Love yourself first…

To say that love hasn’t obeyed my expectations would be the understatement of the century. I have not been lucky in love but—I’ve been blessed with some amazing memories over the years. I’ve somehow managed to choose partners who did not want what I wanted and did not feel what I felt.

Love is a blessing, this we know. Unrequited love is toxic, and it can eat you alive. Falling in love can be a slippery slope, regardless of any protective barriers we may have built. It can ease in like a light— a mist that settles itself beautifully over your life, or it can blindside you.Often we fall in love with a person before we have fully gotten to know them. By this point it’s too late—you’ve already stretched your heart for someone capable of bruising it. This is what love requires: utmost vulnerability and trust. Hopes and expectations rise along with the awareness that it can slip away.

When it comes to trusting, we have to accept that our past is not our present. We have to be able to recognize that what hurt us before is not necessarily what is currently standing before us—even sometimes when the situation looks frighteningly similar, and sometimes even when it’s the same person. Does this mean we won’t ever get hurt again? Nope. That’s part of life. People will let us down, and we will let them down, but that doesn’t mean our efforts to disassemble our defense mechanisms are in vain.If we never allow ourselves any vulnerability, we lose out on the opportunity to make incredibly deep and meaningful connections that open up our lives in ways that couldn’t happen any other way. Those connections draw out the very best within and create a new reality—one where we learn that the only way to know if you can trust somebody is to trust them. I suggest we do our best to live in the moment.

Love is elastic. It stretches and retracts and changes shape constantly. It is very uncertain. One day you are over the moon and the next disillusioned. The elastic can break. You can re-tie it, but there is now a knot. Suddenly that perfect perception of the other person is a little bit tainted. Something rocked the pedestal. Sometimes we can recover from this, sometimes we can’t.

Loyalty and commitment teach us that we are not to walk away from people that we love. On the other hand we are also taught to love without expectation. There are a lot of belief systems about love and I question them often. If your love is shared and you are both happy I assume you wouldn’t have to question love at all. But if your relationship, be it friendship or romantic love, is unbalanced and one person is hurting, how much is enough? How many pieces are supposed to break and how damaged can we allow ourselves to get before we throw these belief systems out the window and accept that this type of love isn’t healthy?How do we do what is best for ourselves without damaging the heart and mind of someone else in the process? Love and relationships require work and responsibility. We have to learn when to stretch and when to break.

For those of you who have been blessed to find a romantic love that is equally shared, I truly admire this and I have set the intention to find it one day. I think it all starts with being aware, open, and ready. For a long time I didn’t believe I would find love so I subconsciously chose partners who I knew would be a challenge. I am no longer interested in this challenge. I told myself when my last situation failed that I would never put myself in a situation where I didn’t know where I stood in someone’s life again; where I felt unsteady and unloved. I now know what I would like my relationship with my current partner to feel like, and that is the first step towards being open to receiving this gift.

Love is a gift.I have been tested often and with this came the opportunity to learn lessons. I have lived my life openly. I have experienced love and trusted the process. I fell in love, watched it grow, watched it change, and watched it fall apart. I felt the pain, and still continue to recover from it. My heart is healing and that is a slow process, but it was necessary to hurt to have learned what I learned. For this I am grateful. I’m also grateful to my friends who helped me pick up the pieces when I didn’t have the energy to do it alone.

8 things I have learned about relationships:

1. If there is a feeling better than love, I have not felt it. Take the risk and dive in with everything you have.

2. Enjoy the good times together as they are happening and be grateful for them.

3. Stay out of the future and in the moment. Now is certain.

4. Protect both your heart and your partner’s, whether the love is still there or not. We are human and we deserve kindness. We don’t need to add to the burdens we already carry by hurting others. Trust me, it doesn’t make things better.

5. If your relationship starts to crumble, know when to put it down and let it be. Don’t grind it into dust.

6. You cannot continue to give to another person when you are not at your best; when you are so broken, so beaten down that you have no energy left. When talking has failed and words no longer have meaning, this is when you know it is over. When you feel like this, you have to do what is best for the relationship and for each other and wave the white flag to avoid further damage.

7. Some things just won’t work, no matter how badly we wish they would. Sometimes the match that felt so right just isn’t. Please don’t do more damage to your heart by trying to fix something that has passed its expiration date. It will leave you raw.

8. It is okay to walk away from something that hurts you. It doesn’t require blame or justification. It just requires you to stop fanning the flames. You will find love again, and next time it will feel better.Life isn’t easy. Some things build us up and some tear us down. Our hearts expand and break and rebuild—repeatedly. We are constantly learning and changing and growing. If in love you find yourself in a sticky situation, please stop picking at scabs. Nothing good has ever come from this. Stop the cycle, and let your heart heal so you can find pure love. Surround yourself with loving relationships. Something beautiful is out there waiting for you. If you feel it on the inside, you’ll find it out there.

Love isn’t simply choosing to spend your life with someone. It is waking up every day and making the daily choice to spend the rest of your life with them. Love isn’t passive, it’s an action, a daily choice. It’s perpetual. But the most important kind of love is the kind we most often neglect: self love. In this very moment, I’m vowing to choose myself every day. To wake up and remind myself that I am strong, and worthy of being unconditionally loved.

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