Four ways to show love

In several places in the Pali canon, the Buddha praised loving families. For example:

To support mother and father,
to cherish wife and children,
and to be engaged in peaceful occupation
— this is the greatest blessing.

And this:

Husband and wife, both of them
having conviction,
being responsive,
being restrained,
living by the Dhamma,
addressing each other
with loving words:
they benefit in manifold ways.
To them comes bliss.

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A recent article in the Wall Street Journal emphasizes the importance of affection in relationships, and the advice comes, poignantly, from people who have undergone divorce, as related in psychologist Terri Orbuch’s book, Finding Love Again: 6 Simple Steps to a New and Happy Relationship.

In particular there are four components of affection that divorced people said were important:

  1. How often the spouse showed love.
  2. How often the spouse made them feel good about the kind of person they are.
  3. How often the spouse made them feel good about having their own ideas and ways of doing things.
  4. How often the spouse made life interesting or exciting.

The first of these, “showing love” includes “compliments, cuddling and kissing, hand-holding, saying ‘I love you,’ and emotional support.”

It’s the last three that are perhaps least obvious. It’s not hard to remember that a kiss or a hug communicates love, but helping someone feel good about the person they are is a very special and beautiful thing. And it’s something we might be inclined to forget.

One word of caution: when we see lists like this one of the first things we often do is to measure our significant other up against the criteria. This is not only unhelpful, it’s potentially disastrous. We need to focus on ourselves first. How do we measure up? What do we need to do more of, in order to be a more affectionate partner?

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