Are you wondering how do you stay in love with someone? There's some psychological tips and tricks to this that I think might help.

First, let's define what love is. It's important however to notice that love is a choice. And I think of it more as a verb than as a feeling or an adjective or a description of some condition that you might have. How do you stay in love with someone? You know what? I was working with a couple here in my office. This was years ago. And as she slipped out to go across the hall for a few moments, he shared with me privately he said, “You know, doc? I just don't love her anymore.” He's telling me this privately when she slips out of the room. You know what my response was? At least I felt this. I can't remember exactly what I said to him, but it was probably along these lines: “Well then, love her.” Because in my mind it's a verb. It's not a feeling or a description. It's something you do. It's a choice. When we look at it that way, it becomes a very different project. How to stay in love with someone? You get to choose and purposefully intentionally structure your interactions with that person in a way that is loving.

Now, there are different phases of maturity that we go through in a love relationship. I like the way that my buddy Matt Townsend put this. Matt wrote a book called Starved Stuff. Matt pointed out that there are at least 3 stages of love that we go through in a relationship. The first stage is yearning. The yearning love is high in chemistry, a lot of feelings. A lot of that excitement and fireworks going on. It's low in clarity because it's still at the beginning of things typically. And it's completely untested in its commitment. Matt defines these different stages of love through chemistry, clarity, and commitment. In the yearning stage, like when you first meet someone and you fall in love. There is lots of chemistry involved, a lot of feeling. Very little clarity about who this is or how this is going to work together. And the commitment is completely untested at this point.

As we mature in a relationship and move into a different phase, we go into earning love. Earning love is a little down in the chemistry department. This is after the honeymoon is over, okay? The chemistry the fireworks aren't there like they used to be. The clarity is much higher now because we've been together for a while. We're starting to work out our roles and our expectations. So, the clarity is up. The commitment is sometimes questioned at this point. “Is this going to last? Are we going to be able to sustain this?” There are a lot of questions around the whole commitment piece. This is the earning stage of love. Now, a lot of people in a relationship will bail after the yearning stage because the chemistry drops. “I just don't love her anymore.” Really? Yes, you do. But it's a different phase of love. See, if we look at it that way, it's a whole different game. Yeah, the chemistry's down but now the clarity is up. And we're testing that commitment. This eventually matures into what Matt calls the Enduring stage of love.

Think of your grandparents. These two people who have built and spent a life together and there is no question in your mind that they love each other. In the enduring stage of love, chemistry is irrelevant, okay? We all go through changes in our life. We're not as good-looking as we were when we were 20, right? The chemistry is irrelevant in that enduring phase of love. The clarity about the purpose of this relationship is crystal clear. It's not even questioned at this point. And the commitment is enduring and stable and lasting. Understanding that we move through these phases can help us to not get too tipped over by the shift. Yes, the fireworks show is going to end at some point. The chemistry is going to come down. But then you start working on the clarity and the commitment that eventually comes in an enduring kind of love. So, I think that's a helpful way to look at it. Yearning, earning and enduring, the three phases of love.

Now, I told you I'd tell you about the acronym. Matt, in his book Starved Stuff uses starved as an acronym. Because sometimes our relationship gets starved. As we are talking about how to stay in love with someone, you want to make sure that you feed that relationship in each of these different areas. The S here in the acronym of starved stands for safety. What can you do to take care of helping that person that you love (which is a verb) to feel safe? To feel that this is a place where they can be safe and they can be vulnerable? Safety. The T stands for trust. What can I do to build or feed the trust? A is appreciation. That is not going to surprise anybody. Gratitude is such an important part of a healthy relationship. What can I do to feed the sense of appreciation and gratitude that's going on in this marriage? The R in starved stands for respect. Respect means a lot of different things to different people. You know what? I've asked little kids this. I used to do psychological testing for all ages and when I was testing little kids, I would test their knowledge of certain words. One of those was respect. What does it mean to respect someone? And they always said something very similar to this: Be nice. Yeah, I love the simplicity of the way kids think about this. You practice respect and you feed the respect in that relationship. The V in starved stands for validation. This is where an acknowledgement of how that person contributes, basically sending the message that my life is better because you are in it. That's very validating. Find ways to feed that particular need. The E in starved stands for encouragement. Life gets kind of scary. And in our relationships, it's important to have people who can infuse us with courage and boldness and confidence to move forward. That's what encouragement is all about. Take a few minutes to feed that part of your relationship as well. And then finally the D in starved stands for dedication. This has to do with that commitment. And especially as we develop in that enduring stage of love. A commitment that is unquestioned and a dedication to this relationship and to this person that we chose on purpose. Love is a verb. It's something that we do. I love the insight that Matt gives in his book, Starved Stuff.

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S – Safety

T – Trust

A – Appreciation

R – Respect

V – Validation

E – Encouragement

D – Dedication