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Learning to love better

Published:Sunday | April 11, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Heather Little-White, PhD, Contributor

Relationships are becoming increasingly difficult to maintain, especially when partners complain about not feeling loved or not loved enough.

This is a strong feeling that impacts negatively on the intensity of the couple's love life. To improve the relationship, couples can learn to love better to diminish the possibility of remaining in old, unfulfilling sexual behaviours. Learning new behaviours is a new approach to making love, according to Patrick Carnes, PhD, writing in Sexual Anorexia: Overcoming Sexual Self-Hatred.

Critical to the success of any relationship is identifying what researchers call 'reception skills' in the relationship. These skills include:

1. Actively identifying and focusing on the expression of love shown by your partner.

2. Avoiding putting down or ignoring your partner when he/she expresses love.

3. Expressing appreciation for the expression of love. Let your partner know exactly how you feel and specific in saying exactly what you like. (Carnes)

Being in love has been getting a bad rap in recent times, as partners grapple with changing and challenging times. Couples would like to move to enjoying healthy, satisfying relationships instead of suffering silently in a union devoid of love and sexual pleasure. Carnes posits that there are several love behaviours that couples should try to adopt.


Showing emotional and moral support for your partner as well as demonstrating respect for and placing a high value on the person you love.


Expressing love through tone of voice, gestures, postures and facial expression.

Talk the walk

Using loving words, phrases and pet names in conversation.


Becoming open and vulnerable as you use words and action to reveal intimate facts and unique traits.


Showing acceptance for the unpleasant aspects of each other's behaviour without being judgemental.

Tactile behaviour

Using physical contact to demonstrate affection and intimacy.


Giving gifts to demonstrate how much you love your partner.


Using acts and words to indicate an appreciation for a demonstration of any of the above love behaviours.


Carnes highlights the multi-dimensional aspects of healthy love:

Nurturing - learning to trust and to open your lives to experience.

Sensuality - through the senses, you interact with the world and become connected to it.

Self-image - learning that you are good and loveable. Developing a relationship with self and coming to trust self.

Comfort - learning to trust others.

Knowledge - accepting self and others as you grow up as people.

Relationships - based on what has been learned, make a leap of trying to live in new ways.

Partners - each taking responsibility for self.

Marianne Williamson believes that partners should love without judgement, which often blocks the awareness of love and seeing each other as perfect, loving and loveable people created by God (Illuminata: A Return to Prayer).

Send feedback/questions to Heather Little-White at