After my recent Valentine’s Day post (‘The Buddha in the Bedroom’) I received quite a few messages and questions about Love and relationships. One of the most common issues was around couples ‘growing apart’. So I want to address these questions here and write about six different types of Love. For the Nichiren Buddhists reading this, please note that I am writing today wearing my ‘Life Coach Hat’ rather than as a Buddhist quoting from the Gosho or citing guidance about meeting a Kosen Rufu partner.
My experience of coaching people to make big decisions about their love life is that the question: “How do you want to love and be loved?” is one of the most powerful ones I can ask. It can produce tears, joy, gratitude, relief or doubt in equal measure, depending on who I am talking to and how much they are able to give and receive the kind of love they most value. Often it can produce quite a long silence, because people haven’t stopped to think about it before.
For example, and please forgive the stereotyping, a man may express his love for a woman by being ‘the family breadwinner’, when really his wife would rather he earned less money and spent more time listening to her. Really listening I mean, not just grunting in the right places… Likewise a woman may express her love by meticulously ironing her husband’s shirts when what he would much prefer is a warm, slow hug at the end of a long hard day.
So, how do you want to be loved? I think there are 6 main ways in which people express their love for each other, in no particular order: Physical, Sexual, Emotional, Intellectual, Practical and Spiritual. In no particular order because none of these, in and of itself, is more worthy or valuable than the other. None of them is right or wrong or better or worse than the other. They are ‘just different’, as NLP practitioners are fond of saying. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, after all. As are happiness, right and wrong, justice… and anything else in the sphere of emotion and opinion.
But, and here’s the rub, relationships seem to work best when the two people in it want to be loved in the same way. Or are able to laugh rather than argue about their differences, based on a bedrock of deep mutual respect. So, before walking up the aisle, or, conversely, walking out the door, ask yourself these 6 questions:
- Physical: How much are we attracted to each other physically? Do we each want the same amount of cuddling, holding and kissing?
- Sexual: How compatible are our sexual preferences and sex drives?
- Emotional: How important is it to each of us to honestly share our feelings with each other and be listened to? Are we on the ‘same wavelength’? Can I say about my partner that s/he ‘gets me’?
- Intellectual: How important is intellectual stimulation to each of us?
- Practical: how well do we work together on everyday domestic issues such as housework and financial planning?
- Spiritual: do we share similar views about the meaning of Life? How much are we ‘looking together in the same direction’ in terms of our values and vision?
For those of you with children, we could add a number 7 about attitudes to parenting. In fact, please do post a comment below if you want to add anything else to this list.
Why does it help to go through these 6 questions? Because they reveal our core Values, in other words what is most important to us. Our Values drive our expectations and our happiness is determined, at least in part, by how much these expectations are met by our relationships.
Unmet expectations lead to frustration which can manifest, for example, in extramarital affairs. Or sometimes in a weary resignation or a nagging feeling that you have settled for ‘second best’. Or in an arrogant and futile attempt to change your partner’s personality, for example to try and make them ‘more practical’ or ‘more sexual’ or whatever else may be top of your own priorities.
I only discovered my own eight core Values when I received coaching for the first time in 2004. It was incredibly powerful to discover that my Values include ‘Love’, ‘Freedom’, ‘Respect’, ‘Fun’ and ‘Making a Difference’. This simple yet profound conversation helped me make some great decisions about the future and improved some key relationships – especially with people who had different Values to my own! Combined with mindfulness and NLP techniques, it is now the single most powerful exercise that I do as a coach and it takes just two or three coaching sessions to dig out your Values and rank them in order of importance. Then you can go and build a life that truly honours them. An authentic, meaningful and fulfilling life.
The other thing is that people change over time. “He’s not the man/woman I married!” is quite a common refrain that I hear. So for example, you may enter a relationship feeling that Intellectual love is not that important to you, but 10 years later it might be top of your wish list. And Values have a habit of shifting around, for example if you have children, ‘Practical’ love can become more important – there is loads more housework for a start!
I will leave you for now with these words from Daisaku Ikeda: “It is important to make the effort to calmly construct something together. From there, real love develops. Real marriage is when you have been married for 25 years and feel an even deeper love than when you first met. Love deepens. Love that does not is merely on the simple level of likes and dislikes.”
Wishing you all ‘The Joy of Six’ – here’s to a very fulfilling love life…
PS. I write in more detail about love and relationships in my book, The Buddha in Me, the Buddha in You – a handbook for happiness, available now on Amazon and from various high-street book stores.