Let’s discuss LOVE:

L – Letting go
O – Opening up
V – Valuing
E – Engaging

Let’s now explore each of these elements in more detail:


“Letting go” is the escape route from inside-your-mind, one of the elements that DRAIN your relationship. Your mind is like a master storyteller that never stops talking. The stories it tells you are commonly known as “thoughts.” Some of these thoughts or stories are obviously true—what we call “facts.” But most of the stories your mind tells you are opinions, judgments, beliefs, assumptions, attitudes, fantasies, ideas, concepts, models, interpretations, evaluations. Such stories cannot be classed as true or false; they are simply reflections of the way you see the world. Your mind will try very hard to keep you absorbed in these “stories.” Your mind will dredge up painful memories from the past; conjure up scary scenarios about the future; point out all your partner’s flaws and weaknesses; complain, judge, compare, and criticize; or prattle on about those love myths from chapter 1. If you hold on tightly to these stories, they will drag you down into the dark, dank depths. Letting go means loosening your grip on these stories. ACT will teach you how to let go of resentment, righteousness, blaming, worrying, judging, criticizing, and demanding. As you cultivate this ability, you will find you can respond far more effectively to the ongoing challenges of your relationship.


Intimate relationships give rise to painful feelings. And when that happens, our tendency is to do whatever we can to get rid of them or to avoid them. Opening up is the very opposite of avoidance. When you learn how to open up and make room for these feelings, you will find they have much less impact and influence over you, they will no longer drain or overwhelm you, and they will no longer jerk you around like a puppet on a string.

When we are in a lot of pain, we tend to shut down. We close off from our partner; we erect a thick barrier for self-protection. But this is just another form of avoidance. Sooner or later, if we want our relationship to thrive, we have to take the barrier down. And when you begin to lower that barrier, you will start to feel vulnerable. There’s a good chance you will experience anxiety, worry, insecurity, or doubt:
get hurt yet again? In the past, these feelings may have held you back from making the changes necessary to rebuild your relationship. But once you can open up and accommodate these feelings, they will no longer have the power to hold you back. And there is a huge added bonus here: the more you can open up and make room for your own feelings, the more you’ll be able to do the same for your partner’s feelings. This is vital if you want to have a deep, intimate relationship.


In ACT, the term valuing means “taking action guided by your values.” Rather than neglecting values, ACT helps you to clarify them and use them to inspire and motivate your actions. Conscious values-guided action is a world apart from mindless reactivity. In this book, we will particularly focus on three core values that play a major role in healthy relationships: caring, contribution, and connection. Of course there are many others, but these three are particularly vital.


Engaging means being psychologically present (instead of inside-your-mind) and focusing on your partner with genuine interest and openness. The more you engage with each other, the stronger and deeper your sense of connection will be—whether you’re having dinner, having a chat, or having sex. Engaging means you turn toward your partner and make her the center of your attention rather than dismissing, ignoring, or turning away from her. It is the opposite of disconnection or avoidance.

** Could This be Love? **

LOVE is not just an acronym: it is a useful way of thinking about “love” itself. If you think of love as an ongoing process of letting go, opening up, valuing, and engaging, then it is always available to you—even when the feelings of love are absent. So in this sense of the word, you really can have everlasting love. But if you think of love merely as an emotion or feeling, then it can never last for long because all feelings and emotions continually change.

Practicing LOVE—letting go, opening up, valuing, engaging—will help you to drop the struggle with your partner, resolve your conflicts, settle your differences, and deepen your ability to care, connect, and bond. However, it’s important to be realistic. This is not some magic wand that will miraculously fix all your issues. All couples will experience conflict and tension; that’s just human nature. And when this happens, it’s helpful to remember … you’re both hurting.


Adapted from ACT WITH LOVE: Stop Struggling, Reconcile Differences, and Strengthen Your Relationship with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (New Harbinger Publications)

Author's Bio: 

Russ Harris, MD, is an acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) trainer and the author of The Happiness Trap. He travels around the world training psychologists and other health professionals in ACT, a revolutionary new approach to human happiness.