Give Him a Clean Slate for Christmas
By Jan Denise

Trying to decide between a beach getaway and a stocking full of coal for your sweetheart? Why not give him a clean slate, instead? Wipe away the black marks and start fresh, aiming—once again—for perfect love. Only this time, do it with perfect love in clear view. Know what you’re going for, and you have a better shot at it.

According to Robert J. Sternberg, a psychologist and psychometrician born in NJ, perfect love is a high level of intimacy, passion, and commitment.

Intimacy: Psychological knowledge shared, and connection based on that knowledge
Passion: Erotic attraction
• Commitment: The decision that a person loves another person and the commitment to maintain that love

It’s difficult to have a high level of even one of the three if focusing on how you’ve been wronged or shortchanged; and each one works to strengthen or weaken the other two. Wiping the slate clean, on the other hand, allows you to immediately enjoy what ever level you already have (SET ITAL) and (END ITAL) develop more of it.

I realize that a clean slate isn’t exactly something you can order online, but Christmas isn’t really about what you can have somebody else deliver. Christmas is about giving of what you have, so give yourself a clean slate. When you wipe yours clean, you wipe his clean, too! If you thought he was alone in the relationship fumbles, take a closer look. Be honest with yourself, and him, about your role. Then forgive yourself. Having trouble with that part? Learn from your “mistakes,” and commit to applying what you’ve learned. Knowing that you now choose to behave differently is the key to forgiving yourself. And forgiving him is a byproduct of forgiving yourself!

Now, you can start fresh together, without any misconception of love. According to Sternberg, there are eight types of “love,” and only one of them is perfect. Don’t be fooled by the other seven (see sidebar). They’ll bring to mind romantic escapes and intellectualized commitments of your past, but look at what you have (SET ITAL) now (END ITAL). If you’re honest with yourself, then you’ll know exactly what you need more of.

To get more intimacy, stop talking about the weather, and begin to talk nakedly about your deep feelings and concerns. What do you dream of? What are you afraid to say out loud—in the context of work, the kids, money, retirement, sex, fitness? Talk more, do more together, touch more. You don’t have to like the same things to try on each other’s interests and gain a better understanding of what intrigues and stimulates. You grow intimacy by learning more about each other, which leads to placing more value on each other.

You can’t feel loved without feeling truly known and valued. And you want to feel loved to the core. So, let your guard down to reveal all of you. Share from a deep place. No secrets.

Intimacy will lead to passion, but don’t get stuck thinking that passion is synonymous with craving. “Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need for each other,” said The Dalai Lama. Be present with each other. Feel the kiss without leaping to, “I’m too tired.” Enjoy what is, without being preoccupied with what comes next … and what comes next just might surprise you. Passion is like magic. It can’t be forced; it just happens when you let it.

When you have intimacy and passion, commitment will naturally follow. You don’t have to be talked into staying with what satisfies your desire to be known and touched in deep places. (For more on commitment, including a commitment model, see September’s issue.)

This Christmas, give yourself and your partner something you’ve probably never had before, something you are finally ready for. Perfect Love. And, yes, it starts with a clean slate. You can’t have it while you’re holding a grudge. Holding a grudge means holding back—not just forgiveness, but part of you.

Being loved the way you’ve always dreamed of being loved means putting it all out there, and giving him a safe place to do the same.


Type of “Love” Intimacy Passion Commitment

Consummate/Perfect high high high
Fatuous/Shallow low high high
Companionate high low high
Romantic high high low
Empty low low high
Infatuated low high low
Liking high low low
Non-love low low low

Author's Bio: 

Jan Denise is a self-esteem and relationships consultant, the author of "Innately Good: Dispelling the Myth That You’re Not" (Health Communications) and "Naked Relationships: Sharing Your Authentic Self to Find the Partner of Your Dreams" (Hampton Roads) and the columnist who penned the nationally syndicated “Inside Relationships” for ten years. Denise conducts workshops, speaks professionally, and consults with individuals and couples internationally. She is silly and deeply in love with life and her husband Dr. Sam Ferguson. They live in McIntosh, Florida, where their home in the woods is open to others as a sanctuary and retreat center.