All You Need Is LOVE
It’s February, Valentine’s Day nears, and love is in the air.
One might think a family law and divorce attorney would be more interested in when love breaks down and fails, but that couldn’t be further from the truth in my case.
Those who know me best know that I’m a connector and a romantic at my core. I take great pleasure in putting people I know together in meaningful ways, some of whom have sprouted relationships. I’ve been accused of being a bit of a matchmaker, and honestly, I am guilty as charged.
If my nearly four-decades-long career in family law and dealing with matters of the heart has done anything for me, it has granted me the experience and the privilege to develop several critical insights into relationships and how to make them thrive. In honor of Cupid and his day, please allow me to share my eight rules of love which are simple, yet, in my opinion, and experiences, effective. Why eight? Well if you turn the number 8️⃣ on its side, it becomes infinity ♾️, and that’s just plain romantic! Let’s jump right in.
- Be empathetic. Perhaps the most important trait in a relationship is empathy. It’s the skill that’s behind good listening and understanding. One cannot begin to fill another person’s needs if they are not being listened to with empathy. Empathy is essential to a compassionate and deeply loving connection.
- Be caring and thoughtful. Flowers and chocolates are nice, but showing that you care can and should go much deeper. Caring is the active part of empathy – reaching out when you know your partner needs support. It might take the form of helping a loved one offload some work, or just letting them know you appreciate them and all that they do for the family. Caring is best displayed selflessly, with no expectations and no judgments. One of the ways I have found effective at expressing these feelings is through love notes. Love notes are particularly good for expressing deeply-held feelings, especially for those who might struggle to say how they feel out loud. Expressing how you feel in writing can sometimes have a greater impact, partly because these notes can be saved, reread, and cherished forever. My second husband and I used to leave Post-it notes on our bathroom mirror to be seen first thing in the morning. They were some of the small, positive things that I still remember today, that showed we cared. And yet see where those notes got us. I do believe he loved me very much, but alcohol came way before me or anyone, and no amount of caring or thoughtfulness could fix that.
- Communicate. Let’s face it, often a Post-it note isn’t enough. We need conversation. Communication skills can be practiced and improved. Just ask any marriage counselor, who will gladly help coach you. For some, the hard part is expressing one’s feelings. A deep, lasting, and meaningful relationship is usually built on mutual understanding and caring. Being able to communicate how you feel is a form of sharing and intimacy that brings you closer together.
- Get romantic. The difference between caring and being romantic may be one of the 50 Shades of Gray, but even small romantic gestures can go a long way. Get a small bud vase and keep it filled with flowers each week. Giving flowers shouldn’t only be done when asking for forgiveness. Organize date nights and stick to them. And don’t just go to your usual haunts. Pick something special and surprising – maybe a place your partner has hinted they’ve always wanted to try. Make mundane things a little steamy … get couples massages, and take showers or baths together every once in a while. Get creative and make it into a regular habit, but find ways to keep it surprising and exciting. Ask yourself, what can I do for our romance this week? If it comes from the heart, the romance will shine through.
- Be spontaneous. While you are busy being habitually romantic, don’t forget that a little spontaneity can keep things fresh. Being spontaneous doesn’t just have to be relegated to the bedroom. Take the family for breakfast one day, or a hike and picnic in the park or woods. Find something that breaks the normal routine, and you may laugh a bit more, which never hurts the love life.
- Spend quality time together. Not that all of the above isn’t quality time, because they are, but I am a big fan of scheduling regular quality time for couples. If you have kids, it may mean scheduling a babysitter, so you can have a date night. It might mean booking a weekend getaway. Pick times for each of you to explore your passions together. Dealing with the everyday challenges of life can tend to dominate relationships. Finding ways to refocus on each other without distractions is crucial for keeping feelings for each other front and center.
- Love thyself. To love someone else completely, you must first love yourself. That’s not always so easy to do. That is why it’s important to pay as much attention to your own needs and feeling as your partner. Putting the entire responsibility for your happiness on someone else is too much to ask of anyone, particularly someone you love.
- Practice mindfulness and gratitude. Living in gratitude is always good advice. If you haven't found the benefits of mindfulness, meditation, and gratitude, now’s the time to explore them, individually and together as a couple. If you live mindfully, you will automatically be a happier person, and together you will be a more caring couple.
If you find it hard to live in this manner, I encourage you to find some love mentors in your own life to model your behavior. I have had many love mentors, starting with my loving father. Just from the way he looked at my mother, his adoration was palpable. His longing was refreshing and pure. I also am reminded of my mother, who although less demonstrative than my father, showed me the meaning of unconditional love even after his death; she would talk about her husband in a powerful, lovingly, wistful way. These role models have helped form how I think about love, offering me positive examples of what a truly loving relationship looks like and how two people who love each other behave day in and day out.
Signs of true love and great relationships are all around me, including my brother and sister-in-law, my son and daughter-in-law, and my daughter and her boyfriend. These are the people I hold most dearly, and I am beyond thrilled about their loving relationships. I have often said I would love another chance to have as loving a relationship as my son has with his wife. And I mean it.
Now, it is not lost on me and probably you, that this article on love was written by a currently single, twice-divorced family law attorney; so if there’s a warm, attentive, loving gentleman out there looking for a date, please don’t be shy … reach out! (Wink. Wink.) Please also follow my new Instagram account @StacyDPhillipsEsq, and I’ll follow you back lovingly.
This article was published by Stacy D. Phillips on LinkedIn on February 13, 2023.