A psychiatrist shares her 5 secrets to love

As a mother of three daughters, I frequently find myself singing along to the catchy tunes of Taylor Swift.  Singer, songwriter, and overall superstar Taylor Swift is famous for penning undeniably captivating love songs. She is popular not only because she has the voice of an angel, a cutting edge look, and a fierce attitude, but also because she is honest and real. Taylor has an uncanny ability to put raw emotion into poetic words. Her lyrics are universally relatable. Young adults can hear a Taylor Swift song, pull out favorite quotes, and better reconcile their own feelings.

Many of the adolescent patients I treat as a psychiatrist are navigating first love and difficult breakups. Young adults often possess a deep yearning to find love. Early romantic love typically occurs suddenly and powerfully. Unfortunately, relationships, which begin quickly, can also easily fizzle out. With minimal experience, they are working through romantic relationships and are susceptible to intense heartache during breakups.

I recently brought my daughters to a Taylor Swift concert.  Throughout the show, I overheard snippets of conversations. Parents and children were all discussing romance, breakups, and if love can ever truly stand the test of time. Many of my teenage and college age patients often turn to the lyrics of Taylor Swift to understand and explain their feelings.

Unfortunately, romantic relationships do not get easier with age. Teenagers are not alone in their quest to discover what it means to truly be in love. Adults also visit my office to work through issues pertaining to relationships, marriage, and divorce.

As a practicing psychiatrist as well as a spouse of nearly two and a half decades, I am able to provide patients with guidance to navigate relationships. I accept love as an enormous, complicated tapestry. The tapestry of love is a mix of friendship, humor, support, and understanding. Challenges, compromise, and acceptance do not destroy the tapestry, but instead are interwoven into the fabric to make it stronger and richer. With my own 25th wedding anniversary just around the corner, I feel inspired to share some lessons I learned along the way.

Understand the concept of forever. The falling in love stage is unparalleled in its magic. Know and accept the infatuation stage will not last forever. Fortunately, the relationship and the love still can! Love is a reciprocal act of will. Authentic, committed love will prevail if you and your partner consistently make conscious choices to do what is best for each other. View your partner or spouse as a best friend to support, cherish and love.

Respect your individual and shared values. In long-term relationships and marriages, it is crucial to display unwavering respect for each other as well as your shared and individual core values. Approach your partner from a position of character. Trust, honesty, and empathy are action words. By placing the same level of sensitivity on issues important to your significant other, you are demonstrating how much you value the one that you love. In addition, the three words, “I am sorry” can be more powerful than “I love you.”

Maintain your intimate connection. There are countless ways to develop and foster intimacy with your partner. Holding hands, kissing hello, deep conversations, incorporating humor, and making eye contact will show your significant other he or she has your undivided attention as well as your interest. It is important to communicate openly, argue constructively, know when to compromise, and resolve conflict respectfully. Never embarrass or put your significant other down in front of others. When addressing issues, watch your tone and use “I” statements to make your point. By being aware, informed, and tolerant of your partner’s interests, dislikes, and vulnerability, you are steadfast in supporting, protecting and honoring him or her.

Strengthen your social network. It is of utmost importance to have a life outside of your relationship. Building your life together as a couple is exciting but it is also crucial to have your own unique hobbies, friends, and interests. You cannot rely on one person to support all of your emotional needs. Understand where and to whom you can go for each of your needs.

Enjoy the freedom of being yourself. There is a misperception that long-term relationships bring with them a loss of freedom. In reality, a strong, committed relationship provides the emotional support and space for you to be who you truly are. A healthy relationship is a sanctuary; a place to come home and let loose. A coveted marriage or relationship is an unconditional, reciprocal love that knows no bounds.

Relationships are not easy. They are, however, worth it.  As Taylor Swift sings, “and life makes love look hard. The stakes are high, the water’s rough, but this love is ours.”

Vanita Braver is a child and adolescent psychiatrist and author of the Teach Your Children Well book series.  She can be reached at Dr. Vanita.  This article originally appeared in the Huffington Post.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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