June is wedding season. At ceremonies this month, couples will be speaking vows from the traditional to the deeply personal.
If there’s one promise I could have every couple place in their wedding vows (and honor over time), though, it would be this: Don’t just say “I love you.” Show it.
Saying “I love you” doesn’t guarantee that the other person feels loved. What carries a stronger message: the rushed “I love you” that you mumble as the two of you leave for work, or the fact that in the preceding conversation you weren’t listening or you rolled your eyes at something your husband said?
To feel loved, we need to feel safe and cherished. We need to believe that our spouse sees who we actually are — in all of our strengths, weaknesses and quirks — and accepts us. If we say all the right words but don’t back those words up with actions, the message doesn’t come through.
Need ideas for some actions that demonstrate love? This list is based on the five parts of my Powerful Program for Marriage Success.
- Cultivate Your Personal Power. Identify your needs and take responsibility for getting them met. This means taking care of yourself and making time for your own friends, hobbies, and interests. Encourage your partner to do the same. You both need to nurture yourselves so that you can be strong partners in the relationship.
- Eliminate any Poisonous Patterns that make the climate of your relationship negative. Stop hurting each other by doing things like criticizing, shaming, or casting blame. Even withholding affection, micromanaging your spouse, or getting overly wrapped up in your own world can cause emotional pain. Remember that if your hurt your partner, you are also hurting the relationship.
- Inspire a Passionate Partnership by creating an atmosphere that strengthens friendship and romance. This doesn’t mean you must have candlelit dinners every night. Lots of little actions can keep passion alive: Make eye contact. Show affection. Do something to grow together, like taking a class on a subject that interests you both. Be curious about each other. Always start with the assumption that your husband loves you, needs you, and wants the marriage to work as much as you do.
- Resist the Persistent Pressures that place all marriages at risk. All of us are under more stress than ever. What actions can you take to reduce stress in your lives — to ease up the pressure on yourself, and on your partner? When stress levels are high, fear gets triggered, leading most people to (1) assume the worst about their partner and (2) miss what’s positive about him–a double whammy! You are also much more likely to overreact to anything your partner does. Dialing down the level of stress is one of the most effective ways to move from a state of fear to a state of love.
- Protect Your Principal Priorities. One of the most powerful things you can do to show love is acting in ways that show you value your marriage. That means working together to create a life that prioritizes your relationship. You may consider moving into less demanding jobs, directing your energy toward your shared hopes and dreams, or turning down yet another volunteer obligation so you can carve out some more couple time.
Check out the previous blog post, 100 Powerful Ways to Make Your Love Stronger, for many, many more ideas about how to clearly demonstrate your love.
Above all, the most loving action is to consistently choose loving your partner over submitting to your worst fears about him or your relationship. The strongest marriages emerge from each person repeatedly choosing to believe in their relationship. Whatever you said in your original marriage vows, and however long you’ve been married, it’s never too late to be more loving!