Learn to listen. So much of what makes a loving relationship loving is good communication, and so much of good communication is listening.

When you listen, do it actively. Halfhearted attempts are in many ways worse than not listening at all, since your partner believes you are listening. Pay careful attention. Try to hear what your partner is saying, and empty your mind of responses while he or she is talking. See if you can understand the feeling behind the words, the reason why he or she wants to communicate with you. Also see how it makes you feel, what gets triggered as you listen attentively.

When the woman you are seeing says, "While I'm flattered by your suggestion to go away for the weekend, I don't feel I'm ready for that," step back and absorb this. Do you take it as a personal rejection, or are you sensitive to her desire for more trust before proceeding? Can you hear the first part of her response as encouragement, or are you already trying to figure out how to change the second part?

Ask questions. Find out details. Clarify what you don't understand or what is unclear to you. You don't have to agree with everything the other person is saying. Being a good listener doesn't mean giving in when you don't want to. It means devoting all your energy to absorbing the essence of your partner's communication, of putting yourself in his or her position, of understanding his or her fear, joy, confusion, or desires. It's demonstrating that whatever else is going on with you, for the time the two of you are interacting nothing else matters.

The desire to listen is the most important skill in a successful relationship, the one thing you can rely on in difficult times. Learning to listen throughout your life — whether you are intimately involved or not — puts you on the path of love and understanding.

Alan Epstein in How to Have More Love in Your Life