As much as we all seek love, understanding love and more importantly, knowing how to love, can be elusive. What I know about love is largely shaped by three individuals: my mother, my best friend, and my husband. Together, they have shown me what love is and how to love. I could never thank them enough for their infinite wisdom, kindness, and yes, love. By sharing the insights I learned from them, I hope to pay it forward and help others find the love they deserve.
- It’s not about how good you are or s/he is, it’s about how good you are for and to each other. The right person is not the one who went to the right school, has the right job, the right looks, or from the right families or have the right hobbies. The right person is the one who makes you feel safe, at home, appreciated and understood. It’s the one who inspires you to be better, not just for yourself, but for them and for your relationship.
- Values matter. People say “money, kids, and sex” are the top three things couples fight about the most. If you look closely, all three are manifestations of one’s deepest values. Money is how we choose to trade our time and energy for other things in life. What we choose to give up to earn in an income and how we choose to spend or save directly reflect our priorities in life. Kids are the ultimate embodiment of parents’ hopes and dreams. How we choose to raise our children reflects our values when it comes to character. Our attitude towards sex reflects our deepest and most intimate emotional and physical needs, both with regards to ourselves and in relation to our partners. Misalignment in these values is more than mere disagreements. To build and share a life together requires a shared vision, and that vision is built on the most fundamental values people hold.
Be Generous. “Perfection is the enemy of good”. This cliché is also applicable in relationships. It’s easy to equate the “right” person with the “perfect” person, even if we have all been told “no one is perfect”, we still act as if we expect perfection. When was the last time you dismissed someone as not “right” for you because of some shortcoming or flaw they exhibited? As human beings we are all deeply flawed. The “right” person might have just as many flaws and imperfections as the “wrong” person. The person who is good for you will be like everyone else and come with his or her fair share of flaws. It is not about choosing the person with the least number of flaws, but choosing the flaws that you can accept. One must learn to genuinely accept others’ flaws, and not merely tolerate them, for even the best of us cannot tolerate forever. To accept others’ flaws requires generosity of spirit, which comes from humility. Humility comes from the awareness of deeply flawed we are ourselves, and how much generosity is required for others to accept us.
Be Grateful and Appreciative. When you have found the person who embraces and accepts all of you, the good with the bad, shares your values and your vision of life, and is both good to you and good for you, thank your lucky stars. Appreciate just how lucky you are. While we all deserve to be loved, not all of us are lucky enough to find someone can love us the way we need to be. Love is the ultimate form of generosity and charity – the greatest gift anyone can give and receive. As a gift it should always be treated just as such: one is lucky to receive it, but never guaranteed, and certainly not entitled to.
Respect yourself and each other. Even the most compatible couples will have disagreements. Negotiating differences is an unavoidable part of any relationship. Successfully resolving these differences and coming to an understanding with each other requires respect. You must respect your own values and boundaries and know what is and what isn’t up for negotiation and compromise. It is equally important to remember your partner is an individual with his/her own beliefs, opinions, and they may not always make sense to you or align with yours. You do not need to agree or understand them, but you do need to respect them. It’s human nature to feel threatened by what is different from us and attack what we do not understand. While we are all prone to feeling and acting defensive, defensiveness never got anyone closer or resolved any differences. Any chance of successful resolution must begin with respect.
Be Gentle & Be Brave. Love is scary because the stakes are high. Your heart and soul and what could be the rest of your life are on the line. It’s easy to be terrified of being wrong and disappointed. Few things are worse than the pain of rejection, betrayal, and having your heart broken. When we are afraid, feel threatened, we might be tempted to act ‘strong’ by using force. Force gives us the illusion of power and safety. When we use force, we think we are being strong and “protecting” ourselves, but what usually happens is we end up sabotaging ourselves by driving away the thing or the person that we cared about the most. The fear of being rejected by others can ironically lead us to rejecting ourselves first. We thought we overcame our fear by using force, but the truth is we allowed our fear to bring out the worst of us and behaved like cowards. Real strength is feeling terrified but choosing to be gentle and vulnerable instead of hiding behind force or running away.
Be Kind. To love someone means striving to be the best to them, always. What is love if not kindness? Be good TO each other, and FOR each other. For as long as you can. That is all. It’s not about being right, being fair, being the who loves more and less. It’s just about being good together by being kind, first and foremost.
Put the relationship first. A relationship is like a baby: fragile, sometimes exhausting, but it can also be immensely rewarding. Relationships demand utter selflessness and can push you to your limits. It has the ability to bring out the best and worst out of us, and make us become stronger than we thought was possible. A relationship is what you put into it. If you want to be someone’s number one, make them your number one. If you want the strongest relationship that will survive hell and high water, make it your number one priority and never compromise it for anything else. Maybe not right away and maybe not even with this particular person, but as long as you keep giving and loving with all of your heart, I believe you will ultimately be rewarded with the love you deserve.