Years of experience have led to some hard learned lessons about love.
Staying sane whilst having a relationship of any kind is tough work. This is a profound list of love lessons that I have cobbled together in my 32 years of hapless dating followed by deep introspection.
Staying in love may be more challenging now than ever.
Partly that’s because being part of a couple has to be worthwhile. Whereas back in the day your partner was literally your partner whom you needed to create a decent life, now we have the relative luxury of being concerned with loftier goals, such as discovering ‘life purpose‘ and self-actualization. Does this person really get me?, we ask. Is this relationship supporting me in becoming a better version of myself? If not, then we are out.
Sometimes though, things are less ‘conscious uncoupling’ than OMG, this again (really)?
Love and breakups never stop being painful, but the pain loses potency once you have a handle on certain stuff. Here is what I would tell 20 year old Rezzan, if I could.
Learning how to be authentic will help with everything.
This means being who you really are (not pretending). It could take a while to work out who ‘you’ are (here are some habits of the highly authentic).
Know that your authenticity will be tested the moment you are emotionally invested.
It will come into conflict with your natural desire to please and impress your BF/GF/Significant Other. The more you try to please, the less authentic you become. That’s a slippery slope.
Practicing non-attachment (to outcomes) is the most powerful thing you can do.
It’s challenging, but it will free you to express love without condition. You do it by living your own life and having your relationship be one of your many fulfillment streams.
Manage your inner energy.
Do not over-emphasize this part of your life.
Relationships are simply one (albeit awesome) piece of the puzzle. Actively invest in the other life areas (your career aspirations, spiritual practice, friends and family and finances).
Watch ‘Why Most Relationships Fail’.
Prince Ea says it better than I ever could.
Google ‘Abraham Hicks’ and ‘relationships’.
Watch at least one of these videos, too.
Be aware of any sub-conscious standards operating underneath the surface.
They will cause you upset. Your parents’ or friends’ values don’t mean a bean. What does romantic fulfillment look like for you? If you don’t know, then prioritize getting clarity. Until you do, you risk hurting other people by involving them in your uncertainty.
Don’t be defined by your feelings.
Given time, you will feel a whole range of emotions about every person and situation. Cultivate a sense of healthy detachment from them.
Change your definition of relationship ‘success’.
When you think about it, length of time seems sort of arbitrary compared with how well each person managed their vulnerability, or the standard of communication (for example).
Know that you can’t own a person (and you don’t really want to anyway).
We are either in relationship with them, or we are not.
Use the character traits you are attracted to as clues about yourself.
The ‘higher value’ traits – honesty, integrity, self-esteem – will only become desirable once you have learned to value and love yourself.
Feel your way through your decisions (mostly).
The head should be present, and the heart should listen to it every now and again.
Enforcing your boundaries is important.
They communicate your values to yourself and others. They define your life.
Avoid second guessing people.
You are probably wrong, anyway.
Listen to what people say – but give credence to their actions, too.
We all lack self-awareness sometimes, and we have blind spots resulting in miscommunication. Cut people slack.
Most people have terrible self-love/esteem – and will look to you to validate them.
You will look to them for validation, too. This makes relationships harder to sustain, and a real relationship totally impossible. The path to freedom is learning to self-love.
Never take things personally.
(One of the Four Agreements). If a person seems very enthusiastic with you to begin with, don’t read too much into that. They are either projecting or are using you to complete a boring and unfulfilling life.
A connection should deepen over time.
If it doesn’t, then that should act as a warning flag.
Learn all of the Greek words for love.
(Here). Let that inform your perspective on the range of love you can and will experience. Remember that what we can conceive for ourselves is correlated with the language available to us.
Learn everything you can about love.
Quiz people whose relationships you might want to emulate; read books on relationships; attend courses. Also, filter the hell out of it all.
Read the 5 Love Languages.
It will help you to understand some stuff.
Getting hurt is always useful.
Learn to welcome it. Practice deconstructing what’s underneath the hurt. There is probably a sneaky standard at play (see above).
Avoid acting out of hurt.
It will lead to behavior you later regret. Breathe. Do not communicate until you have moved through it.
Do not withhold love, either.
Be clear with people about how you feel about them. Be even clearer on how much you love and respect yourself.
Give a damn.
Care enough not to unleash your unchecked emotional torrents on people. Care enough not to be passive aggressive and detached. We need to look after each other.
Read the Mastery of Love.
It is truth.
Know that deeper love is created over time.
Love is generated through thought, action and (time) investment. By the way, these are the same mechanisms to use if we want to stop loving somebody.
Be aware of, and tame, the impulse to cling.
It will cause you upset. Get comfortable with vulnerability and uncertainty. Practice mindfulness (it helps).
Watch out for making excuses for people.
This stems from a neediness and has little to do with forming a meaningful connection with someone.
Be 100% willing to walk away.
Regularly ask yourself the question – am I willing to leave if staying represents a personal compromise? (Compromise is okay; personal compromise is not. Know the difference.)
If it ends, you owe it to yourself to reflect (but only on your part).
Examine the ways that you stopped being true to yourself. Put that right for next time.
Do not carry past hurts forward.
True resilience is being like a bouncy ball.
Letter writing is a useful tool.
Write your ex a letter (no need to send it).
Bring a sense of play and creativity to your romantic relationships.
Never be fixed about where an encounter may lead. Sometimes relationships bear unexpected gifts. No experience is wasted.
Resist the impulse to name something.
That’s just a way in life that we try to get control. It doesn’t work – we are totally out of control.
If you are ever uncertain, then ask.
If you are genuinely not sure about how to proceed with a relationship, try writing down the sentence, and letting go. Trust that you will know what to do at crunch point.
Clean up your diet and lifestyle.
You will make better ‘gut’ decisions.
If you do just two things: get emotionally healthy and be aware of what feels good.
Doing only these two will serve you well.
A version of this article was previously published on ArtofWellBeing.com