It's not that hard to find like. Or lust. Or friendship. But love - true, epic, lasting love, the kind of love that leads you to celebrate 50 year anniversaries - is a whole other story.
As someone with two divorces under my belt, you may be reluctant to take love advice from me, and I wouldn't blame you! But I'm nine years into my current marriage, and things are better than ever, so maybe I've learned a thing or two. Take it with a grain of salt, but in case something I've learned resonates with you and helps you find the kind of lasting love I've finally found, I wanted to share it with you.
1. You probably won't get everything you need from one person. And that's okay.
I used to think my romantic partner had to be my end all/be all. I had a list a mile long of what my partner had to do/be/think/like. I've since learned that many of the things on my list are mutually exclusive. In order to rock one, you're likely to have to give up another. So how could one person possibly be everything?
Now I realize that I can get every need on my list met - but I have to seek outside my romantic partnership for some of it. For example, I adore my husband, but he's agnostic. And I'm extremely spiritual. I love him unconditionally, so I'm not going to ask him to change his beliefs. But I need to find spiritual connection elsewhere. So I have friends I can call when I'm in spiritual crisis or want to share some miracle that's happened in my life.
2. Love someone for who they are, not who they could become.
Yes, people change. We grow. We evolve. Like fine wine, some of us get better with age. But don't count on it. If you fall in love with someone's potential rather than who they really are, you're likely to wind up disappointed.
3. Put your true self out there.
If you're pretending to be something you're not, you'll attract someone who loves the fake you, not the real you. One woman who took a workshop with me died her hair pink and left her armpits unshaved. She said it was a good screening tool for men. Anyone who wasn't cool with that just wasn't gonna jive with her authentic self (go girl!) Go ahead and let your freak flag fly and you'll be much more likely to draw in the right love.
4. Withhold judgment and give the person you love permission to be authentic.
As much as you'll want permission to be authentic, you've got to also give your partner the same gift. If you're a travel buff and he's a homebody, don't expect him to jet around the world with you. If she wants children and you don't, honor her desires and respect her right to be a mother. If the two of you can't both be authentic and get your most important needs met, you're likely to wind up with challenges, and the relationship probably won't last.
5. Shared interests are overrated.
I know many couples who have built their relationship on shared interests. They fell in love because both were competitive cyclists or loved to travel the world or shared a passion for painting with watercolors. But what if something happens - you have children, you get disabled, you suddenly become allergic to watercolor paints - and you no longer have that?
I love to dance. Like I L.O.V.E. to dance. And I used to make all my romantic partners take dance lessons so we could salsa dance together and cut up the rug at weddings. Now I know that I can find dance partners and leave my husband, who doesn't share my passion, in peace. Because I love him just as he is. I don't want to make him change just so I get my needs met. I want him to be the Mattest of Matts, rather than some Lissafied version of who he really is.
6. Eliminate the "becauses."
I used to love someone because of what they brought to the relationship. I loved a guy because he planned the most elaborate, romantic dates I'd ever imagined. I loved him because he was irresistibly handsome. I loved him because he loved his mother. I loved him because he had a profession I respected, a shared faith, and a passion for fitness.
But true love doesn't exist because of anything. It just is. You love someone in spite of the parts you'd like to change. You love them for no good reason. There's nothing they could do to take that love away.
7. Compromise, but don't settle.
It's a fine line between setting your standards so high that nobody is every good enough and settling for less than what you desire and deserve. When it comes to love, you'll never find perfect, but you also don't want to spend the rest of your life wishing you had held out for what you truly want.
8. Pay attention to warning signs.
If someone has trouble controlling anger, has never been faithful to a partner, or is a compulsive liar, you better be okay with finding holes in the drywall, silk panties in his briefcase, and the IRS on your doorstep. Don't let your passion for someone overshadow your intuition and common sense.
9. Sex matters.
You might convince yourself it doesn't, but as my mother always told me, sex matters only for about 10% of a relationship when it's good, but it's more like 90% of the relationship when it's bad. If one of you is sexually unfulfilled, the relationship is likely to wind up with challenges.
10. Prioritize the ability to communicate.
If you can spend the rest of your life without ever running out of things to talk about - and you can talk in a way that doesn't result in constant screaming or trips to the divorce attorney, you've got something precious. Sure, passion is yummy, but it's not enough. At the end of a day (or at the end of a life when you're celebrating your 50 th anniversary), the ability to make each other laugh, touch each other's hearts, inspire each other, stimulate each other, express emotions, and share mutual respect and affection matters more than anything else.
But don't just listen to me. What have you learned about love? Tell us what you think! Share your love stories.
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