Relational Thinking

7 Verbs That Shape the Way You Love

What is so different about relationships today? Why does modern love seem so damn hard? How do we keep passion alive? Why do people cheat? How can you avoid an affair? When trust is broken, can it be healed? Are relationship skills universal or can you be a different person at home than you are at work?

Echoed with breathless anticipation, these are among the most common questions posed to me at dinner parties, happy hours, patient sessions and in the yoga waiting room.

However, across all of them, there is one question that remains my favorite:

Where do we learn to love and how?

“To love” is a skill that is cultivated, not merely a state of enthusiasm. It is dynamic and active. Imbued with intention and responsibility. And it is a verb.

As a person that speaks nine languages, I’ve learned how important it is to practice the basic verbs (of a new language). These are the first we learn for speech and I’ve come to believe that they are also the first we learn in love.

I pay special attention to seven:

  • to ask

  • to take

  • to receive

  • to give

  • to share

  • to refuse

  • to play/imagine 

When we learn these verbs as children, some grow strong while others grow weak. As adults, they become built them into the foundations of our defense mechanisms and our survival strategies; our strengths and our vulnerabilities.

So, if you want a modern history lesson in how you learned to love, I’d advise you to take a look at your verbs.

Ask yourself: Which of these verbs is strongest for you? And which is weakest? Is there one that could use a little extra care?

Since all of them come into play when we face the everyday demands of love, conflict and connection you may find some are a bit more robust than others.

As you embark on this self assessment, take notice of which relational skills need a little extra practice. And I challenge you to pick one verb this month and make it a focus. Give it massaging, caring, effort to build that muscle.

And then report back to me here and on my social media channels. Tell me what verb you are working on and the creative ideas you have for  greater mastery of it. I’d love to hear -- and I’m sure the people I’ve met at dinner parties, happy hours and at the yoga studio could use some inspiration too.

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