My husband brings me coffee every morning in bed. I never thought that’s how I’d quantify of true love, but it is. It’s not sexy. It’s not over-the-top romantic. It’s just a simple act that shows me how much he loves and cares for me.
My husband and I have what John Allen Lee in his book Colours of Love: An Exploration of the Ways of Loving called Pragma. It’s a mature realistic love.
Pragma is not a sexy love. It is not a soul-possessing, fiery kind of love. It is not a love that takes hostages or subsumes one partner’s needs for the other.
It is, though, a love that doesn’t burn out, a love based on communication, compromises, and action. It is a lifelong love.
Here are the exact ways that we’ve achieved this kind of love.
1. We work on ourselves.
My husband and I are separate, but whole, people. We consciously remain unique individuals. We haven’t subsumed into the identities of one another. Instead, we each purposefully work on being the best person we can be.
A relationship is only as healthy as its unhealthiest partner.
Because of that, whatever we do to improve as individuals, helps to improve the overall health of our relationship.
2. We forgive one another.
Resentments can kill love.
There are things my husband has done over the years that haven’t been great. I know I haven’t been a perfect partner either. We could keep bringing those up whenever we have a fight, but then we’d be slowly suffocating our relationship.
You can either move forward or backward. You can’t stand still in a relationship.
Whenever I bring up past wrongs, I’m dragging my relationship into the past where it doesn’t belong. Those things happened, were addressed, and then need to be let go.
We won’t always agree. We won’t always be able to forget either, but we can forgive, which means we actively work to stay in the present and move forward.
3. We give to each other.
There’s a common misconception that giving to your partner requires that you sacrifice something. That would be the definition of a power struggle as if whoever “takes” more “has” more. Healthy relationships don’t operate that way.
You give to your partner not because you feel obligated to, but because you want to. Because in the act of giving, you know you are improving your relationship. You also know that in mutually respectful and beneficial relationships, both people give and receive.
4. We work together to achieve our individual and shared goals and aspirations.
Being yourself in a real relationship means that you are going to set your own goals and aspirations, like being a president for a Fortune 500 company or selling your first novel. You will also have goals and aspirations for you as a couple, like paying off a house or having a certain number of children.
Your individual goals need to be balanced with your shared goals. If your goal is to sell your first novel, but your partner isn’t able to watch the kids more often, you may need to come to some kind of compromise to help make things happen.
5. We make each other a priority.
My husband and I listen to each other. We value and respect one another. We flirt with each other instead of the cute barista. We know that our partner has a choice every day whether to be with us or not, and we make a concerted effort to make them choose us.
Making each other a priority means we spend time together without staring at a screen. We work on communicating instead of reacting. We schedule time together and make sure to address problems as they come up, because whatever our partner sees as a problem is a problem for the both of us.
Another thing we often do is greet each other first when we return home. Just the simple act of passing by the baby and the dog to kiss one another “hello” shows that they come first for us.
The psychoanalyst Erich Fromm said that love isn’t a feeling, but a practice. We have to pay attention to our behaviors to nurture a long-lasting love. We can’t expect just the quick burn of falling in love to carry us through the tough times.
Pragma is far from scandalous or scintillating; it’s the well-loved, but warm and comfy sweatpants of love instead of that red see-through teddy. But what do we always want at the end of the day when we’re tired and worn out? Definitely those sweatpants.