This year has been nothing short of amazing for me. Without going into all of the details (who knows it might be a movie someday!), I want share with you what I have learnt about life, people, and… most importantly… love.
First off, I now understand a truth that I guess I never really understood completely before. Not emotionally anyway. That truth is, you sometimes really do have to hit rock bottom to fully appreciate just how wonderful life is. To strip things down to their most naked simplicity and find the gratitude for ALL you DO have.
I have learnt a few things about my life recently…
I have the most beautiful friends, from all around the world. I have the most beautiful family. And I have always known this one but it has been driven into me as a beautiful reminder… and that is… I absolutely love my life.
No matter what you are going through, trust me, someone is doing it tougher than you. Someone is hurting more than you. And despite the pain you may feel in your life from time to time, someone needs you. Someone depends on you. Someone loves you.
My recent events and experiences have caused me to think a lot about love.
From this thinking, I have become really clear about a few things to do with love. And whilst this is not some exhaustive expose on love, you may find a couple of things that help you. I don’t claim to be any great expert on the subject, but I do understand what it feels like to have loved, lost and loved again – to both give it and receive it in return – like many of you can relate to as well. And if you’re in the middle of something right now, I suggest you read “Begin Again“.
I believe, if we truly want to grow as human beings, and dust ourselves off to find a better version of ourselves – or rediscover a part of you that you feel you may have lost – then I think the following points will help.
Here’s my “Secrets to Love” list.
1. Falling in Love Factor – when you are first with someone, everything is exciting, nothing is a chore. And as you fall in love, you would do anything for that person. The “Falling in Love Factor” is about continuing to do the stuff you did in the beginning, even ten years later. If you wrote love letters, keep writing them from time to time.
If you took your partner on surprise dinners or surprised them when they come home from work with something special, be sure to continue to do these things. People that reminisce, want to feel those feelings again. If you are with someone who thinks about the past, talks about the good ole days, and love the excitement of feeling special – keep doing the things you did when you first got together.
2. Do 1st’s Together – when you do something for the first time, you have expanded your experiences in this world. You feel like you have grown. And without growth, without progress, there is no happiness. Anthony Robbins correctly states, “Progress equals Happiness”. As a couple though, if you do “1st’s” together, you grow together. Your growth equals happiness together. Doing something for the first time is also exciting. And this ties in with the “Falling in Love Factor” because it keeps things alive and feeling fresh and new.
To take this a step further, if you can find something you can continue to do together that involves growth – you have a formula for continual happiness.
3. Love is an Action – a close friend named Paul Hicks hit me between the eyes with this one. It’s powerful. It’s not just saying the words “I Love You”. It’s how you show it. It’s in your actions. The way you respect someone. The thoughtfulness of your day to day actions. Love is not just a feeling because a feeling unexpressed becomes locked behind the closed doors of your heart. This goes for any emotion. Negative emotions unexpressed / or undealt with become disease. Positive emotions expressed create life. If you bottle up anger, it will likely kill you. If you bottle up love, you will die lonely. If you love life, dance in the streets, sing at the top of your lungs and celebrate life like there’s no tomorrow.
And if you’re in a position to share your one with someone else, live the same way.
4. Accept Unconditionally. Easier said than done… or is it? Think back to when you first met that special someone. You accept people as they are when you first want to get together with them. A good golden rule is “accept your partner unconditionally or don’t be with them”.
Anything less than unconditional love will creep into your relationship and eat away at it. Small little things get magnified so quickly during arguments or disagreements and the first things that get raised are personality flaws and differences that are not accepted by you. If you accepted them unconditionally, you could simply focus on the issue at hand and work through it to an agreement. But with conditional love, that is not what happens. The history gets dragged into it again. Totally irrelevant things from the past become the focus instead of the issue at hand. And suddenly you have two people arguing about something that 5 minutes ago they weren’t even talking about.
Unconditional love triggers fights. They are issues you personally have accepting someone else that lie sleeping under the surface of your own mind.
Learn to love the difference. Take a walk through the forest and you will notice not all trees are the same. That’s what makes the forest so beautiful. If you want someone exactly like you, then live on your own.
5. Change Yourself. This sounds like a no brainer and I know you instantly understand what I mean by this, but hear me out.
The obvious point is you cannot change other people. Only individuals themselves can choose to make changes to themselves. They may sometimes at your suggestion seek to make those changes. Sometimes they’ll do it because they respect and appreciate your advice. Some people suffering low self esteem will try and change just to keep a relationship going through fear of losing their partner. But the reality with all of these is that people can only make the actual change themselves. You cannot do it for them, and you really have no right to ask. For one, it violates the “Accept Unconditionally” secret.
Second reason this principle is so important is because…
“You can’t find happiness in other people, only in yourself.”
Alcoholics get caught between NEEDING a drink and WANTING a drink. If you need it, you are dependant on it. If you want it, it simply means you like that in your life. Same goes for relationships. The paradox with this is “love” is a human need. People need to feel love (receive) and they need to give love. Often times people who separate or divorce begin seeking love through their children as their main source of giving and receiving love. And whilst this is an important relationship to give and receive through, it does not and will never replace the very important need to have an intimate relationship outside of the children with a partner. People that unconsciously seek to fulfil their love needs through their children often create unhealthy atmospheres for their children and sadly live without the intimacy they can only find through a partner.
To come back to the above “Happiness can only be found in yourself”, you can seek happiness in all sorts of areas of your life, but if you are not happy with yourself at your most basic level, when you have stripped all the bullshit away and it’s just you and the air you breathe, then you will never be happy. Needing certain circumstances in your life, or certain people to act a certain way for you to be happy means you will never be truly happy.
The third aspect to “Change Yourself” is rarely talked about. It’s the “Inspiration Factor”.
“When you focus on changing yourself and not the other person,
you inspire the other person to change.”
Picture in your mind the overweight couple who’s been married for 20 years. One day, the wife wakes up with the decision to lose 20kgs. She begins eating cleaner, drinking more water and moving her ass to shed those kilos. She begins getting results. She doesn’t put any pressure on her husband to change but he notices the differences. She still loves him unconditionally and slowly he sees the changes in her and her lifestyle. He becomes inspired by her.
When there is no pressure to change, and you see inspiration all around you, you can’t help but be moved into action.
6. Reactor Factor. Reacting to someone is an ugly way to live… and love. When you stop hearing people out and become more concerned about what YOU want to say next, you are beginning to lose respect for the other person.
Stephen Covey has a beautiful principle in his book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, which says,
“Seek First to Understand, Then be Understood”
Naturally, this takes some practice. It’s an active process, not passive. You must truly listen with the intention of understanding the other person’s viewpoint or you are not really listening.
Reacting is ugly. To grow a relationship you must be proactive. We all have times where we need to be heard but be patient. Just shut up and listen to what your partner has to say because sometimes, even as they say it, they are still processing things themselves. They are saying things they don’t mean that suddenly become clearer as they say the words. If this happens, give them the space to take it back, adjust it, say it the right way. Socrates said, “The only way we learn anything is by dialoguing about it”.
If you react, you compound the gap that is beginning to bridge between you. If you listen, hear people out, seek first to understand, then be understood, you bridge the gap and bring your partner closer to you again.
7. Eye Contact – when you talk about “Quality Time” it is often a very broad subject. What does it mean? Well what I can tell you from experience is that when two people begin moving in different directions, with different interests and your quality time together becomes less and less, one of the first red flags is you begin losing “Eye Contact” with them.
The time it takes to stop and deeply look through the windows of the soul and into the eyes of someone you love keeps you connected. You know how comfortable you are with someone by how few words you need to say.
Think about the power of eye contact for a minute. It came before your first kiss… and most of the kissing in the first month or two together. You only look deep into each others eyes when you like each other. During arguments, especially heated ones, people tend to look all over the place and that eye contact connection gets broken. People walk away.
Tip – you want to stop an argument, stop talking for 10 seconds and look deep into the other persons eyes. Within seconds, you will see and feel their pain. You will understand, without hearing a word. You will settle down and feel the connection come back.
Eye contact goes hand in hand with quality time. Turn off the TV, turn on some music, sit down on a couch and talk about life. Look into each others eyes again and you will feel things you felt when you first met. The passion can last forever. The love can deepen every day.
I hope you enjoyed this lengthy post. Like you, I am still learning.
LAUGH. LOVE. LIVE. GIVE.