(Warning: Strong language ahead!)
Much has been written of love, and even more has been said. Sincerely, passionately, angrily, bitterly, sadly, honestly, deceptively, silently, loudly—love is a four letter word, after all.
And like any four letter word, it gets over-used. A lot.
I am not an expert in love. I am probably the opposite of an expert in love, more like an expert in moonbeams, and oatmeal, so probably stop reading, and go watch Dr. Phil, or Steve Harvey, or even an old episode of Boy Meets World. Those are written by professionals in love, people paid to tell us what love and other things should look like, so they are probably correct.
I am a writer. An observer. A teller of truths, and a witness to life. I am not a professional anything. In fact, currently I am wearing harem pants, more interested in the shade of green of the new spring trees than the fact that I haven’t done laundry in three weeks.
It is 2 p.m. on a Monday.
I have seen some shit though, and I’ve even done some shit, so I can share my experience, and the collective experiences of all of the incredibly awesome women and men that I have the pleasure to know and love (that word again).
And hope that, together, we can learn some new shit.
Like, how to love.
(note: I am using male pronouns, but please use whatever pronoun(s) your heart desires).
1). Let’s not project our shit onto our loves.
We all have baggage (thank goodness). But, for the sake of tired arms and heavy hearts, let’s all hang on to our own. Meaning, let’s not ask our lovers to carry our cheating ex, or our abusive daddy, or our third grade bully, or even our dysfunctional beliefs about sex.
Again—we all have baggage about childhood, and sex, and bodies, and all of the things. That is why therapists have jobs, and bars have bartenders, and yoga has pigeon pose. Please, let’s utilize our friendly neighborhood shrinks. Please, please, please don’t look to a lover to fix those things, or even to help process them. They can, and should, listen and support as we process. But our lovers are not garbage dumps, or empty vessels, existing for us to spew thirty years of emotional leftovers.
2). Give space.
Flowers need room to grow. And other clichés. But really, each person in a relationship (two, three, four, however many people in one) needs space to cultivate their own head, heart, and soul gardens. We cannot be everything to each other—I will go get pedicures and fro yo with my bestie, and he will go play kickball and swing clubs and spit (whatever boys do) with his mates. I will always need to sit in my harem pants and crazy muppet hair and write in the sunshine with an endless pot of black coffee, without any noise other than the birds chirping.
He will always need to sit and read and watch movies.
Insert your own “de-frag/me-time” scenarios here.
My mum will always be the one I chat to in the car, on the way to work.
My lover is my lover. My partner. My co-pilot. Co-witness to crazy beautiful life.
But not my shopping mate. Not my toenail clipper. Not even my emotional tsunami protector.
I have those things, and I am those things.
And because I am, we are.
3). Get a life.
On that note, have your own life. Not because you don’t need him or because you’re too cool, or he won’t respect you if you don’t, or because you need a back-up plan in case the whole thing falls to shit.
Because your life is awesome.
And should be augmented by your love, not consumed by it.
So go do all the things—pedicures with your bestie, skydive with your brother, vacation with your crazy auntie, go lay in the park solo, whatever it is that makes you come alive, that feeds your soul.
And then come home.
And tell him about it.
And watch him smile, because you’re alive, and glad of it.
4). Respect him.
Respect his mind. Respect his body. His wishes. His opinions. And, perhaps one that is not spoken of often, respect his experiences, and the fact that they’re probably not yours.
He is different than you. Thank goodness.
Remember that is part of what makes him beautiful.
He is sacred. Not because he is man or because he is superior or because he is more deserving.
He is human. And he is intrinsically worthy of love, and respect, and value.
Don’t forget it, and dishonor him, and your love, by thinking his mind, or body, or wishes, or opinions or experiences, have any less value than yours simply because they are different.
Ask him, gently—help me understand. And, if you cannot understand, empathize.
5). Leave the games for the field.
In every sense (well, unless there are safe words, and toys, and consenting adults, involved…. then, go for it).
When he texts you, text back when you can.
If you are upset, let him know why.
Don’t test his love, unless you are willing to give him a study guide and a warning.
Sex is not a tool, or a weapon, or a bargaining chip, or a promise.
Oh, and your body is not a prize to be won (because then, really, who loses once it’s given up?).
If we are looking for love—as equals—we cannot play games.
Games have losers, and winners. I do not want to win against my love, and I certainly would be heartbroken for him to lose against me.
Can we play, together, as a team? And both win?
6). I love you. You’re perfect. Don’t change.
One of the biggest mistakes I have seen friends (and family, and acquaintances, and facebook people, and celebrities) make is to try to change their lovers.
Don’t do it.
First of all, it never works.
Second of all, why would you try?
Your lover is not a customizable swing set from Home Depot. You do not get to upgrade to a twirly slide once you get bored of the regular one, or add a tree house once you outgrow the sand box.
Did you not fall in love with them as they were? Or was it, yes, I love him like this, but especially if he added $20k per year, and lost 30 lbs, and stopped smacking his lips when he chewed?
Of course we all have room for self-improvement. And I firmly believe that we should be with people who encourage us to want to be our best selves.
But that is the difference.
Be their inspiration.
By being your best self.
And if they are not inspired to be their best selves, move on.
If they are their best, and it includes lip smacking, and a tummy, and a baffling inability to do laundry—love them, or leave them.
But don’t try to change them.
7). Don’t take it personally.
Whatever it is.
He doesn’t want to come over? He had a long week and needs to sleep in his own bed.
It’s not you.
He didn’t call you at the end of boy’s night? He had too many beers and fell asleep.
It’s not you.
He forgot to pick up the dry cleaning? He is a boy.
It’s not you.
He didn’t hold your hand on the street? Hold his.
It’s not you.
Girls and boys think differently. Sure, some of it is the same. Or, some of it is the same but requires a different process to make it work in the brain, kind of like the difference between a mac or a PC (right computer people? I can do computer speak?).
Girls get to the destination quicker. Boys like the pit stops.
If relationships were like animals, girls would be monkeys and boys would be cows. Girls pick at every little nit and knot and piece of fur. Boys kind of stand around, chewing their cud contentedly, until a monkey walks over and starts picking their shit apart. And then they’re like, what the hell, monkey? I was totally oblivious to the fact that my fur was knotted up, and honestly, quite content to not know.
Be a monkey. And let them be a cow.
But like, a totally manly, hot cow. Or whatever.
(sorry to everyone for the less than sexy analogy).
And if it is something personal, move on. To a new cow.
8). Come from a place of abundance.
Your life is great. You are great. Your love should augment this greatness—not be the cause of it. We’ve all known people who exist solely because of and for their relationships—fine, whatever, many paths. But not mine. And hopefully, not yours. If you can avoid it before it’s too late, please cultivate abundance in your own heart, soul, and mind, before you look to another person for anything—for love, for sex, for intellectual discussion, for a movie date.
Go to the movies alone.
Figure out your own opinions alone.
Have sex alone.
Love your Self.
More means more. Less means less. Don’t we want to bring more to this awesome love of ours? Don’t we want to be so happy that we bring them more happiness? So figured out (I mean, as much as possible) that we don’t cloud up their lives? So in tune with ourselves that we don’t make their Life TV all snowy?
9). Be clear.
With what you want out of life. What you want out of the relationship. Out of sex. For dinner. Massage techniques. Bathwater temperature.
Whatever it is.
What have you got to lose?
Because, truly, it has never been yours in the first place.
But we already knew that.
Because we come from a place of abundance, of love, of not taking it personally, and of being totally awesome.
So we know how to ask for truth.
And how to give it.
10). Let them love you.
Ah, the most difficult.
Like many four letter words, love can be easier to dish out than to receive. We feel undeserving, shy, bashful, ashamed.
From our abundance, though, our awesomeness, our wonderful, beautiful wholeness that we have cultivated in our own Selves, we come to realize that we are intrinsically valuable.
Inherently, naturally lovable.
Give yourself the space, the permission, to soften into that love.
Into that possibility.
And like any flower, or tree, or garden, your love will grow (a four letter word I am very comfortable to use more of).
And good luck, lovers.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Jenna Penielle Lyons
Photos: elephant archives, Amin/Pixoto