Thursday, March 20, 2008

If Love is a Verb, Then What are the Actions?

This is a very useful article for anyone in or entering a romantic relationship. All too often we get caught up in the initial blissed out state of enmeshment and forget that we are forming a partnership. Of course the blissed out stuff rocks our world, but we also need to make time to negotiate what we want, expect, or need.

From The Vancouver Observer:

By Pohsuan Zaide

There isn’t a magic formula that works for everyone as there are too many variables and complexities involved in human relationships, but there are certain dispositions and attitudes that would guide us towards discovering what it is we are to do if we want to love well.

I am not giving you a set of precise instructions; rather, I am suggesting a road map to guide the way towards creating a love that is deep, vibrant, satisfying, and peaceful.

All relationships have three parts: I, You and We.

First, let me address the I and You parts of the Love Equation. It makes sense that the best relationshiping comes from when people can be their best selves. By that I mean that individuals who are happy with themselves and their lives, who have no hidden agendas that they are consciously or unconsciously needing someone else to solve or take care of, and are personally willing to learn and grow – they have the most to contribute towards healthy and loving relationships.

It follows to reason that we all have work to do, before we are truly ready and able to participate in loving relationships. Think of it as relationship preparation. If we are willing to learn, with each relationship we become more skilled at it.

The act of loving and the ability to love someone else depends on how skilled we are at loving ourselves and our own lives. Therefore, the actions that each person, the I and the You parts of the relationship, have to take are:

1. Learn about who you are and what drives your life; what values, goals, and passions motivate you and give your life meaning and purpose. This allows you to enter into a relationship with credits instead of debits, in a position to contribute to rather than take from the relationship.

2. Clarify what it is you want from a love relationship, but do so with maturity, reasonable expectations, and wisdom. Discard fairy tale notions of love like rescuing someone or being rescued by someone. They don’t work when the honeymoon is over. They are a set-up for failure, blame, and resentment.

3. Take full responsibility for your own happiness. Read books or seek outside support, but do not make your partner responsible for your unmet needs or unresolved pain.

This is a relationship killer. Your partner can support and encourage you in whatever healing and growth you may need, but he/she cannot overcome the personal obstacles you need to face yourself.

This is in part what I mean when I say that we must all keep our own hearts. You have to be your own protector, in charge of your own vulnerabilities and healing.

4. Accept the fact that nothing ever stays the same, and everyone and everything changes. Put your energy into what you will do today and the choices you can make today. Do not live in the past or the future. Instead, make a commitment to what you will do today to enrich your own life and your relationships.

5. Learn about the behaviors and habits that you use to manage anxiety, fear and pain from past relationships. Get help in changing or managing them.

This allows you to become a less reactive, defensive and needy person. What you do not acknowledge is unmanageable, and what is unmanageable, creates pain in your own heart and in your relationships.

That was a short list, but a tall order. But that, in fact, is just the beginning.

We are all works in progress, and whatever is unresolved in our hearts we will bring to contaminate our relationships. So the action of loving requires a continual commitment to personal growth and healing.

When we are thus prepared, we are ready to enter into relationship. We may then enjoy the giddiness of falling in love, that wondrous, light, intoxicating feeling that is so full of promise and hope. But we savor it knowing that soon it will wear out, and we will then have to do the real work of being a part of the we in love’s equation.

Because we have something to contribute and we enter on the understanding that we are to be responsible for ourselves, the work does not daunt us. Thus, we are prepared to:

1. Openly talk about our vision of relationship with the other, and be willing to co-create a joint vision together. What are our individual and joint goals? What values are important to safeguard?

2. Dialogue regularly about how we will manage various aspects of the relationship such as money, conflict management, open communication, roles and expectations, and so on.

3. Work through problems fairly and non-defensively. We are also willing to get help if we hit a stuck point.

4. Treat each other respectfully, compassionately, and lovingly. Choose kindness and lovingness instead of bitterness and resentment, especially during difficult times.

5. Build the trust brings us closer to each other. Trust is not a house of cards built on promises. Rather, it is an alliance forged on kindness, compassion, forgiveness, strength, integrity, honesty, and yes, sometimes compromise and sacrifice.

6. Enjoy the peace and love that comes from two separate, unique and mature individuals who have chosen to share their lives with each other.

There are no done deals, no happy ever after, no guarantees that the beautiful spouse, grand house, white picket fence and 2.5 kids will ensure you a life free of emotional pain or turmoil. It’s all about how mindful or conscious we want to be about who we are, what we choose to do, and how we learn to love someone.

Loving and feeling loved in return brings me deep joy and fulfillment. The work I’ve done to become a mature, loving, joyful, passionate and confident person has enabled me to participate in co-creating the loving relationship I now enjoy.

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