Love is expressed as an action and experienced as a feeling. Yet, love has an essence that resists defining in any single way — it encompasses compassion, determination, tolerance, endurance, support, faith, and much more. If you’re in the dark about how to love, this article should give you some food for thought, and perhaps teach you a little bit about how to love yourself, love the world, and love other people just a little bit more.
Finding Romantic Love
Decide what you want from a loving relationship. What do you want out of a relationship, romantic or otherwise? What do you look for in a person that you love? What do you love in a person? While you don’t want to narrow your focus too much, a properly-aligned list of priorities is helpful in knowing what to look for and how to find it.
If it works for you, rather than making up a list of wants, make up a list of “deal-breakers.” If you absolutely can’t abide a drinker, a hyper-religious person, or a daredevil, put it on your deal breaker list and avoid getting tangled in their complicated web.
Be judicious. If you’re putting a nice butt before a stable personality, you’re going to have a really tough time in relationships. Same goes for things like valuing friends who get you into the best clubs over friends who’ll hold your hair back while you puke. Put substance above superficials, every time.
Real people don’t fit in boxes. Keep in mind qualities that you want a prospective lover to have, but don’t require someone to meet all of them and make sure you’ve got your priorities in order.
Have something to offer others. When you go to start a relationship, be it romantic or platonic, you’ll want to be sure that you bring something to that relationship. Having nothing to offer will give you and probably the other person the sense that you are a leech. Work on giving as much as you take, in all your relationships, and you’ll be set for success. A life partner or a lover can help you cope with the problems in your life and will work with you to solve them, but no one is going to make those problems just go away but you. You have to rescue yourself. Be your own knight-in-shining-armor. Expecting someone else to do that for you will only result in putting way too much pressure on them and disappointing yourself in the long run.
If you’re experimenting with online dating, or other digital forms of communication, you’ve got to put some work into it. Messaging a hottie with “Hey” isn’t bringing anything to the table. Ask questions, put your dazzling sense of humor on display, be naturally curious. Be yourself.
Meet lots of people. Unlike in the serendipitous plots of most romantic comedies, we usually don’t run into long-term lovers and friends by accident. With the noise and bustle of 21st century life, meeting people takes work. Treat every night out, or every new class, or every new encounter as a possibility and bring your A-game.
Be friendly when you meet people, and try to see the best in them. Even if you’re at a party you’d rather not be at, make a little goal that you’ll make one new friend by the end of the night. Turn your dull party into a fresh opportunity.
Make plans with people you’re interested in. Rather than exchanging numbers and putting someone in your phone as “Red Shirt Blonde,” try to make specific plans before the end of the night. Find common ground with someone and decide that you’ll meet up for coffee, or an event sometime later in the week. Make it concrete, rather than vague.
Let yourself be vulnerable with others. Unfortunately, loving someone means that they can hurt you. This is normal and okay (and almost inevitable). But if you want to have real love, you need to allow yourself to open up with that person. Don’t keep secrets from them, don’t pretend to be someone you aren’t, but instead give them the opportunity to know the real you. Don’t put on an act with people you’re interested in, or with friends that you’re building a relationship with. If you’re pretending to be one way, it’s not fair to the person who meets you halfway. Be yourself all the time, and you’ll be confident that the people you meet are worthy of loving you, because it’ll be the real you.
Give it time. Don’t force love and don’t try to speed it up. This will only create false feelings which drain you emotionally and leave you feeling empty and unsatisfied. You can’t rush love. But believe that it will come because it most certainly will. You just have to find the right person.
Making Relationships Last
Commit. If you’re in love, prove it by putting effort into the relationship and working hard to make it work. Communicate openly with your partner about your goals for the relationship and where you see it going. If you’re only interested in a short-term fling, be honest. If you’ve got an eye toward serious long-term love, be honest. There’s nothing wrong with either kind of love, but you need to make sure that your partner is equally committed to the same version of love that you are.
Commit to the person and to the relationship. It’s easy when two people have been together for awhile and you’ve become very trusting to just get very comfortable with each other. Maybe you don’t go out on dates anymore or maybe you don’t dress up nice for each other sometimes. But you should at least do these things occasionally, or eventually someone will feel like they’re no longer worth the effort.
Learn lessons and apply them to your relationships. Yes, bad things will happen in your relationships. You’ll say the wrong thing, or they’ll hurt your feelings. It happens. The important part, when anything goes wrong (even if it’s just problems in your life), is to learn your lessons and just keep moving forward. Try to make the most of any negative situation, turning it into something positive by gaining and growing from the experience. Honestly try to adopt your significant other’s POV in any argument that gets fairly serious — do try to be compassionate and understand where they’re coming from.
If you’re in the wrong, apologize and own up to your mistake. Good relationships air out the grievances and clear the air. Bad relationships hide the negativity and let it fester into serious problems. If you’re in love, talk about your problems.
Work constantly to make yourself and those you love better. A good, loving relationship is one where you constantly challenge each other to be better people. Help the other person to achieve their dreams and goals because you believe they deserve it. Improve yourself and work for your dreams so that you can be the person you feel they deserve. We should be better people because of the relationships that we have, and this is the way to do it.
Eliminate jealousy. This is one of the unhealthiest things to have in a relationship, as it can break down trust and respect, and create barriers. For some people, this can be the most challenging part of relationships. Jealousy is a tough thing to break, but you can do it. The most important thing to understand is that jealousy issues almost always come from within, from the jealous person’s own issues, so those need to be worked through first. This is a place where those communication skills come in handy. This is, of course, assuming one person in the relationship is running around blatantly cheating on the other. In which case, they don’t really love the person they’re hurting, now do they?
Try to see issues from all sides. We hate to be wrong. Everyone does. But the thing about everyone thinking they’re right is that someone HAS to be wrong. If we disagree on an issue, we’re bound to be wrong on at least part of the issue. You’ll have much stronger relationships if you learn to talk things out with the other person, see their point of view, and find somewhere in the middle where you can meet and agree. If you’re having trouble agreeing on how you feel about something or someone, try to stick first with the facts