What does it mean to be in love? Here are 5 things you need to know:
Love is a responsibility, not a right.
A long-lasting relationship works like two people carrying one of those egg baby projects from high school. Remember that experiment where kids carry around a hollow egg without breaking it for a week? The point was to scare them from teenage pregnancy. I think this would be a great exercise for two people to do before marriage— or as crazy as it may sound, before entering a business partnership. If you forget about the egg (what you’re supposed to cherish) for too long, it will crack and you’ll have to spend all kinds of time figuring out creative ways to tape it up. The more neglected it gets, the more energy it requires to keep it together. Better not to drop it at the bottom of your backpack in the first place.
It takes determined practice to consistently consider the impact your actions will have on another human being, much less an egg. If you’re not ready for real effort, tough discussions or to compromise your expectations about what you get from the relationship, you’re not ready for the responsibility of someone else’s love.
You can fight for love, but you can’t force it. Wanting someone is not the same as loving them. Wanting someone just so they will love you back is selfish. The point of love is to give yourself away, not take what you can get to feed your own needs. If you and your partner can both get in that mindset, get ready for a mind-blowing connection.
Love needs to change over time.
You probably haven’t had the same haircut or handbag for 10 years. It might be time to give your relationship style a makeover too. Most of us expect our long-time love partners to be a solid rock we lean on while we venture out into the world and experience new things. But, being a rock is boring, so is hanging out with one.
Give your relationship room to move. In all of your relationships — lovers, friends, or the people that work for you — the potential for both of you to amaze is only as big as your expectations and imagination.
Trying to keep the important people in your life from letting their talents emerge just because that’s not what you signed up for way back when — and it makes you uncomfortable — not only keeps them from thriving, it keeps you from expanding too.
Heat rises, baby. With care, you can rise individually — as partners. If you float in different directions, you can celebrate, love, and admire each other in new ways. If you’re too afraid to let the other person in your relationship grow upward and you press them down, their energy will just go sideways.
The trust you built over time will turn to resentment. Expect that you should both evolve with experience. And when your partner says, “You’re not the same person you used to be,” take it as a compliment.
You don’t fall in love. You choose it.
Love might feel like a lofty emotion, but you’re not on a cliff and you don’t fall off of it to be “in” love. Love is a deliberate choosing to give your energy and vulnerability to another person.
Not to be a buzz kill, but the dreamy, hormone-driven, “can’t get him out of my head” feeling will not last. That’s just a fun chemistry experiment the universe is putting you through to make you pay attention to another human being for one reason or another. The key is to figure out the reason for the attraction.
Yes, love can be super exciting, but it’s also a thoughtful decision. Sometimes the whole reason you got reeled in was because you’re supposed to learn something about yourself or be challenged to grow.
Look closely at your behavior in the moments between attraction and commitment. Is this relationship filling a void that is missing for you — to feel needed, wanted, or complete? Did you take the bait because you’re starving? Or can you see past the initial buzz and notice how you make each other better?
Healthy love does not take you to a dark place. It helps you build resiliency and character. It lights your way to become the person you were meant to be. Most importantly, healthy love is a decisive act. It’s a verb. You can’t really love someone while you are un-tethered to your real self — or while you are falling. You have to be grounded in who you are before you can have something to give. And make no mistake; love is way more about giving than taking.
You don’t fall out of love. You choose that too.
Not loving someone anymore isn’t something that happens outside of your control. It’s a decision one or both of you makes to walk away from a bond that either feels too restrictive or has frayed from too much wear and tear. Don’t convince yourself that you just “grew apart.” You both stopped trying. Or, it wasn’t a healthy relationship to begin with and at least one of you found the strength to move on.
Even more, don’t convince yourself that infidelity “just happened.” You didn’t just “fall” in love with a new person. You turned your back on the person you loved first. And somewhere along the way, you made the decision to open yourself up to someone new. Be deliberate about this one.
Broken trust or neglect in a relationship is a lot harder to repair than cracks in an egg. There is always space — a pause between inhaling and exhaling — when you can stop yourself from betraying someone you were once “in” love with and examine your motivation.
Relationships do need to end, sometimes. But even that can be done gracefully and with intention toward growth for everyone involved.
Done in a panic or with reckless anger, you will just repeat the same relationship cycle over and over until you’ve worn everyone out — and blown your potential for the wholehearted connection you likely craved this whole time.
You control your love. Love doesn’t control you.
People say, “You can’t help who you love” all the time. Not true. Love is your responsibility. The health of your relationship depends on the well being of your mind, body, and soul. Care for yourself as though you are valuable. Act nobly when you remember to and be the person you want to be loved as — your highest self (probably not the one slamming the door in anger).
Move through your relationship like it’s fragile and tender…because it is. You’re going to get bored some days. Setbacks will happen.
Grace and acceptance are muscles that you each can either choose to build or you can each choose to let get so weak there’s no way back. If that’s not you yet, the good news is you can choose to change your habits if you value the outcome.
Here’s the rub: you won’t know the outcome. You can’t control another person or make them love you. You can only choose to be vulnerable and offer your best, most grounded self to another in the hope that, together, there is a better version of both of you to become. And in the process, pay attention to the egg.
Sharon Demko is a Co-Active® leadership coach, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and professional trainer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Sharon works with clients one on one, or in teams in organizations, to build strong minds, bodies, and spirits. For more info, visit her website.
Article originally posted via YourTango.
More at YourTango: