Much of what I knew about love and relationships in my twenties I learnt from my parents and from watching rom coms. I was in love with romantic fairy-tale love! I fell for any cute guy who made my heart race. Love for 20-year-old me was definitely a feeling, not an action.
But feelings are fickle. Good relationships — romantic, family, or friendships — are not characterized by how you “feel” that day. Good relationships are based on the way you and your loved ones behave towards each other.
Real love is a series of choices and actions. To ensure your love is real, you need to ask yourself: what actions do your relationships display?
Love is patient
That little sentence is challenging, isn’t it? Patience is something not many of us have now. We struggle to be patient with strangers on the road, people at work, and with our partners and families.
When people find out I homeschool my kids, the number one thing they say is: “You must be so patient!”
I usually laugh and reply along the lines of, “I’m not sure if I’m all that patient but my kids put up with me.”
Patience is tough. Our busy world makes it tougher. We’re always in a hurry — deadlines to meet, appointments to make, meetings to get to. My week is full with rushing the kids from one activity to the next. It’s easy to feel impatient.
We get impatient with our partners too
In fact, our partners are often the ones we lose patience with the easiest. When they take too long to get ready, when they do things that annoy us, when they keep leaving their clothes all over the floor…
That little statement: “Love is patient” is confronting — it forces us to take a look at our relationships and ourselves. Can we be more patient? Heck, yes!
What patience looks like in your relationships:
- Patient people pause before they interrupt. They wait to see if loved ones have more to say.
- Wait for you to finish a task in your own way. They lose the “my way is better and more efficient” attitude.
- They don’t try to change their loved ones. They trust people to grow when they’re ready.
- Are gentle with other people’s mistakes and learning. If someone forgets a house rule or does something wrong they accept mistakes happen and know they’re not perfect either.
You deserve to be treated with patience and so do the people you love. Slow down and encourage patience. The next characteristic is one of the most sought after characteristics for a romantic partner…
Love is kind
According to a worldwide study of what young singles want in a partner, kindness came out as the most desirable trait. This isn’t surprising when you see how kindness benefits a relationship. Kindness in our relationships is a buffer — it protects them from negativity. When we chose to be kind to ourselves and our loved ones our positive interactions outweigh the negative ones.
The Gottman Institute, a team of relationship researchers, say that successful relationships have more positive than negative interactions. In fact, a lot more! 5 positives to just one negative.
Showing kindness keeps our interactions more positive. Even negative ones (like confronting an issue) can be softened when we are kind.
There has been an increase in people talking about kindness in the media. Wouldn’t it be exciting to see a kindness revolution happen in our world? What would that look like for you?
What kindness looks like in action:
- Softening the way you talk to your partner, your kids, or your family.
- Showing gratitude and noticing the efforts people make. Appreciation means a lot.
- Remembering small things about your loved one: their favorite food, the way they like to be touched, the things that make them smile.
- Being considerate and doing little things that show you're thinking of them: bringing them a hot drink when they're busy with paperwork, asking if they need a hand cooking dinner, offering to help.
- Being kinder to yourself. Taking time out when you need it. Being less critical of yourself.
- Kindness can also mean leaving a relationship with someone who is impatient, unkind, and full of anger.
You deserve to experience kindness in your relationships. A kind partner, friend, or family member is valuable. The next behavior deals with self-control and how we express our anger.
Love is not easily angered
Anger is a normal and acceptable emotion when we express it well. Problems arise, though, when angry feelings turn into frequent fighting, yelling, a quick temper, or violence.
Anger that erupts suddenly and without warning is often a sign that work needs to be done. People who lose their temper easily have a lack of self-control. We don't talk about self-control much. But when you meet someone who lacks self-control you know it! They come across as immature and it's not very attractive. Without self-control our relationships suffer.
In good relationships people work at being slow to anger
They assume that the other person means well, isn’t trying to hurt or annoy them, and loves them. They don’t get offended or defensive quickly.
Self-control is the key here. People who are slow to anger:
- Respond rather than react to situations — they take their time to think before they speak. They’re in control of their emotions.
- Try to observe and understand a situation instead of jumping straight to anger and yelling.
- Assume the best. If their partner does something that seems offensive or critical, they check what was meant. They say, “When you said… what did you mean?” (Many arguments start with a misunderstanding.)
Do you see that in your relationships? Or is it the opposite? Do you get locked into fights because someone got offended? Does everything you or they do seem like the wrong thing? Are you walking on egg shells?
Real love is slow to anger. Once we start getting locked into criticism, offense, and defense our relationships are in big trouble.
Note: No one in any kind of relationship should have to experience physical or verbal violence. If your relationship is at this stage, seek help.
The kind of love you could have
Love is patient. Love is kind. Love is not easily angered.
You might recognize these words. They’re from a famous passage in the bible often used at weddings.
Love isn’t the mushy, fluttery feeling I was looking for in my 20’s. Love is practical. Love is an action.
Real love in action looks like someone being patient and kind. It someone who is content with you and your relationship. Someone humble, self-controlled, forgiving and trustworthy. It's someone who is safe and gentle, hopeful about the future with you, and sticks with you in hard times. Great relationships are made in a series of small actions every day.