Part 8 in the What love is all about series
We go from the excitement and gooeyness of being “in love” to just, you know, “love,” and it feels like a come down. But we accept it, because, hey, we think, being “in love” can’t last forever. But you know what can go on forever? You know what can actually build over time?
Feeling treasured. Or, if you like, feeling cherished. Feeling prized. Feeling your partner feels you’re wonderful.
That feeling, whatever you call it, is the best thing in the world, and in a way it’s the true fruit of love. And it’s something reasonable to hope for, unlike the sweaty flip-flops of being “in love.”
And what is that exactly, to feel treasured? Well, it’s different things for different people at different moments—sometimes I want my husband to talk with me, sometimes I want him to shut the fuck up—but for most people feeling treasured means
I’m important to him
She thinks about me
He cares about me as much as he cares about himself
She shows her caring by thinking about me, my needs, my independent reality, me as I really am, and she acts on that
He thinks I’m terrific—no, not all the time, and not in every way, but in general, and he lets me know it. I can actually feel his feeling that he thinks I’m terrific
So, feeling treasured means...
feeling you’re a top priority to your partner, feeling cared for, and feeling that they think you’re wonderful.
Most of us aren’t quite there. Most of us have settled into the supportive marriage. Supportive with a parsley sprig of affection. Here’s the message in what I believe may be currently the best-selling Hallmark anniversary card (it came up on-line as most popular):
Happy Anniversary to the man I feel so lucky to be walking through life with--the friend who laughs and dreams with me...the partner who stays beside me, even when the path isn't easy...
...the one who can still thrill me just by reaching for my hand. Happy Anniversary to the wonderful man I love.
This message is pretty interesting. She tells him he’s wonderful. But it’s kind of perfunctory, not even really addressed directly to him. It’s more like a posting on the company bulletin board of a good annual review about what he does for her. Hubby’s done a good job! At what? Buddying and hanging in there, with the occasional dollop of affection. And her feelings? “So lucky,” able to be thrilled, and...love?
So why is this a best-selling card?? Because it’s so on the nose. It doesn’t strike an uncomfortable note by overstating things and thereby highlighting the gap between the dream and the reality. The card identifies the reality as the dream. “Let’s just call the reality the dream and declare victory.”
Hallmark’s sales figures would say I’m full of shit in that no one is yearning to feel treasured because everyone has given up on it. This is how people want to feel.
The flip side, though, is what we see in our research and clinical work. Why so many affairs? Why so many divorces? Why so much public frosting on private cakes of marital disappointment?
Because we do long to feel treasured. We just lose consciousness of that longing amidst the distractions and stress and daily life, the endless subcurrents of conflict and resentment, the dead weight of routine, our sheer laziness, and our terrible tendency for both people to say, “Yes, let’s have more treasuring. You go first.”
Unfortunately—tragically!—it’s something too many of us don’t have and too often don’t even dare to yearn for.
Do we hope for feeling treasured? I know a lot of women look at their husbands think “Never!!”
You know who are actually masters at treasuring things? Guys! I know!: I was surprised to realize this too. But who wouldn’t want to be treasured the way a guy treasures his vintage Thunderbird or Corvette, his Odyssey Golf White Hot OG putter, his AV Designhaus Derenville VPM 2010-1 turntable, his Lightspeed Blade bicycle. Or maybe just his old lucky bowling ball. Treasures in the sense of lavishing tender loving care on it. As if it had feelings, and as if those feelings kept it alive, and as if its staying alive kept him alive.
The most clueless, dumbass guy in the world totally understands treasuring in this sense.
And women do too, even if we don’t use this word so much anymore, because it feels too icky to us. Or is it because it feels too unobtainable? Who, or what, do we treasure? I know I treasure peace and quiet, calm and freedom. If those things were a vintage car, I’d be Simonizing them every weekend. I know women treasure their friends, their shoes, their babies, their antiques...stuff like that. We know all about treasuring too.
(And, yes, I know I've just done a lot of stereotyping, and I apologize.)
So here we all are—men, women, and people who identify as, among other things, two spirit, transgender, gender fluid, non-binary, genderqueer, or gender neutral—and most of us long to be treasured.
Alright, then. What about solutions? We know we’re good at treasuring, but find it hard to treasure each other in relationships. So what do we do about that?
It’s not easy, but it’s pretty straightforward.
1. The test. Each of you write down how strongly you want to feel more treasured by your partner, on a scale from 0 (“I couldn’t possibly feel more treasured than I feel already.”) to 10 (“Every atom of my body, mind, and soul aches to feel more treasured.”) Then compare scores. Talk to each other if this is something you want to work on together.
2. If so, think about what would make YOU feel treasured by your partner. You’re a unique individual. What might make you feel treasured by your partner might be very different from what might make anyone else feel that way. Go with what would work for you.
3. Share with each other what would make both of you feel treasured by the other. And please understand that this is a sacred moment. Really. If you tell me what would make you feel treasured by me and I don’t do it, that’s a serious violation! So don’t share lists unless you’re both committed to acting on them, and following through on acting on them. No dropping the ball!
4. Then DO what’s on your partner’s list. If they want you to tell them every day that you love them and you think that’s silly because they should know that you love them, so what! That’s what they need. So do it.
This effort will prove two huge truths.
One is that you can turn your relationship around.
The other is that love isn’t how you feel. It’s what you do. And nothing is closer to ground zero of what love is all about than two people making each other feel treasured. There is nothing you can do that will give you a better return on your investment of time, energy, and hope than this exercise in treasuring each other.
All of our books prove this point. Check them out right here!