With weddings all over the place and love seemingly bouncing off the walls, it seems like something would have to crack. Unfortunately there are some friends and family of mine who have been struggling a bit lately. So, it got me thinking…
What is love?
To me, love is different things at different times. Often times we seem to mistake a crush for love, rushing into commitments and acting on desires very fast… But I think love is something deeper. In the US we seem to place a lot more emphasis on the importance of being with someone rather than the quality of life in general. A crush/love can lead us into some really odd places, but some really great places as well.
When we’re teenagers, we often think with our libidos, peer pressures and basic interests. “Do they like this band? Will my friends approve? I can’t believe they like the color purple too! It MUST be love!” Sure, your emotions are real, but really the love you feel for another when you’re 15 is kinda… “love-lite.” I’m not saying that the emotions you feel as a teenager aren’t valid, nor am I saying that you aren’t in love. What I am saying is that love is different when you’re 15, as compared to when your 25, 45, 95… You need/want more when you’re primary concerns are more than grades and after school activities.
As young adults, we’re seemingly invincible. There’s still the chance that we might find someone- the one, but we’re more than happy to explore our freedom from parents and responsibility and… wait, what this credit card bill? Oh I can just ignore that. Love is about who I’m with now. Long term relationships can form or even several shorter term ones… I mean, think of all the people we’ll meet and all the people we’ll meet (winkwink-nudgenudge-say no more). When we’re finally free to manage ourselves, even the best intentioned person is still growing emotionally. This growth continues through and after college. And I’ll be damned if I’ve seen a single relationship that started with both parties in college survive post-college for more than a handful of years. Okay, let me rephrase that. I’ll be damned if I’ve seen a single relationship that started with both parties in college, thrive happily post-college.
As an adult, if you begin to step back and observe. You’ll begin to notice what works and what doesn’t. The fact is yes, you are in love. But the other fact is that you are in love with what you know about that person… Have you lived with them? Have you had to rely on them for anything? You are in love with what you know of that person is right now.
Who they are now isn’t necessarily who they’ll be once they hit the real world.
At first you frame your vision of someone strictly based off of what they tell you. Next comes experience. You learn about them based on your interactions, your experiences. Once the glow of passion wears off (because it does eventually), you start to realize just how much this person aligns to who they told you they were. Do you make excuses? Sometimes. But the question is, once you remove their initial sales-pitch… Do you like who they are?
There are some steadfast rules I’ve found with regards to love and partnership:
- Love is fickle (aka, it can’t be 110% on 24/7 all the time). You can be caught up in the passionate throws of love one day and suddenly feel claustrophobic the next. This doesn’t mean they don’t love you anymore it just means things are generally that GOOD that they don’t need to spend all their time thinking/worrying/doting on you.
- People are who they are (aka, love who they are not who you think they should be). While you can influence aspects of a person’s life, they have to be open to that change I the first place. If you don’t love who they are then why are you dating them?
- Cut the crap and figure out what really matters (aka, would you rather date the charming slob, or someone who’s quieter but tidy?). I have a guy friend who refuses to date anyone shorter than they are… And that’s odd. What if the perfect person, in all ways: emotionally stable, happy, full of charm, wit, style, grace, passion, honor, affluence, and looks was five inches shorter than you? Would this really prevent you from dating them? You’re allowed to be picky (see the next rule), but there comes a point. If you’re alone and you’ve dated all these amazing people who are now happy in relationships… look in the mirror. You might be the thing that needs to grow a little.
- Do you want A relationship or THE relationship (aka, don’t write/tell them what you think they want to hear). If you pretend to be something else and/or don’t scrutinize.. You’ll find a lot of short-term fun and a lot of what you don’t want. If you’re more specific, honest and real? You’ll scare away the clutter and find someone that fits your mold. This can take a while, but really. Do you want the crappy snacks or the main dish. Make sure you only nibble along the way and you’re certain to have an appetite for the real thing when it arrives.
- There is more than just “one” person for each of us (aka- Your true-love is the person that you love in spite of and including their faults). Should a relationship not work out, mourn it, but also learn from it. Change is inevitable and you should take this opportunity to reflect on what worked, what didn’t and what you need/don’t need from your next partner.
- If you feel like you need a committed relationship to be successful, define who you are, or afford life? Then you are not ready to get into something serious (aka, If you stepped outside of yourself and asked “Would I date me today? What about ten years from now? Could I commit to me? Trust me? Or even get married to me?” You should be able to confidently answer yes. Though narcissists may have an issue here.)To be in a healthy partnership you need to know who you are and be able to extract what your needs, wants, and grey areas are. If any of the above doesn’t sound like something you’re capable of, then you’re not ready for a happy partnership.
- Communicate (aka, use your words and be honest). That’s all I have to say about that. If you and/or your partner don’t communicate and you’re unhappy. Time to do something about it
- Finally, always put yourself first (aka, the only one you’re with 24 hours a day is you). This may sound odd, but really? You may have the most loving, supportive partner in the world, but they are not a mind reader nor your slave. It’s all about balance. You should love and respect them and expect that back- But at the end of the day they are not going to write that book for you. They are not going to travel to France, meet your favorite authors, build that cabin, start raising llamas or pursue any of your dreams for you… And nor should you expect them to. If they’re supportive they might come along for the ride or simply give you the space you need. But the best way to prevent regrets is to communicate and act on your ambitions. If you can blame your partner (truthfully) for not achieving your goals… It might be time for a change. That said, you can absolutely put their needs before yours when it makes sense. Like when your partner is sick, or supporting them in their career, their hobby. The difference is simple. Do you live to serve your own needs or someone else’s? Find the balance in love and support for your own needs and your role in your partner’s and you’re set.
This may not work for everyone, but for most I’m betting this is a good starting point. Sure there will be bumps, you just need to find someone willing to fasten their seat-belt and come along for the ride. You want to be heard, respected, loved and communicated with. It doesn’t sound like a tall order, but if it isn’t… why are so many people stuck in less than great relationships?
Just take your time and honestly reflect on yourself. This may take a while! Years, even. Ultimately, what two years of self-improvement in exchange for 40 great years of partnership?
Once you know yourself, you’ll have a much better idea of what your partner looks like. It’s my experience that Love is a partnership. Someone who knows the real you, respects you, and grows with you.