“We are most alive when we are in love.” — John Updike
Alice, who I have mentioned in a previous article elaborating signs that your partner is in love with you, is one of my go-to gurus when it comes to matters of the heart.
I choose to have these conversations with her because she keeps things real with me. She emphasizes that when people say relationships are a bed of roses, that is exactly what it means. The bed of roses looks beautiful but the moment you lie in it, you are reminded that roses have thorns.
Two days ago, we met over dinner, and we mused over the characteristics that truly loving relationships have in common.
How do you know that you are in a truly loving relationship?
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According to the triangular theory of love developed by psychologist Robert Sternberg, the three components of love are intimacy, passion, and commitment.
Intimacy encompasses feelings of attachment, closeness, connectedness, and bondedness. Passion encompasses drives connected to both limerance and sexual attraction.
Over the past couple of years, I have taken up a keen interest in discussing love with the people I interact with. I have garnered life lessons and learned of the experiences of others through the stories they share.
That, coupled with my personal journey, have given me insights into the behaviors and habits that make relationships work well in the long run.
So, what is a truly loving relationship?
A truly loving relationship is one that adds to both people’s overall well-being, fueled by communication, respect, and boundaries.
For a relationship to be truly loving, it requires more than just shared interests and strong feelings for each other. It requires two people who truly understand and care for each other, while also caring for themselves.
A truly loving relationship can be intimate or platonic, but whatever the case it is fulfilling to both people. How do you determine that you are in a truly loving relationship?
Truly loving relationships have the characteristics below in common.
1. There is emotional self-reliance for both partners
“An amazing thing happens when you stop seeking approval and validation from others; you find it.”
— Mandy Hale
In a truly loving relationship, both partners support each other and have reached a place where they know who they are as individuals; and they know who they are within the relationship.
If you need constant validation and approval from someone else to feel happy, then you are relinquishing too much of your power and creating a scenario in which you can’t be happy on your own terms.
It is human nature to want to be liked, admired and included. However, it is damaging to your self-esteem and emotional strength if liking, admiration, and inclusion from your partner are things you have to constantly fight for.
According to the Enthusiastic Buddhist, seeking approval from others is not a recipe for finding happiness. In fact, trying to win the approval of others only batters our confidence, leads to low self-esteem and adds fuel to our mental stories.
It is important that both partners learn to nurture their own inner strength and bring that to the relationship. Seeking inner peace should be your personal aim instead of relying on the impermanent opinions of your partner.
Revel in the reality that you get to choose. You have the authority to decide how to spend your time and energy. And here’s the real beauty of it: When you don’t owe anyone anything — when you’re self-reliant — you’re free to give and receive love from the heart, without baggage.
All the love and validation you need is yours to give yourself. A sign that you are in a truly loving relationship is you do not feel pressured to impress your partner.
In a truly loving relationship, both partners realize this and come together from this place of wholeness, of inner strength and independence, and then love each other. Not because they are desperate to be needed, but because loving each other is a miraculous thing to do.
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2. You love each other
“Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get — only with what you are expecting to give — which is everything.” — Katherine Hepburn
When you truly love someone, you give everything you can and never expect anything in return. The beauty of this concept when you are in a truly loving relationship is love becomes the gift that keeps on giving for you and your partner.
In a truly loving relationship, two people love each other more than they need each other. Because of this, the relationship itself becomes a safe haven to practice love.
And love, ultimately, is a practice — a daily rehearsal of honesty, presence, communication, acceptance, forgiveness, and stretching the heart and mind through new and vulnerable dimensions.
Love is not a destination. We should not aim to arrive at that feeling of “perfect” all the time.
Love is a daily journey.
It is showing up for all the unexpected and inconvenient nuances of a relationship, and choosing your partner over and over again.
A truly loving relationship is intensely committed to being the embodiment of love. Through continuous devotion to each other, tenderness, affection, and love, a truly loving relationship continues to blossom.
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3. There is intentional communication between partners
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” — George Bernard Shaw
In a truly loving relationship, both partners realize that neither is a mind reader and make efforts to be intentional about their communication.
When you are in a truly loving relationship, you endeavour to share your thoughts openly and giving your partner the information they need rather than expecting them to figure it out from your scowling side glances and other non-verbal forms of communication.
Early on in my relationship, I struggled to learn how to communicate with my partner. I assumed that if he really cared about me, he would be attuned to my emotions, would understand when I needed his attention and when I needed my alone time depending on my mood.
I was wrong.
The more that remains unspoken, the greater the risk for problems. Start communicating as clearly as possible.
Use your words.
Don’t try to become a mind reader or turn your partner into one. Most problems, big and small, within a relationship start with broken communication.
In a truly loving relationship, people do not listen just so they can reply — it is so they can understand what their partner is trying to say. They consider things from their partner’s perspective as well as their own.
Respecting your partner and listening to them when they speak, whether you understand or not, helps to create a supportive environment for a truly loving relationship to thrive and grow.
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4. You don’t embarrass your partner for their mistakes
“Let the other person save face.” — Dale Carnegie
My father taught me that if you realize that someone has backed themselves into a corner, you help them if you can or you look the other way until they get themselves out — and then go on like it never happened.
I realize this instance might not always apply to other aspects of life but when it comes to your partner, you need to learn to save face for them. It is an act of kindness that contributes to the positive vibes within your relationship.
We all make mistakes and in a truly loving relationship, your partner will not keep bringing up that one time you made embarrassed yourself or made a major mistake.
We all have bad days.
At some point, we all inevitably have unreasonable mood swings. Giving your partner the space to save face, and not taking things personally when they’re occasionally upset, cranky or having a bad day is a priceless gift.
Even if you are unquestionably right and they are unquestionably wrong, when emotions are flying high and you force them to lose face, you’re simply bruising their ego. You’re accomplishing nothing but diminishing their own worth in their own eyes.
In truly loving relationships, each partner does their best to help the other preserve their dignity. And then they utilize the points shared above in #3, being intentional in their communication to optimize chances for the relationship to thrive.
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5. You accept each other
“Love is not only about physical attraction; it is about accepting your partner for whoever they truly are.” — Stephen Richards
In a truly loving relationship, partners accept each other for who they truly are and not only the parts that are easy to like.
There will be sunny days, but there might also be cloudy days. On those darker days, it helps to remember that the rainbow only comes out after it has rained — there is always hope if you care to look out for it.
In a truly loving relationship, partners can agree to disagree with each other on certain things and they are both perfectly okay with it. Differences of opinion do not destroy relationships — it’s how people in a relationship deal with their inevitable differences that counts.
Sometimes, people waste years of their lives trying to mould their partner into someone they can accept by changing their minds about certain things. However, this is not always possible because many of their disagreements are rooted in fundamental differences in how they see the world and how they see themselves. By fighting over these deep-seated differences, all they succeed in doing is wasting their time and running their relationship into the ground.
So how do truly loving couples cope with disagreements that can’t be resolved?
They accept one another as is — they understand that problems are an inevitable part of any long-term relationship in the same way that chronic physical difficulties are inevitable as we grow older and wiser. These problems are like a weak knee or a bad back — we may not want these problems, but we’re able to cope with them, to avoid situations that irritate them, and to develop strategies that help us ease the pain.
So just remember that the foundation of love is to let those we care about be unapologetically themselves, and to not distort them to fit our own egotistical ideas of who they should be. Otherwise, we fall in love only with our own fantasies, and thus miss out entirely on their true beauty.
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6. There is a positive attitude towards disagreements
“Don’t turn a minor disagreement into a flat out war; sometimes, you just have to learn to let things go.” — Dave Willis
When disagreements arise in a relationship, the easier thing to do is to run away especially if you’re not a confrontational person by nature.
I lose count of the number of times I switched my phone off after we had a disagreement so that I was unreachable. I was wrong.
If you are to develop a truly loving relationship with your partner, it is important that you learn to catch yourself and communicate whenever you disagree because this is not just about you. It is not just about whether or not you feel like dealing with your differences with your partner.
It is about what your relationship needs in order to grow and thrive in the long run. You have to put your relationship’s needs ahead of your own for a moment.
Both partners must be committed to dealing with disagreements openly because running from them will only make matters more difficult to deal with down the road.
One of the most simple and effective tools people in relationships can use to ease the process of dealing with disagreements is using positive language. Relationships flourish when two people are able to share their innermost feelings and thoughts in a positive way.
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7. You both aim for personal growth and development
“Growth is the only evidence of life.” — John Henry Newman
When you are in a truly loving relationship, your partner will not be intimidated by your personal growth and development. Instead, they will celebrate the person that you are today, and look forward to being with the person you are growing into.
Aiming for personal excellence is how we bring the best of ourselves into every other aspect of our lives.
In truly loving relationships, both partners are committed to lifelong learning and growth. They allow their curiosity to lead them to new discoveries about themselves and their relationship. And this gives them the freedom to keep growing as individuals in their truly loving relationship.
If you want to have a truly loving relationship, you need to embrace personal growth and development with open arms, and all the changes that come with it.
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As I have mentioned before, I do not know it all. I only speak from personal experience and that of others I am privileged to learn from. Take my advice with a pinch of salt, knowing there isn’t a one size fits all when it comes to love.
When you are in a truly loving relationship, you will know because you will feel it, and you will choose it.
I wish you loads and loads of happiness and true love in your relationships!
“You do not just wake up and become the butterfly. Growth is a process.” — Rupi Kaur
And now, your thoughts…
There are many other signs of a truly loving relationship, what would you like to add to our list?
This post was previously published on Medium.
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