“Attention is the most basic form of love; through it we bless and are blessed.” – John Tarrant, Western Zen Teacher
Did Cupid’s arrow break your heart on Valentine’s Day? If hurt feelings or disappointment landed on your doorstep (along with, or instead of, that box of chocolates!) here are 5 important insights to help you heal your heart.
1. Love does not equal the net value of gifts given.
If you want to heal your heart, take your focus off of keeping score of who gave what gift to whom. We are led to believe that Valentine’s Day is that special holiday when those who love us are supposed to shower us with gifts. And even though we don’t say it, we judge the financial value of those gifts, or the degree to which our partner planned our special evening, as an indicator of just “how much” we are loved. But a sparkling piece of jewelry or a fancy restaurant does not prove that we are loved at all.
2. Learn the true meaning of love.
Women often feel that they don’t get shown enough love from their partners, while men often feel clueless as to how to express the love that they are truly feeling. In truth, most of us don’t know the true meaning of love, and it is this lack of clarity that gets us into trouble.
Love brings emotional contact, nurturing, soothing and protection. Love causes us to reach out to others and trust that they will be there to create security and safety. Love is also an instinctive survival response that we are born with. We have all watched a mother gaze lovingly at her child or observed the look of pride in a father’s eyes. We accept this need to bond as a normal part of infancy.
But somewhere along the line we lose sight of these needs and think that it is not okay for adults to require connection and emotional contact.
We all have the need for a bond with another for nurturing, soothing protection. We are relational beings with a basic need for emotional contact and responsiveness from those whom we care about. While we can soothe and comfort our children and cherish their vulnerability, we often are blind to the vulnerabilities of our partners. Our own fears and anxieties get triggered when we judge our partner as needy. Our society has taught us that “needy” is bad, rather than helping us to see that being “needy” is merely one way that we are created to be in connection with others.
3. Understand the nature of healthy attachments.
Healthy attachment needs in adults include the ability to trust that you can depend on your partner when you call, to know that you matter to him or her, that you are cherished, and that they will be there for you and respond to your emotional needs. When we lose this connection, our brains go into panic mode, and all we perceive – courtesy of our brain’s amygdala – is “Danger, Danger, Danger!!” Then we act defensively in ways that move us out of connection rather than closer to the one we love.
4. Reach out and touch one another.
The jingle may be corny, but if you really begin to reach out and touch one another, you will create a much more loving connection – as well as satisfy your need for healthy attachment. Make contact with your partner. Simply putting your hand on a shoulder or reaching across a table can go a long way when it comes to diffusing the emotions that can lead to arguments and disconnection.
5. Put your focus on who the two of you are together.
Acknowledge each other. Notice the positive moments the two of you share. Take the time to hold and touch each other. These are the important tools that keep relationships strong and healthy. Develop simple rituals for various times of the day (when leaving in the morning, going to bed). You can also create your own special events, such as spending 10-15 minutes together after the children go to sleep or after you come home from work. Simply sitting together, whether you talk or not, will go a long way in helping you to begin to make your relationship a priority and build the bond between you. Use this time to allow yourself to relish the other, not to talk about the difficulties that need to be addressed.
Have a glass of wine or a cup of tea, hold hands or find another way to touch. These simple actions will keep your relationship feeling solid and become a safe harbor in a world that can often be quite stormy.