Somehow you were just supposed to know how to love and be loved, right? No classes. No raining. Not very much good advice, either. Just start dating, survive the embarrassment of being a learner, overcome all the broken hearts and disappointment, and then, voila, you’re in love and you expect that love to last forever–as is.

 
But of course, it never does–last forever as is. That’s because love is a living thing that has to grow or die. Far too often, simply just not knowing any better, people can’t stop love from dying.

 
That doesn’t have to be.

 
We’ve put together this practical guide of Do’s and Don’ts to help you both become aware of and available for all that love can bring to you.

 
NOTE: To make for clear and easy reading, each of the items below is written as if it applies only to one partner in a relationship. But they all apply to both of you equally.

 
DO

 
DO remember that your guy is not you. Besides being male, he was raised differently and has his own habits and preferences–that are as important and valuable for him as yours are to you. It’s essential that you continually discover who he is rather than assume you already know.

 
DO open yourself to learn about her half of the grievance when conflicts erupt–which they will. Only by agreeing to find a resolution that suits both of you can you believe that your love is safe and trustworthy.

 
DO keep in mind that he wasn’t put on earth to read your mind and bring you everything you desire. You have to speak up. Be as clear as you can. Rather than be a ghost who wants to be seen but isn’t, show up, actively put yourself into your relationship.

 
DO be generous, each and every day–both verbally and physically-in expressing your affection, desire, and joy in being with her–the particular and unique woman that she is. It doesn’t take much. The little things often mean more than fancy, expensive displays.

 
DO remember to play and be silly. Laughter and goofing around with him go a long way to offset the stress that develops in every relationship.

 
DO remember that you chose to be with her. The ways she is different from you provide the spiritual inspiration to learn to love her better–and learn to love yourself even more as a bonus.

 

DO share the tasks of keeping your home and caring for your children. Make sure he carries his fair share and, at the same time, doesn’t feel shut out of the kitchen or nursery.

 
DO celebrate everything important that happens in your lives. Whether it’s a new car, paying off a debt, or a job promotion–make something special out of it, even if that just means taking her out for ice cream.

 
And DO receive all of his loving, caring, helpful and romantic gestures– especially when they don’t match your fantasies about how love and intimacy should be. Take in what he gives you. In this way you acknowledge your value, his value, and you allow yourself to be changed and enriched by love.

 
DON’T

 
DON’T believe that your happiness with him comes ready made. Relationships are an art form, a community effort. They are the product of your joined discoveries, intentions, and willingness to follow where love takes you.

 
DON’T fly into a rage just because she’s done something that makes you angry. She is not your whipping girl. And since you claim to love her, now is the time to respect for her feelings as a way to practice that love. Find a way to express your unhappiness that is still respectful of yourself
and of your woman.

 
DON’T compare him to your friends’ husbands, your old boyfriend or, worse yet, your fantasy Mr. Perfect. If you do he can only fail, because he can’t be anyone but himself.

 
DON’T blame her if the relationship isn’t going the way you want. The two of you have been equal forces shaping what you have right from the very beginning. If you need to change something, let her know more about who you are and what you need.

 
DON’T pigeonhole him into the “all men” box, otherwise you’ll miss out on seeing him on his own terms. He is a one of a kind guy, no matter what he has in common with other men.

 
DON’T ever assume you know all there is to know about her. Remain curious and learn more. Make it safe for her to reveal her fears, sadness, and regrets–any tender and vulnerable feelings–by valuing the love and trust it takes for her to give you the gift of her inner life.

 
DON’T make your children or your mother a priority over your relationship with him. For your marriage to grow and blossom throughout the years, your romantic relationship must be at the center of your heart.

 
DON’T ignore your needs over those of your partner. For love to have a safe and trustworthy harbor i,/b>n your heart, you must insist on being a full partner. And in that way, you practice love–love for yourself and for her.

 
DON’T expect him to always make the first move. Whether it’s kissing, hugging, sending love notes, or giving gag gifts you need to be a full partner in the real romance you desire. That’s what we call making love out of bed.

 
And remember, every day brings a new opportunity to love each other. When you follow these basic Do’s and Don'ts you can keep your love fresh and always growing. And that’s a promise!

 
© 2005 Judith Sherven and James Sniechowski

 
Judith & Jim are the voice for powerful new trends in dating, wedding planning, and the heart of successful marriage.
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