Most of us understand that we barely know anything. Most of us realize that we have multiple things we could improve about ourselves. But somehow, there are some of us who grow up with a weird notion that loving is not a skill or a trait that can be mastered. Neither do they believe that it has to be mastered.
And worse than that!
Some of us believe that we know how to love. Already. And even if we haven’t found that right lover yet, we would know how to successfully practice love as soon as the right person shows up in our doorstep.
Is Loving a Skill?
In the category of young Medium writers, that know how to shake some old ideas the right way — Sergey Faldin takes the crown for me. For a while now, I had this idea to write about how loving is more of a skill that has to be trained, than a general ability that we are born with… Sergey’s article on how Will Smith understands love gave me the last puzzle piece that I needed to finally burst this one out.
I will add a link to his article in the end — be sure to check it out!
The idea to analyze love as a skill that has to be learned came to me from two main sources. First was a little wacky story from my wife’s coworker— my wife told me a story of how her coworker portrayed the amazing relationship she wants and how she wouldn’t settle for anything less than that.
Her story explained how her imaginary husband should know exactly what to do, how to do it, and when to do it, without her needing to explain anything. How she would never put up with him not treating her anything like a queen or not knowing how to please her. Furthermore, everything would happen and should only be happening according to her — there would be no need for any input to any decisions from her dream husband.
I am intentionally cutting a more vivid picture of this story and trying to minimize the format to just leave the core of her ideal relationship. There is no need for details when the core of her ideal relationship is so well structured. Oh and I deliberately try not to intensify this concept at all to make my point, because this concept came from her as strong as it can be.
As someone who had been through a lot with my wife — we had a fast-growing start-up together, we bankrupted it, we had to live in a garage for 6 months, we moved to other cities and countries many times, we worked together on various creative projects… The list could go on forever.
So, as someone who is proud of how much hard work and sacrifice has been put into a magical relationship, I have with my wife (she’s the real best friend You could possibly have) — I found the description of this ideal imaginary relationship quite ridiculous. From my perspective, this plan sounded like everything You shouldn’t do with Your significant other. At least I felt that none of that could possibly ever work and it seemed quite delusional in its nature.
Me and my wife are currently living as expats in Amsterdam and we just listed this interesting tale as a “general reason why so many dutch ladies are divorced”. I am not saying all of them think like that, but we noticed various patterns like this in how some of them perceive relationships.
It wasn’t until I found a deep psychological analysis of this kind of behavior in a book I was reading that described how normal this path of thinking actually was. Before I tell You what book it was and how You should definitely read it if You haven’t already… I will say this — I was amazed how precisely American psychologist described exactly this kind of case that was happening on the other side of the world.
Prof. Carol Dweck in her bestseller book “Mindset” talks about two ways people see the world — from a fixed mindset perspective and from a growth mindset point of view. Look I don’t agree with pitching books so easily, because we all have different tastes but this one is a must-read. Period. You will thank me later even if You know the general concept of that book. Really.
The part of this book that resonated with the way my wife’s coworker imagined her prince charming as a submissive slave, talked about a way most fixed mindset people see their perfect relationships.
Fixed mindset people envision a perfect world, where they should be worshiped by their significant other. Their perfect spouse should just unconditionally praise them for who they are. And never mention anything wrong about them, because fixed mindset people immediately feel upset if You do so.
This might sound crazy for some of us, but it actually isn’t. This all comes from a more deep way fixed mindset people see themselves — finished works of art that ought not to be changed.
Well, maybe it somehow works for them — but I would love to be praised only when I work my ass off. Furthermore, I would love to get support not when I achieve something — but when I don’t. Because that’s how I feel about what love is actually about.
Love is helping someone grow.
And growth is a constant failure. This would mean that loving someone, would mean supporting them the most when they fail.
So is Loving a Skill That We Have To Train?
If I would compare myself now to the day I met my wife — there’s a huge gap in compassion, empathy, ability to listen, and various other sensitive abilities that I just had to improve over these years. Most of these traits were completely absent when we met.
I came from a family where feelings could not exist, furthermore, I was a professional athlete that was jock compared to most people. This meant one thing — I believed I was quite empathetic when I was actually not. Not at all!
I also believed that I was so interesting to listen to, which meant I just talked non-stop without ever stopping to listen. And we all know that people only love communicating with You if You focus on listening. Because everyone wants to tell their story. And those who listen the best, always win by having the best relationships.
Oh, and because it was not allowed to have emotions in my household, whenever someone started crying — my natural response was to just leave the room. Ignore it. Let them be alone, while they cool off.
Needless to say, that in order to sustain a great friendship everything I thought I were had to change radically. And it did. Slowly, with tons of hard work, patience from my wife, and occasional fails… I had to learn to listen, I had to learn to hug someone while they are crying and I had to learn compassion among numerous other traits.
I know one thing — if I would have stuck to a simple mantra “I am who I am — You either like it or not…”, there would be no best friend situation that I can be proud of today. I know that my wife helped me become so strong that I could not even imagine I could ever be.
I also know one thing for sure, I had to give up on my self-image and various emotional-habits that I had, to simply better myself. I also had to learn how to love and be loved to sustain this great relationship. Oh, and the whole learning part is far from over… It’s just the beginning.
Because we have to change, to stay the same. We have to learn how to love, just as we have to learn any other skill in our lives.
This post was previously published on Hello, Love.
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Photo credit: Aivaras Guja