I have been on this earth for over 50 years, and sometimes that fact alone freaks me out especially because it’s not been an easy half century.
For a long time I believed that love was pain because my experiences of love have been catastrophic, crazy and only occasionally cathartic!
And it’s just recently that I have begun to believe in, and understand, what true love really is.
If we listen to the media, true love is hopelessly romantic; the Disney fairy tale, the heartbreaking country song, or the idea of a lifelong partner with a big white wedding and happy ever after.
I’m sorry folks, but I don’t believe in this.
True love requires attention and affection. It demands honesty and rigor. It is not complacent. It needs passion, effort, and a determination to make it the best it can be, by everyone in the relationship.
Do you live like this?
True Love requires commitment; the commitment to relentlessly never give up on something until the very end.
We live in a throwaway society. We reduce, reuse and recycle on many levels.
Please don’t do this with those you love in your life.
When I was in marriage counseling I was determined never to give up. I had to make it work. When my therapist told me “Gail, you can only give up on this love when you truly feel you can look in your daughters’ eyes and tell them you gave it everything you could and it still didn’t work. Then and only then, can you let go of the dream of true love with this man”. It took me 6 years to let go.
True love has to have passion to start, and ongoing passion to survive.
Most of us are familiar with the stirrings of passion with new love. The honeymoon phase is exciting and the love drug “oxytocin” flows through our bodies like a raging river, allowing us to overlook flaws at the beginning. But those same flaws will eventually become annoying to us and many people give up and move on when it comes to this stage.
True love means we look past the simply annoying, to find the best in ourselves, our partner and the relationship.
If our relationship dies of “weariness, witherings and tarnishings” we must not forget that we need to work on ourselves. We must remember to “not go looking at the speck of sawdust in another’s eye, when all the time there is a plank in our own eye”. It is so easy to think we are perfect and it’s not us that might be the problem.
Look in the mirror.
True Love is honest.
Brene Brown has become famous for her TEDx talks on shame and vulnerability. Her mandate is that we must be able to have the difficult conversations or else we will foolishly believe our relationships are real when in fact they are not.
Wholehearted living means we are willing to tell the truth for us, and be authentic, even if it’s a difficult conversation.
It is from this sharing and caring that we create and maintain the foundation for True Love to live on, and on, and on.
True Love is kind and gentle, yet strong and powerful.
The dichotomy of true love is that it can break you down, and build you up. Broken hearts mend, but at the time, love can nearly kill you. I have cried a river three times in my life for what I believed was true love. I won’t lie, I’m still not exactly sure about this thing called True Love, but I do know that it can hurt like crazy, and have me feel like I’m the luckiest girl in the world, all in the same day.
True Love is magical, but it doesn’t happen by magic.
We must work at True Love. We need to be willing to put in the effort if we want real intimacy. Love dies because we forget or don’t know how to “replenish its source”. We must feed it, nourish it, share it and own our part in it.
We must bring ourselves fully to the table or “it dies of blindness, errors and betrayals”.
We must recognize when it is dying, and take action.
How do we do that?
Here are some simple ideas to spark a re-connection with your lover and bring you both back to each other.
- Simple eye gazing – Look in your loved one’s eyes for 2 minutes – no talking.
- Listen to each other (without responding). Hear the words and feelings.
- Touch each other lovingly (and non-sexually) to reignite passion.
- Learn what love means for yourself and your partner by completing the Five Love Languages quiz. Feed the other’s love language, and ask for what you need.
- Read a book you are both interested in … taking turns together to read aloud.
- Slow down your lifestyle together.
- Take time to explore each other in a new way.
- Hold hands frequently (all the time knowing the hands connect to the heart energetically).
- Sit side by side in a restaurant, instead of across from each other. Feed each other.
- Have a bubble bath together, just for fun.
- Enjoy the adventure of life, together and apart.
- Reminisce about how you met. Tell each other the story.
- Take photos of each other and keep them on the front of your phone.
- Gave at each other softly, openly, vulnerably. Do it naked if you dare.
- Do simple things for each other so your partner knows they are important to you.
- Relax and enjoy each other’s company.
- Walk in the woods and draw on the energy of nature together.
- Drink hot chocolate wrapped in a blanket together in the cool evening.
- Gaze at water at sunset saying nothing.
- Enjoy the majesty of the stars together in the middle of the night when the world is quiet.
- Snuggle under cozy blankets sharing favorite childhood stories in early morning.
- Always honor each other. Trust each other. Talk to each other.
It doesn’t matter if true love is with your lover, your friend, your child or even just yourself. What matters is that you recognize it and feed it the right kind of care and attention it needs.
When we know and understand our own “planks” we are much more accepting of others’ “specks”.
Commitment and passion, so vital for the journey, are the bread and butter of any real relationship, and it must always start with our relationship to ourselves first.
Start today. And start small.
Start by enjoying this cool little song by Dave Barnes. “Loving You, Loving Me“.
I’m no Bible thumper, but I’ve read the book often enough to know there’s some pretty good stuff in there. And this verse got me thinking … “The Truth Will Set You Free”.
Last week I had a deep heart to heart with someone I care about deeply. It was a bit of a deal breaker because it’s a new relationship, and it was one of those pivotal moments when it could go one of two ways. I’m sure you know what I mean.
In the moment… I knew I had a choice. I could hide what was really going on for me, and continue an illusion. Or I could face the gut wrenching fear of my own truth and face possible rejection and the ending of what was the beginning of a beautiful relationship.
I chose to face my fear. As I shared my deep insecurity about why people do what they do (all stemming from the past love relationships I’ve had) I knew it was the right thing to do.
I was breaking new ground.
Tears welled up in my eyes. My throat was constricted and my chest felt heavy and closed. As I looked at this person, I saw only confusion and bewilderment. He didn’t get it, yet. Neither did I, yet. I was in the midst of discovering my own truth and saying it out loud.
How often do we not tell the people closest to us what’s really going on?
Instead, we “keep our cards close to our chest, don’t say how we really feel, and pretend it’s not what it is”.
But here’s the thing,
“our ability to trust depends not on the reaction of another to our truth, but rather, on our ability to handle our own truth and hold to it”.
People pleasing and approval seeking behavior keeps us shackled to a life of walking a tightrope; a tightrope where we are continually fearful to step off into our own truth. We fear there’s nothing to catch us, and blissfully, or painfully ignorant, we actually fear spiraling into an abyss of denial, disconnection and ultimately abandonment of the self or another or both.
Yes, being truthful is scary.
But instead, consider this! Who would we be, if we speak our truth, and we bring all of who we really are to the conversation with ourselves and those who matter to us?
I took the plunge.
I dug deep into my arsenal of communication skills. I remembered to use “I statements”. I focused on what was true for me. I didn’t make him wrong. I explained why I had done what I’d done, and why. My fear of repeating my past in love was front and center, and I loved myself now enough to risk losing what I’d just found. I loved myself to risk owning my own truth.
I wanted to be free to be me.
Can you do this?
Do you speak what is most true for you even if someone else might not like it? Do you take a chance that, to meet your own needs, you risk losing love, approval, or belonging in new or existing relationships or situations?
This is what it means to be free.
In life, we get more than one chance. You see, we repeat those same chances over and over in our lifetime until we learn what we came here to learn. Don’t think it won’t happen to you. I can guarantee it. Even if one situation ends, another one just the same will show up sooner or later. Watch your patterns and learn from them.
My journey is about vulnerability right now. I’m exploring how to open myself up to potential rejection by knowing and expressing my own truth. It’s a big step for me.
Part of our growing and learning means we become aware of who we really are. Many people never discover this. They lie to protect themselves. More people hide who they really are, or exaggerate about things just to look and feel better in front of others, and don’t consider this not telling the truth. Do you do this?
It might look like sending a text to tell someone you’ll be late. You write “I’m only 5 minutes away” when in reality you just left and won’t be there for 25 minutes. You don’t want the other person to think badly of you.
It might mean not standing up to someone who is treating you disrespectfully at work. We are afraid of conflict and we hide our truth by laughing at their sarcastic humor. We pretend we don’t feel hurt just as the passive aggressive insult hurls itself into our very core. Our truth is, it does hurt, but we keep quiet rather than make the other person feel uncomfortable, or risk taking a stand for ourselves.
Maybe it’s when you don’t speak up to your family as they make demands on you one more time, and you find yourself feeling resentful because instead of meeting your own needs first, you give in. Your truth is too scary to voice. You are afraid to own your truth and be heard. You believe you don’t matter.
As I shared my truth last night about what was bothering me, my heart split open for myself as I realized that my truth is mine and I need to respect it. I want to take the best care of me the best way I can. I risked being truthful.
There are often layers to our truth. The beginning of a disclosure can frequently lead to other painful truths, and emotion can well up like a tsunami within us. Holding it back is like drowning in our own unsaid truth. We die slowly inside.
We often don’t learn communication tools which enable us to share clearly what matters to us. We need to begin to know and recognize our own way of communicating and find the best tools to help us share our own truth. Here are a few ideas:
- Be aware of projecting your pain on to another person by making them wrong. Any sentence that begins with “You …” is not owning your own experience.
- Ask the other person to simply listen before responding. Ask to be “heard out fully”. Tell them you will say “I’m done” when you have finished.
- Give yourself time to compose the words. Don’t rush. Write them down ahead of time if necessary.
- Be reflective in the process. Stop and let the words sink in.
- Stay on topic.
- Make sure you are clear and saying what really is true for you and without blame (it’s not about them).
- Breathe deeply and focus on what you are feeling. Describe these words to the person in front of you so they know the physical impact this is having on you.
- Ask for feedback in a way that is helpful to the other person (if you want feedback). Be direct if you need clarification. Make a clear request if necessary.
- Know you may not need them to respond. Other times we do.
Clarity, understanding, and resolution come with time, patience, tenderness and acceptance in any relationship. It takes an open heart to hear painful experiences. I can guarantee that if someone respects and/or loves you they will hear you with gentle understanding and not take it personally. And if they do take it personally, it’s not your problem. Remember it’s about you, not them.
I’m happy to say I was met with patience, love and understanding, both from myself and my partner. I moved through my truth and our relationship is better now than before.
Try it for yourself. The truth does indeed set us free.