“You make me come alive”

Updated: May 20

Part 3 in the What love is all about series



You know the feeling. It’s like...you hadn’t known you were dead, but then you meet this other person and maybe right away or maybe after a while you feel like you’ve come alive. It’s not just that you can’t stop thinking about Jim or Jane. Everything in your life has more life in it. The sky is bluer, the rain suddenly romantic, the night now a temple of beauty. A once nothing glass of wine is magic because it was the wine you drank together.


It's how you know this is love. Not settling. Not a one-night stand. But the real thing. Something you’d do anything to hold on to and keep alive.


But as we all know, it’s easier to keep alive the relationship than to keep alive the aliveness.


What’s that all about, and what can we do about it?


You have to understand a problem before you can fix it, right? Well, when it comes to the question of “where does the aliveness go?”, there are three main reasons it goes away.


First, we get used to it. Let’s face it. There’s the fit and the newness and boom!, you’re in orbit. I’m feeding off your newness to me, and you’re feeding off my newness to you. Plus—and this is key—you’re feeding off the energy I put out as a result of the impact your newness has on me, and I’m feeding off the energy you put out as a result of the impact my newness has on you.


You see the problem. The energy we put into it is good, but if it’s mostly newness-based, it may not last, like, 50 years. If I start waiting for you to put out more newness, I’ll be in big trouble.


Second, everyday life. Fuck everyday life. It’s a real aliveness killer. Hi, honey, I’m home. What’s for dinner? Do you have to work tonight? How was your day? Did you hear from the plumber? How’s your sister’s back? Don’t you think it’s time we got a new sofa?


So we fill our lives with pseudo-newness. Shopping gives us new things: that new sofa! A new restaurant gives us a small new experience. Travel gives us a big new experience. Gossip gives us new things to talk about, so thank God new shit happens to our friends.


But none of this constant rearranging of the deckchairs on the Titanic does anything to make us feel alive with each other the way we once did. It only distracts us from how not alive together we really feel.


Third, as time passes we might get more and more annoyed and frustrated with each other. As much as we yearn for the aliveness to come back, we feel too angry and distant to want to do anything to bring it back.


That’s the problem.


Does this sound negative? Jeez, sorry. But don’t shoot the messenger. Forty-five years of working with couples have shown me that this is the pattern.


But the good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way.


What’s the solution? What do couples do who overcome this pattern? Here’s what they do. Do these things, and together you’ll bring to life the seeds of aliveness that are still there, and have been there all along, just waiting to sprout.


1. Prioritize your relationship. Here’s an example. You have kids. You have each other. Most couples run themselves ragged doing stuff with and for their kids, while spending less and less time with each other. Meanwhile those ungrateful brats will leave home in the blink of an eye, you’ll have no idea what difference all the stuff you did made in their lives, but you will notice that your relationship has wilted on the vine.


So reverse this. Since you’re going to end up with each other, prioritize each other. With or without kids. If you think of your life as a calendar, ink in time for each other, pencil in everything else, work stuff, kid stuff, social stuff. Come on: you know that you get out of life what you prioritize.


2. Think “I have to give more than my share”. Death to love, death to aliveness consists in waiting for the other person to make the first move, in counting who does what so you make sure you never give more than your 50%.


No. Here’s how aliveness and energy work in the real world. Giving feeds on giving. Withdrawal feeds on withdrawal. The less I do, the less you’ll do. The more I give you, the more you’ll feel given to and the more you’ll give, and the more I’ll feel given to and the more I’ll give.


This is what happens when you throw the ball for your dog. He gets excited to chase it and bring it to you. It makes you excited and happy, so you throw it more. Yeah, eventually you both get tired, but you sure want to do it again.



3. Talk about things you can do to make things feel more alive. Some couples are reluctant to do this, because it feels a little sad to be having this conversation. I get that. But successful couples face their problems. If the question is, “What can we do to feel more alive together?” then talk about it, brainstorm ideas, try things out, experiment. Some things won’t work, but you might have fun trying. And some things will surprise you because they will work.


Couples feel alive together because they do making-alive-feeling things.


4. Do everything you can to remove judgment from your relationship. Watch dogs and kittens and kids. Aliveness is delight. But judgement kills delight the way the heel of a boot kills an ant. The thing is that for so many couples mutual judgement has become a way of life, a philosophy of life.


Don’t just stop it. Agree to stop it. Agree that you’ve both been doing it, and that you’ll point it out whenever the other does it. “You just said, ‘there you go again.’ That felt like you were judging me.” Good. Now you have that bit of feedback. Don’t say “There you go again.”


And for goodness sake, since every other successful couple in the world has read Why Couples Fight, you should do the same.



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