It’s February, the month dedicated to love, Cupid’s arrow and pink cupcakes. If you are over 40, like me, you’ve probably learned by now that love isn’t always sweetness and joy.
My first brush with love’s painful nip came at 16, when my boyfriend’s friend called to let me know that Mike wanted to break up with me and that he had hooked up with another girl. Thirty years later, I still remember the stabbing pain that shot through my heart as I realized Def Leppard was right: Love Bites.
Fortunately, love has its highs too. Like the excitement I felt when planning to reconnect with someone who had been lost to me for more than four years, or the initial flutters in my tummy when the best looking man in the room pulled up a chair next to me and said, “How you doin’?”
Through all the highs, lows and lessons love has brought me, there are a few things I have finally figured out that help me to continue courageously journeying down love’s path:
1. You will enter your next relationship as healthy as you left your last.
The amount of work you put into your current relationship will sow the seeds for your next. One of the most powerful things you can do for yourself and your partner is to stop blaming someone else for the issues at hand and own those “stuck” areas within yourself that need attention. Even if the relationship ends, it’s worth the effort to work on it to ensure the next one has a better chance for success.
2. Real love allows you to be who you really are.
Love will require you to change. And while it’s normal to work on some of the oddities that annoy your true love; real love allows you to be authentically yourself. This means who you are at your core, not the persona you might be inclined to wear. Real love allows you the freedom to express yourself and grow as a human being. If you feel as if you never quite muster up to your special love’s expectations, it might be time to stop the ride and jump off.
3. The heart is every bit as strong as the mind … and often stronger.
Try to imagine the conversation a religious leader on the brink of disaster has with his or her heart, saying things like, “Do not give in to the lust you are feeling, it goes against all you stand for.” I’m sure, after they're on national TV, they remember their mind most likely tried to bring sense to the situation. But, in those crazy frenetic moments of passion and attraction, their heart won out. Always respect the power of your heart and know it can change the course of your life.
4. When love bites, you can move on.
In the seconds following your (former) precious love’s arrow piercing your heart in a hurtful way, you might think you'll die and never love again. As a stalwart survivor of previous heartbreak, I can tell you that it's in these moments you can trust that, while you may never be the same, you will eventually be able to love again. I believe that stepping up to the plate, owning your own stuff, finding your role in endings and not closing the door to more love is the key to moving on. Allow yourself to feel the pain and, at the same time, trust that someday an attractive someone will pull up a chair next to you and say, “How you doin?” and your heart will flutter in response.
5. You can only love others as much as you love yourself.
I believe our journey here on earth is to find our way back to unconditional self-love. It is an arduous journey, as we attempt to undo all the conditioning and negative thoughts that began the very first time we heard someone we love say, “You are bad.” It's during uncomfortable moments with others we are able to bring forward aspects of ourselves that have remained hidden or avoided. If you feel love for others, trust me, you will find things within yourself that need work.
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