February 12, 2010
Posted: 01:38 PM ET
Valentine’s Day always reminds me to try harder with my husband – to do what I can to keep a tender, thoughtful, romantic atmosphere in our marriage. It’s easier said than done!
One of the most helpful things I’ve learned in my happiness research is that although we think that we act because of the way we feel, in fact, we often feel because of the way we act.
As a result, one of my Twelve Personal Commandments is to “act the way I want to feel.” Improbable as it may sound, it really works. Try it. If you don’t like the way you’re feeling, act as you’d like to feel - and your feelings will change. Like magic.
William James sums up the phenomenon nicely: “Action seems to follow feeling, but really action and feeling go together; and by regulating the action, which is under the more direct control of the will, we can indirectly regulate the feeling, which is not.”
So one of the ways I make myself feel more tender and romantic toward my husband is to act that way. By acting very loving, I boost my feelings of love and tenderness.
The other day, for example, on my way to a meeting, I happened to walk by my husband’s office building. I called him on my cell phone.
“Hey, look out your window,” I said. “I’m standing on the steps of St. Bartholomew’s Church. Do you see me waving at you?”
“Yes, I see you! I’m waving back!” he answered.
I felt a little self-conscious, waving up at a skyscraper as pedestrians gave me curious looks, but of course, in New York City, I’d have to do something far quirkier than that to make anyone stare.
I’m sure my husband thought it was sweet of me to wave to him – and just as important, making that silly, affectionate gesture filled me with loving feelings toward him that persisted for hours.
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