Coming from a broken family, I grew up learning that love is something difficult and entails more pain than reward. As I believed my relationships would end one day anyway, I erected walls around my heart to reduce the impact of the inevitable heartbreak. Ironically, the more I withheld myself from loving wholeheartedly and participating fully in my relationships, the more often I found myself heartbroken in failed relationships.
My beliefs above love and my subsequent actions kept me on a downward spiral until I hit rock bottom in a divorce and depression. Climbing up from that pit was one arduous journey but it helped me learn about love in a way that I wouldn't have otherwise.
Below are my 10 commandments of building a good and loving relationship which I now follow religiously. These commandments allowed me to break free of toxic dynamics and empowered me to expect — and actively cultivate — new, loving ones.
1. Thou shalt give unconditional love.
It’s easy to be in love when love means romantic dinners, exotic travels and nice gifts. But love must persist even when it's not easy. So learn to love as a practice, even if your partner could give you none of the aforementioned luxuries. Despite how it's often depicted in the media, love requires your patience, understanding, tolerance and support.
2. Thou shalt make your partner feel s/he is your priority.
Nothing expresses love more than making the person feel that s/he is important to you. No matter how busy your week is or what exciting activities you have lined up, always find time to check in with your partner and to spend quality time together. Fully focus on bonding instead of getting distracted with your social media feed or work matters.
3. Thou shalt be consistent and reliable.
Strive to be a pillar of support for your partner. As we grow as individuals, life gets increasingly complex to navigate. So make it a point to become someone your partner can always count on during difficult times. Build a strong foundation of trust by being clear on your values, boundary needs and capacity to be emotionally available. From there, honor your word and promises (no matter how small).
4. Thou shalt lift her/him up instead of bringing her/him down.
Resist the temptation of saying hurtful words when your partner makes a mistake. Summon your inner Zen master and practice compassion in your response to the situation, even if it's one that annoys you or makes you feel judgmental. Choose to use the difficult occasions to strengthen your bond, rather than letting an isolated incident cause a rift in the relationship.
5. Thou shalt support a joint decision with her/his interests in mind.
Relationships are, on some level, all about compromises ... and we all know that meeting in the middle is not always easy.
When you find yourself in a conflicted position, put yourself in her/his shoes and factor in her/his interests and concerns in your decision. Make her/him feel that you empathize and are capable of fully considering what it means to be on her/his side.
6. Thou shalt respect her/his need for me-time and full self-expression.
The best union is when you’re interdependent, not codependent. Make room for your partner to enjoy time alone and to freely express what s/he thinks and feels. This allows you and your partner to each maintain your individuality, which is paramount for the relationship to thrive.
7. Thou shalt encourage her/him to nurture her/his passion.
Very often relationships fall apart because people are unhappy with their lives. By encouraging your partner to nurture her/his passion, you create the opportunities for her/him to become a happy and fulfilled individual. This ultimately contributes to a healthy and loving relationship.
8. Thou shalt accept and appreciate her/him for who s/he is right now.
Avoid thinking “I’ll love her/him more when s/he becomes more X/Y/Z." Because guess what? Life is happening right now, not in some imaginary future conjured in your mind. Accept and appreciate the imperfections of your partner and work on growing together.
9. Thou shalt ask thyself "what can I give", not "what can I get?"
Find out how your partner would like to be loved and supported. Communicate in her/his love language as often as possible. Focus on how you can meet her/his needs and make her/his life better because you’re in it.
10. Thou shalt create many good moments together.
Aim to create as many happy memories together as possible. It could be a shared moment of laughter or exchanging looks of mutual adoration. All of these add to your love tank to tap on when challenging times strike.