In my Tips for Couples in Captivity blog posts over the past weeks I’ve been inspired by clients, both their questions and their solutions.
What did I hear about this week? Couples want to take advantage of this at-home time together to focus on their relationship, everything from ironing out the conflict wrinkles to having better sex and intimacy.
One of my male clients was frustrated that although he felt he had turned a corner, his new-found loving gestures to his partner weren’t giving him the emotional returns he was hoping for.
I suggested he think of his partner as having a love tank and a pain tank, both holding their relationship’s positive and negative experiences.
A love tank might hold experiences like laughing together, sharing a loving embrace, words of praise and approval and appreciation, passionate erotic connections, tender heart-centered love making, thoughtful gifts, expressing desire, a relaxing massage, focused time together.
A pain tank is where negative experiences are stored, like last night’s argument, a snide off-hand remark, a forgotten promise, a day of the silent treatment, a disconnected sexual experience, a loud accusing voice, a betrayal (old or new), feelings of neglect.
I told him that his partner’s hesitancy may be because their love tank was running on empty, and given the recent period of emotional struggles between them, their partner’s pain tank was probably pretty full.
If it’s easier to access a full tank of pain than it is to dip into the love tank of happy memories, then tempers may get lost, patience may be short.
If we feel our resentment and resistance more than our open-heartedness, our love tank needs filling with small consistent gestures until it’s full again.
When our love tank is getting filled it opens our heart (metaphorically and viscerally). It creates bonding hormones like Serotonin and Dopamine, which flood our brains with good feelings. When our love tanks are filled, we have the capacity to extend ourselves and meet our partner’s needs. We’re moved to give back in return.
We feel gratitude, appreciation and generosity. We feel safe and taken care of by our partner. We actually feel filled up, as in “our tank runneth over”.
Keep this image in mind whenever you spend time with your partner these days.
And ask yourself at the end of each day, “did I fill my partner’s love tank or their pain tank today?”
You’ll know the answer to this question by how they’re currently behaving towards you.
How patient and generous are they these days?
Are they extending themselves to you, or armoring themselves against you?
Are they welcoming you when you walk in the door, or are you feeling invisible as they run on emotional auto-pilot?
Are you giving them enough reserves in their love tank so they can draw from it the next time conflict arises? Will they feel loved enough by you to smooth over an argument, to find patience when it’s needed, to give generously and the forgive gracefully?
Let’s make a list of offerings that fill our love tank.
Here are some of my general ideas which I categorized into Gary Chapman’s Love Languages:
Words of appreciation
- Hearing their words of love and admiration
- Feeling desired and being told you’re attractive
- Hearing that your partner’s life is better with you in it
- Hearing a yes when you’re prepared for a no
- Being seen and heard in a way that makes you feel understood
- Being forgiven when you know you could have done better
Acts of service
- Having a favorite meal or dessert prepared for you
- Being relieved of your least favorite chore
- Being encouraged to ask for what you want
- Getting help with a difficult task
- Being treated to a special mystery date
- Receiving surprise gifts for no reason
- Being whisked away on a mystery date
- Being treated to a favorite outing
- Having your needs anticipated before you even know what they are
- Going for a walk hand-in-hand or arm-in-arm
- Being listened to like you’re the most important person in the world
- Choosing a favorite activity and doing that together
- Dancing and singing together like nobody’s watching
- Being granted needed alone time for yourself to do as you wish
- Enjoying an erotic adventure together
- Getting a massage just the way you like it
- Receiving your favorite sexual delights without asking for it
- Getting an extended hug out of the blue
- Feeling your partner’s arm around you when you need it most.
- Making out like a teenager
I’m sure you can get more specific with any of these and construct a list that is tailor- made for you.
Here’s a challenge for you:
Make a list of things that would fill up your love tank. Things your partner can do to fill up your love tank. Then ask your partner to make their own list.
Sit down and share your lists with each other.
Find out what they think would fill their love tank.
You may be surprised at some of your partner’s preferences.
Keep your partner’s list somewhere you can see it often. (a bulletin board or the door of your fridge, or inside your bathroom cabinet)
Make a regular daily deposit into their love tank with small consistent gestures.
And when the tank feels abundant and full, the next time they need reserves, they can draw from their love tank for that extra amount of patience and generosity that may be needed in the moment.
And remember to ask yourself, not only daily, but in every interaction, “did I just add to my partner’s love tank or did I add to their pain tank?”
Keep your beloved partner running on full and the road you travel together will be freshly paved and free of detours. 😊
What would you add to this list of items that would fill your love tank?
Comment below and I’ll compile them and come up with a complete list to share with all of you.
If COVID 19 teaches us anything, it’s that love is precious and every moment counts.
This post was previously published on Love Sex & Desire and is republished on Medium.
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