BONUS: 8.5 ways to master love
"Love means having faith in another human being." - Paulo Coelho
It’s Valentine’s Day, and I get asked this questions a lot—particularly the last point below—so I decided to share it with you as a bonus post for this week!
While many of us would agree that, when all is said and done, love is always the best choice and that we should all pursue it, there comes a question of mastering it. How do we reconcile the complex human nature, the external pressures, the internal fears, and the human condition of egotism in order to find and keep love?
1) Honesty and authenticity
Trust is the essential building block of any relationship, but to get to trust we need authenticity. With love, even rocks open. But without trust, there won't be even the slightest chance for genuine love. Are you absolutely honest with yourself? What about your partner? Are they authentic and honest? Do you think you can be 100% honest and they’ll still love you? Try them. That’s a great way to find out the depths and the capacity of your love.
If we genuinely want another human being in our life, why not allow it sincerely? What purpose is there for inauthenticity and dishonesty? If a person cannot take us for who we are, why would we want them to accept us for who we are not?
2) Vulnerability and intimacy
We express strength each time we are vulnerable. This is what builds intimacy. Unless we can show the gooey side of our souls, that which is hidden deep within us, behind the shields and masks we have created, what is there left to love besides the superficiality?
We must give our significant other a chance to see who we truly are, see our deepest fears and hurts, and also our deepest desires and hopes. They will either love us or leave us. If latter, then it wasn't meant to be, and we can move on knowing that we had the courage to be vulnerable and they lacked the strength to embrace our truth. If former, then we are talking about real love.
If we love and give with conditions and engage in a power struggle, then we are really not loving or giving; we are just conducting a barter. There is no room for selfishness in any true relationship. We must be willing to give freely, just like the Sun gives to the Earth, without ever saying "you owe me."
Our individual 100% may not be equal, but that doesn't matter as much as giving freely and selflessly does. Think of this in terms of a jar and money and what each side puts into it. If I only have $100 to give and my partner has $500, but we both put our 100% into the jar, that is equitable and it is enough. The amounts may change, but our desire and commitment to freely give our 100% is what counts.
One last point on this: our egotism, driven by fear, can often get in the way. We may ask, what about me and this “one” thing I really want? And then we embark upon a process in which our ego is trying to find whatever it would make it bigger, regardless of the reality or of the pain that it may cause us.
4) Forgiveness and understanding
We are human and we make mistakes. Being able to forgive AND forget small offenses is essential to building a strong relationship. When we set out in a new relationship, we dream of things like growing old together. While the concept is wonderful, it comes with a caveat: growth isn't easy (the fruits are, not the process). Growth requires a lot of work, and a lot of patience. It also requires a lot of understanding. Is your partner capable of this? Are you?
5) Persistence and commitment
After the chemicals in our brain wear off, old fears of getting hurt emerge, and external pressures intensify, we tend to look at every challenge and obstacle as the largest and most difficult one; a sign that, maybe, it is not meant to be, that it might be exhausting. This, of course, is a result of various emotions playing their tricks on us.
To avoid self-destructing, it is important that both sides offer commitment and persistence. Persistence and commitment to truly give the relationship a shot and close all exists, focusing genuinely on the person and the situation at hand. If we want to be loved, we must give love a chance … but for real.
6) Courage and trust
In the world where we are more divided than connected, where so much separates us, where the culture often inspires our self-criticism instead of self-love, and where self-improvement is frequently based on becoming what we are not rather than embracing all that we are, trusting that good things will come our way and having the courage to pursue them is very, very difficult
What if it doesn’t work out? What if I get abandoned? What if those who disapprove abandon me? What if he or she finds out I am not good enough? What if none of this comes true? What if you have found a remarkable partner in the adventure of life? Just like the quote from the beginning says, love does mean having faith in another person and in your own worthiness to be with someone who’d go to the end of the earth for you.
Will you have the courage to trust love, one more time?
Talk to each other. Do not hold things back. Tell your significant other how much you love them. Tell them when you are upset or hurt. Say "I am sorry" when you are. Be goofy. Be funny. Be stupid. Do not hold back. Do not allow your love to suffer only because you don't know how, or are afraid, to communicate. Being with someone (and being that someone) who is an active communicator does not only prevent misunderstandings and brings you closer, it makes for an interesting, engaging life.
8) Grow together
Does your partner challenge you to grow, call you out on your bullshit, and still love and support you? Are you doing the same? There’s nothing more common than a relationship of two people who don’t do this, who pretend and, ultimately, resent each other. This is one of the reasons why 55% of Americans are divorced. Can you open up, completely, to the other person and them to you, and lean into those shared truths and look for ways to bring them together and grow together? Does your partner have a capacity for this?
8.5) How do I know?
Stop being ambivalent, looking for the next ideal person “out there” – the grass is always greener on the other side, because it is fertilized with bullshit. Instead, ask yourself: if these eight points are what is necessary for a healthy, fulfilling relationship (in addition to the given like attraction, common interests, loving each other’s company, etc.) does the person in front of you have this? Have they demonstrated these qualities? Do you have them?
If they do have them, what are you waiting for? :-)
Imagine a true, authentic, courageous person with whom you can be yourself, raw and honest, with quirks and all; someone who is comfortable with themselves and understands you while also constructively challenging you and helping you advance; a person who is demonstrably capable of love and nurturing, who is dedicated and giving, and with whom you can feel safe and wanted; a person who is your friend, with whom conversations about everything, joy, goofiness, adventure as well as hard work, ambition, thoughtfulness, and seriousness are all a part of the same package; an individual who gets you, loves you the way you are, and is capable of supporting you through whatever life throws your way, and not because they need you, but because they want you … THAT is your individual.
That is how you know.