What determines whether you feel loved or rejected?
If your partner comes up to you and says "you're needy," do you laugh or cry?
Even though we speak the same language with our partner, each of us swims in a sea of private meanings. Growing up in different families with unique life experiences has given each of us separate dictionaries on love.
Our dictionary sets the standard that governs not only how we feel, but how we behave, what we do, and how we act in our lives.
The meaning we give the experiences in our relationship is the judge and jury of our love life. These are what I call Love Laws.
If someone asks you, "are you a good lover?"
Your response is dependent on the laws of what a great lover means to you.
Is it based on the fact that you've made love to your partner, even if it lasted 7 seconds?
Is it the fact that you feel good about yourself? Or are you only a good lover when your partner can have an orgasm?
Too often, partners follow the love your partner how you want to be loved rule. When they do this, they're leaving their partner in the cold rain of not feeling love the way they want it to be felt.
When our partners do not feel love the way they want, they feel like they are walking on eggshells. It erodes trust and pushes us towards betrayal or death of the relationship.
How Love Laws Work
Love Laws are the things that must happen to you for you to feel loved. They tend to follow a simple If-Then framework.
Love Laws work like this: If X happens, then I feel Y.
- If Kyle comes over tonight, it means our relationship is important to him.
- If Lacey writes me a love note, then I know she loves me.
- If Jimmy texts me back, then he desires me.
- If Kelly is late to our dinner, she doesn't respect or care for me.
- If Tom doesn't kiss me goodbye, that means he is cheating on me.
- If Alex doesn't sleep with me tonight, then she must be thinking of divorce.
Love Laws exist to shortcut the meaning of our lives. Our love laws come from the love and rejection we feel while we are growing up. When we do certain things that our parents didn't like, we got punished. We received pain. We got ignored.
If we did things they liked, we got acknowledged, and we got feedback that made us feel good. Maybe it was physical feedback (a hug), verbal feedback ("I'm proud of you!"), or emotional feedback. Whatever it was, it made us feel good about ourselves.
These experiences allowed us to link up a cause-and-effect thought process.
If I do this, I avoid the painful feeling of rejection. If I do this, I get attention (even negative) and feel loved. This is how we create laws. If I have this law, then I will always feel loved. If I have this law, then I will avoid rejection.
How Love Laws Make Your Relationship Heaven or Hell
Love Laws are designed to speed up the decision process. Could you imagine if we had to go through every single experience in our life and analyze it? This would be paralysis by analysis.
Love Laws make it simple: does this person love me, or not? Am I risking myself too much? If I do this, will I be loved?
The problem is that by doing this, we simplify our love lives and how our partner treats us. We start reacting instead of responding.
Maybe you have a love law that states: if my partner isn't on time for our date, then he is obviously flirting with that girl from his office.
So when he does show up at the date a few minutes late even with the special order flowers he bought, you're all pissed off at him and deleting the fact that he was late due to the florist taking her time making a special bouquet of flowers for you.
Love Laws cause us to delete other pieces of evidence that disprove the theories we form about how much our partners love us.
Every relationship problem you've had in your life is a direct result of a love law violation. There's a difference between the other person's laws and your laws, and you're both going to believe that one should be treated in a relationship differently.
In my research and time working with clients, I've noticed that very few people are consciously aware of their own Love Laws. Most are completely oblivious to their partner's Love Laws as well, which may be very different. Rather, they feel an emotion, an anxiety, or a sadness. Their mind might start to drown in the ocean of what-ifs about their partner.
When you're in this state, you may compulsively check your phone. Or you may withdraw completely from your partner. Cheating is a by-product of one or both partners feeling disconnected or not loved in the way they need.
If you can understand your own Love Laws, you can immediately help your partner understand you better and improve the quality of how you feel in the relationship. If you can understand your partner's Love Laws too, well hot damn. You're getting on the train of lasting love!
When our love laws are violated, our mind becomes activated and brainwashes us with theories of what we believe is happening. Rarely are these theories true.
That said, I don't recommend sitting with a theory of what may be happening. Rather, I believe asking in an honest, non-attacking way: "Hey Rachel. I don't know why I feel this way, but I feel like you don't love me. It may be my brain going crazy, but could you cuddle with me for a few moments? Cuddling always makes me feel loved. I would really appreciate it."
If we can understand our Love Laws as well as the love laws of our partner, we can work together to meet both of our needs.
Step 1: Understand Your Love Laws
- What must happen for you to feel loved?
- What must happen for you to feel loving?
- What happens when you feel unloved?
- What happens when you don't feel loving?
- What must your partner do when something bad happens in your life?
- What must your partner do for you to feel love when something good happens in your life?
Step 2: Understand Your Partners Love Laws
Have your partner complete Step 1. Then sit down with your partner and go through every question. Discuss them. Be curious. Understand how your partner sees the world. Understand how they feel love. Understand what happens when they don't feel loved.
Next time you're feeling righteous in an argument or fight with your partner, ask yourself:
Do I want to be right? Or do I want to be in love?
Being right rarely makes a relationship better; but being in love does. By exploring your partner's and your own Love Laws, you will discover the differences in your love laws are not as important as your commitment to each other.
Understanding each other is the core of lasting love.
Step 3: Are Your Love Laws Impossible to Achieve?
Some people feel they need to talk to their partners constantly, even though their partner is also supposed to make a seven-figure income. So you need to ask yourself: does this love law empower or destroy my love life?