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How to Love My Partner?

Monday October 18, 2021

Erin in the Outback writes,

I am embarrassed to admit that I don’t know how to be in a long-term loving relationship. How should I love my partner?

This is a really huge topic. There are all kinds of approaches—love languages, interaction styles, and so on.

But let me share one concept. It’s one that I think a lot of INTJs will naturally miss, but I also think it will generally make them feel a lot better about themselves and their partner.

A huge part of love is attention given to the subjective history of the relationship.

Facing the future, part of your goal should be making good memories together.

But facing the current relationship, and facing the past, you should have some damn-solid good memories to look back on. They should make your partner feel good, and they should also make you feel good.

This does create some INTJ-style problems:

  1. You have to remember stuff, somehow. (This is kind of a weird topic for INTJs, who will tend to over-commit to memory or under-commit, so please be gentle on yourself)
  2. You have to pay attention to how you feel, in the moment. This is easier, but still hard when you’re worn out. Corollary: Be sure to do some activities together when you have plenty of energy.
  3. You have to be willing to reflect on the relationship, like, “hey, today I was just reminiscing about” and have it not just be about sensations on your end, like hey, flying in a helicopter for the first time felt amazing. That’s not good because it’s more about what you felt, by yourself, and you don’t need a relationship for that.

So here’s what I suggest—

  1. Keep a list of your top memories together. ALERT, ALERT: START NOW or ON DAY ONE. DO NOT WAIT. Favorite memories do not need to be N years old. Favorite memories can be N hours old.
  2. If you can’t think of any off the top of your list, it’s OK to start with some intuitive-style hints to yourself, like “there must be something from when we were at the beach last month?” And later you can even ask your partner to help you remember, which in a lot of cases is less risky and even more fun for them than you may think.
  3. Over time, sort the list and put your favorite memories at the top of the list.
  4. Over time, break the list out into sub-lists. Favorite vacation moments. Favorite restaurant moments. Or “favorite moments of our twenties”
  5. Do your best to include some actual quotes when you can. If you have to say, “sorry, I need a pen, I want to write down what you just said, that was great,” then boom, you have said something most partners can only dream about hearing from their partner.
  6. In your list, do your best to include dates, approximate times, and locations if you can.
  7. If you can add some context, like “we were both starving, and we went on this vacation knowing the food wouldn’t be that great, so it was funny but it tasted amazing anyway”, or “this was a difficult period in our life because…” then you are winning.
  8. Bring these up when your partner looks like they are not hurting, not in trouble, not in danger, etc. In other words, bring them up when things are pretty normal, or when things are getting slightly better than a little bit ago. These moments often work best on the ramp upwards, so to speak.

Think of this activity as similar to sketching or painting. It can be impressionistic, but it should include at least some key details. And I guarantee you, it can become a really good hobby for an introvert.

Most importantly—this type of activity should be affecting YOU positively, as well as your partner.

Anyway, after the list is building up, it’s easy to calendar some recurring dates, if you need to, to review and then bring up these memories with your partner.

And if all of this is too much, there should be something here that is easy to start, or a bit more doable in part than as a whole.

BTW if you’re not in a relationship, this is also A) usable for general friendships and teamwork, and B) a great way to feel more secure in starting one.

Great question Erin, and I’m sure you’ll do great in your relationship, posing thoughtful items like this.

PS. Can you keep track of the bad stuff—yes but I think some INTJs will tend to overdo this, like as a contingency in case they end up in relationship jail or something. It’s not a good look but if you need to do it, at least try this other thing too.

Filed in: Si /18/ | Relationships /78/

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