion, and self-awareness to reconcile with someone who has hurt us. True forgiveness only occurs when justice and love operate together. Forgiveness alone is not enough to regain trust, but without forgiveness trust cannot be recovered. We have to practice forgiveness in small things and apologize even for small offenses… because we all know that sometimes the littlest gestures can win over a heart or close a door.
Courtesy means treating others as personal friends, with kindness, recognizing their value as a person. This is essential to make love a way of life, since the courteous person emphasizes the value of relationships. For the person who truly loves, courtesy and politeness are a way of life and a source of satisfaction.
Humility means taking the back seat so that someone else can be first. Humility reaffirms the worth of others; it is the inner peace that allows us to step aside in order to highlight the value of another person. Being aware of your own worth is a step towards loving others in a more authentic way.
As St. John Paul II said, loving means giving ourselves as a gift. Generosity means giving ourselves to others in a free and selfless way, offering our attention, time, talents, money, and compassion, simply for love.
When we are sincere, we show ourselves as the person we really are. It is the loving consistency between what we say, think, and do. It means putting the truth first. A person who truly loves is always sincere with the people he loves and always tells them the truth tactfully.
There is more to say on this topic of love as a way of life. What a world this would be if we all really chose to live in this way! There would be more unity and less division, more altruism and less selfishness … and happier marriages and families are the bedrock of a happier society.