Relationship Fitness

P19 E1: Love is an emotion. Love is a verb.

In the poetic musings and dramatic portrayals that saturate our media and literature, love is often presented as a profound, all-consuming emotion that dictates our actions and shapes our lives. However, while love is undeniably a powerful feeling that can evoke everything from ecstatic happiness to rage, successful relationships also, crucially, leverage it as an action.


Love, as an emotion, naturally fluctuates, influenced by countless factors, e.g., stress, exhaustion, joy, excitement. If we rely solely on our feelings to guide and sustain our relationships, we may find our relationship struggling on days when that loving feeling isn’t as strong.


Understanding love as a verb means recognizing that our actions can—and should—express love even when the emotion feels distant. This perspective is especially vital during the inevitable relationship conflicts. Common disagreements over chores, finances, or parenting strategies can erode the feelings of trust and love if they are not addressed. Even when you’re extremely annoyed and triggered, remember that you love your partner. So, take a deep breath, calm down, and listen to her point of view. By consciously choosing to act with love, by prioritizing understanding and empathy, you’ll be able to navigate conflicts even as you strengthen the foundations of your relationship.


Love as an action is about the daily choices we make to support, cherish, and affirm our partners, even when we’re irritated, mistrustful, or angry. Love actions could be as simple as doing a household chore without being asked, planning a special date night to break the routine, or offering words of encouragement during a challenging time. Each of these actions strengthens the bonds of love, building trust and commitment beyond the fluctuating sensations of affection.


Conflicts in relationships and elsewhere trigger a primal fight-or-flight response. Our bodies prepare for a fight, which has been a part of human survival for over 200,000 years. Overcoming this instinct isn’t just about suppressing a natural reaction; it’s about evolving our responses to align with our relational goals. It requires a high degree of self-awareness—to catch oneself when about to speak harshly, to recognize when one is not truly listening, or when one is acting out of self-protection rather than partnership.


The real test of love’s verb form is in these moments of tension, where the easy reaction might be to stonewall (withdraw emotionally) or lash out. Choosing instead to engage constructively, to remain present and connected, reflects a mature understanding of love as a sustained series of actions. In any relationship conflict, remember that if one person wins, the relationship loses due to the damage inflicted on the other person.


By understanding love as a verb, we can shift our approach to relationships from purely reactive based on our emotions to proactive and deliberate. This shift not only helps in smoothing over conflicts but also deepens the intimacy, trust, and connection between partners, making the relationship more resilient and fulfilling over time. Through consistent, loving actions, we demonstrate to our partners that love is not just something we feel but something we do, every day.

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Luis Maimoni is a licensed marriage and family therapist specializing in relationships of all kinds, including men having relationship difficulties. Luis offers a no cost, no obligation consultation.

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