When we think about love, usually the first thing that comes to mind is how we feel about our partner. However, I’m sure you’ve heard the expression that actions speak louder than words – and according to relationship psychologists Dr. John and Julie Gottman, our actions and behaviors paint a much clearer picture of our relationship than we often give them credit for.
Which actions exactly are related to our love? Is it about doing chores and favors for one another, or how much intimacy we show? Well, let’s examine the key points of the Gottmans’ theory. How many things do you see in your relationship? How many are you doing, too?
1. Your partner wants to spend time with you.
Despite the other commitments in your life, you and your partner want to spend time together – and you make time for one another when you can. The desire to spend time together indicates that your relationship has a good potential for long-term intimacy and a long-lasting bond.
2. Your partner wants to know about your day.
When the two of you do spend time together, your partner shows interest in your day, and genuinely wants to know what’s going on in your life. She wants to know about the good things, as well as the bad things, and she makes a point to let you know that she supports you.
3. Your partner trusts you.
Partners who love and trust each other will generally give each other the benefit of the doubt. It’s normal to want to have an idea of where your partner will be at any given time, but a healthy long-term relationship requires that the partners retain their rights to privacy and alone time.
4. Your partner helps you with the little things when you need her to.
Most people shy away from the idea of taking on extra responsibilities, but in a loving relationship, each partner can expect their partner to help them out when possible and necessary. By the same token, you should expect that your partner won’t take advantage of your willingness to help out.
5. Your partner respects your differing views.
Although opinions range from “opposites attract” to “like attracts like”, recent research shows that it doesn’t really matter whether you and your partner agree, as long as you each genuinely respect each other’s opinions. Over time, you may find that your views start to meet in the middle, as each of you listens to the other’s point-of-view when a topic comes up.
6. Your partner makes decisions with you, rather than for you.
The specifics of this one will vary based on your relationship’s unique dynamics, but each of you should expect to feel heard and represented when decisions are made that affect both of you. It’s normal to have each partner specialize in different aspects of decision-making, but neither partner should be “in control” of the relationship.
7. Your partner shows physical and/or emotional affection.
In a loving relationship, there is usually some form of physical interaction between the partners: Whether you’re having sex every day or only a couple times a year (or never!), there is non-sexual affection being displayed between you.
8. Your partner looks at you regularly – even if only briefly.
When your partner looks at you while you talk, watches while you get dressed, or even just glances at you for no reason, she loves you. You don’t need to spend hours looking into each other’s eyes, or watch each other sleep to know that you enjoy each other’s company.
9. Your partner reminisces with you.
When you and your partner take time to relive the happy memories of your past – not from a place of nostalgia, but from a positive and supportive point-of-view – it shows that your shared memories are important to her. She may even bring up stories that you don’t remember, which shows that the experience strengthened her bond with you.
10. Your partner is willing to stand up for you in times of adversity.
According to sexuality researcher David Frost, in a study of lesbian, gay, and bisexual couples, the couples who felt that they had been discriminated against due to their relationship shared a closer bond and felt stronger with their partner than they felt when they were alone. Even if you and your partner haven’t faced such extreme circumstances, standing together in spite of challenges shows that you truly care about one another.
11. Your partner inspires you to be a better, happier person.
If your partner loves you, she will do things that boost your self-confidence and motivate you to achieve your goals. She understands that her opinion is important to you, so she positively reinforces your identity and self-worth. It’s not going to be rainbows and sunshine every day, but if you largely feel positive about your relationship, you’ll be happier with yourself when you’re apart and you’ll want to spend more time together.