It's no secret that I have a fascination (obsession?) with love. But in my defense, it's not just me. As a collective society, we dream about it, write about it, read about it, watch movies about it. We look for it endlessly, and when we think we've found it, we often don't want it anymore. We take it for granted, cry and agonize over it, justify it, and even deny it.
The truth is, love is the most natural physical, mental, and spiritual state of being that exists. It is infused in us when we are born; the unconditional love of an infant for her mother is the same love that we share as adults. But ask yourself: How does the primary "love" in your life compare to this relationship between a mother and child? Does it show the same non-judgment, trust, and compassion? Does it have the same depth and warmth?
Now that you've answered those questions, try answering again. This time tell yourself the truth. I know, it's difficult.
Speaking of truth, I am not an expert on love, and don’t claim to be. At a certain point in my life, however, I had convinced myself that I had been loving unconditionally, with no judgment, and with the purest of intentions. I allowed people to hurt me, take advantage of me, and give me less than I deserved because these actions just confirmed my "goodness" amid all the "bad" that I was up against. All the while, the martyr in me pressed forward bearing the blazing love banner, sacrificing with every step the one thing that I really wanted.
Finally I realized that this was, for lack of a more ladylike word, bullshit. But what a creative story I’d crafted!
I'd fallen into the trap that so many of us walk into blindly. I'd convinced myself that I was the love superhero and could do no wrong. I would brave anything for the one I loved. I would allow him to treat me however he liked, as long as he apologized afterwards. However, I caused much damage by sacrificing what matters most: self-love. Because of my disregard for my own well-being, I judged, projected, clung to, and pushed away – all under the convincing disguise of "selflessness."
What follows is my list of what I've learned thus far, things that most of us are used to denying. Like I said, I am no expert. But at 26-years-old, I'll settle for seasoned veteran.
1) You cannot change him or her. No more: "But what about changing it back to the way it used to be?" or "But they're making such huge strides toward changing!" If they haven't changed for themselves, they most certainly will not change for you. And who's to say they aren't fine as they are?
2) If you feel less "loved" when someone stops loving you, it's time to re-evaluate you, not them. Love comes from within, not without. When someone loves us, they are only drawing to our surface and acknowledging the love for ourselves that already exists. Feelings of emptiness, sadness, and deep loneliness after the object of our affection steps back or walks away are only a reflection of our own lack of self-love.
3) Your standards and expectations do not apply to anyone but yourself. Period. You always call your husband or wife when you're driving home from work, and he or she never returns the favor. So what? This is your own expectation, and it is not fair to hold them to it. Do not expect, anticipate, or desire your loved one to act like you do. Love thrives on our differences, not our likenesses. So your boyfriend or girlfriend doesn't hold you, kiss you, or act as affectionately as you would like them to or to the extent that you do? News flash: They aren't you. First, accept that they are a completely separate human being who will naturally act in different ways than you. Then, realize that they are struggling hard enough with meeting their own goals and expectations for themselves without you projecting yours onto them, too. Finally, decide whether you will accept less than what you have asked for and what you might need. If the answer is no, let them go.
4) Love is a verb. It is not just a feeling, and maybe not a feeling at all - it is an action. It is a million small events that we must recreate over and over for as long as we wish the object of our love to know that we care about them. It is the reverberating sound of these endless actions that creates the universal "om" that we associate with the feeling of love. Love is not a word, though we so often cling with relief to this word when it's spoken to us in times of questioning and heartache. To love someone, act - do not just speak - with love.
At this point you might think to yourself, "Yes, we are in love and we treat each other with love." But behind that assumption a smaller voice is whispering: "Except when we are fighting about petty things, when he takes advantage of my kindness, when he lies to me, when I am moody, when I get jealous..." And perhaps the first voice then pipes up indignantly, "But we're able to treat each other this way, because we always come back to love in the end!"
Do not settle for "loving most of the time" or "loving when all is said and done." Love each other every second, every minute of every day. Take his or her feelings to heart when making decisions, and watch everything petty or unsettled evaporate. True loving burns away what is not real and among the ashes leaves only diamonds of kindness and understanding.
5) Love is non-judging. ... Love is non-judging. It’s worth repeating. First, consider what "judgment" really is. Judgment is labeling: "His actions are good, bad, wise, unwise.” Judgment is theorizing and speculating: "She's stopped being affectionate because she's fallen out of love with me” or "His lack of communication proves that I'm more invested in this than him." Judgment is projecting our own feelings onto someone else, because they haven't met our needs: "I'm frustrated all the time because he doesn't follow through on his promises."
Consider this: Your loved one has decided to move to Alaska, alone, for a year. If you truly love them, you will not judge their decision because it is their truth, and to judge someone's truth is the most de-humanizing thing we can do to another human being, let alone someone you love.
If you can move beyond all judgment and arrive at a place of acceptance for whatever he or she is, says, does, and feels, you can begin to assess. Do his words, actions, and feelings allow you to live your truth as well? Can you be truly fulfilled in a relationship with this person? If the answer is no, begin the process of letting go and moving on, but without judgment.
6) "If someone wants to be a part of your life, they'll make an effort to be in it. So don't bother reserving a space in your heart for someone who won't make an effort to stay." – Anonymous. Last but not least, the #1 thing I have personally learned is to never, never make excuses for someone you love. Both of you will be hurt by this in the end. Relationships by nature need to be 50/50 when it comes to effort; not fluctuating between each partner giving 100 percent whenever it’s convenient. Never apologize for following your heart, noticing red flags, going with your gut, or wanting to put effort into making it work out. If it seems too good to be true, it usually is – but not always! I mean, every fairy tale has some truth to it, right?
You truly want the love of your life and are willing to work hard for it? Find the person who wants the same thing; no exceptions.