December is a weighted month for me. As I’ve explored in our blog before, I often feel the excitement of the holidays and time with family, and I feel sad and a bit lonely. The cold starts settling in and I crave coziness, warmth, and home. More than ever before, the times we live in are uncertain. We are entering a time in our society where we will likely see major shifts. Where we will be expected to show up differently in our lives than we have before. The shifts may be subtle or they may be significant. They may be welcomed or they may be terrifying. As someone who likes to have as much information as possible and plan accordingly, I’ve been sitting with these concepts and trying to decide where to focus my energy for this month and create as much positive energy and love as I can in the world.
So I’ve decided on practical love.
There is so much sweetness and comfort in the practical ways we love each other. Practical love doesn’t just happen in romantic relationships. It shows up in friendships, with roommates, with family members, with colleagues. So in an effortto get back to basics, focus on our families and personal lives, and reset some of our habits and beliefs, I encourage you to explore this with me.
I believe the practical ways we love each other can change the world, give us hope, and remind us of what is good and real about our daily lives. When I think about showing this type of love, I think about little things. These are not grand gestures. They are not incredibly planned out or brainstormed. They happen in the present moment. Some people would probably even consider them boring or typical. But I think they can change someone’s whole day. They are little but full of heart. And when we learn to do them more often, and we learn to recognize them, we actually feel happier.
If you’ve spent any time with The Five Love Languages, many of these examples would likely resonate with you as acts of service. Even if this isn’t your love language, you can explore how it feels to try this. These are some things I consider when I think of practical love (and I would love to hear your examples as well): keeping each other warm. cooking dinner or bringing soup. grocery shopping and picking up something that your partner/friend/roommate really loves without them asking. taking out the trash, then bringing in the bins. bringing coffee or tea. paying bills. changing diapers. tolerating cold feet in bed at night. being okay with sweaty hands. not using their special mug so it’s in the cabinet when they want to use it. running errands so when they look for something they need, it’s already there.
These are just a handful of examples of how we can love each other better. How can I help this person feel more cared for? How can I help them feel safer in the world? Is there anything I could right now that would make their day just a tiny bit better? Because a tiny bit better can resonate out into the world and create something really beautiful.
And I will leave you with a lovely quote from Patty Griffin, my very favorite singer-songwriter, which sounds to me much like practical love:
"I don’t believe in love like that anyway
The kind that comes along once and just saves the day
I think of it more like the rocks the waves chip away
As they become the sand.”
Elizabeth Gillette, LCSW specializes in perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, adjustment to parenthood, couples counseling and life transitions.