“When you fully trust someone without any doubt, you finally get one of two results: a person for life or a life lesson.” ~ Unknown
Love is a beautifully raw, yet complex experience.
Most of us will struggle with the gamut of emotions throughout our romantic relationships—many exquisite and some brutally painful.
My two biggest loves taught me who I am, what I want, and what love means to me. A 26-year marriage starting in our early 20s looks vastly different to the two-year relationship I had because we change. We grow. Our energies are different. What we want is different. We don’t know who we are in our early 20s, so of course the relationships we form fill our needs at that time, but like everything, our needs change and sometimes our partners no longer fit with us.
I have reflected upon my treasure trove of insights, and true, they are my perceptions, but sometimes, another’s story is the gift that helps us navigate our own.
1. Romantic fairy tales are an illusion. That’s not to say there will not be moments of pure magic, as there undoubtedly will be. But real love faces difficulties and challenges and if we are not prepared for that, we are living an illusion rather than real life.
2. You need to be whole alone. The idea that we are halves and need to find our other half to complete us is unhealthy. If we believe we are not whole alone, we will forever be chasing that “other half” to “complete us.” We don’t need to be completed; we should be desiring a relationship where two whole people add value to each other’s lives.
3. Time together is not an indicator on the strength of feelings. The intensity of our love for another is not determined by the longevity of a relationship.
4. Love is a choice, but attraction, energy, and chemistry are not. We can work hard on choosing to love someone, but we have no control over our attraction to another or the energy and chemistry we feel. We can love someone and lose that attraction, and then we need to decide whether love is enough.
5. Boundaries are a must. Many people forget this one. Love is not ownership. It’s not controlling your partner and it’s not breaching their privacy. Yes, sometimes there are trust issues, and if that’s the case, the relationship is heading toward failure unless those issues are resolved. A partner may be able to access your phone, but going through your partner’s phone is unhealthy. Boundaries—there should always be healthy boundaries.
6. Trust is crucial. Without trust, a relationship is a ticking time bomb. A foundation based without trust will inevitably collapse at some point. If there’s cause for distrust, that needs to be communicated and worked on. If it’s a projection of one’s own insecurities, that too needs to be addressed. Dismissing and burying any concerns around trust will only cause resentment.
7. Secrets are poisonous. We convince ourselves that keeping a secret is to protect another, but the reality is we keep secrets to protect ourselves. Secrets are toxic and they will slowly poison us. As hard as it is, we should speak our truth because the reality is secrets eventually come out, and the ripple effect will be far worse.
8. Seeking validation outside. When one feels the need to seek validation outside of the relationship, the reasons for that need to be addressed. What’s lacking in yourself or the relationship? Happy individuals and couples don’t need to do that.
9. Courage and vulnerability. You should be able to feel completely trusting that you can be open and speak your truth—the good, the bad, and the ugly. If you don’t have the courage to be completely vulnerable with your partner and you fear judgement or the ramifications of being honest, you need to question the strength of the relationship. If you have to lie or withhold the truth, it’s unhealthy.
10. Couples counselling. This won’t work unless each individual is prepared to do their own work and therapy. Couples counselling doesn’t have a high success rate around the world because most people have simply not done their own work first. Work on yourself so that the relationship stands a chance.
11. Children don’t save relationships. Throughout history, people have had babies in the hope to save or strengthen a relationship. Children put more pressure on relationships, so if there are already issues, this won’t make them go away. What it oftentimes does is keep two people together who shouldn’t be together—for the sake of the children.
12. Sex and intimacy are important. Now, this is down to personal circumstances like age and health, but for many people, sex is important. If both people are happy and comfortable without much sex and they form other ways to be intimate, that’s great, but if one person has a high drive and the other doesn’t, it’s definitely problematic and needs to be addressed.
13. Saying “I love you” is not enough. Words whilst poetic are not enough. Love requires action. Words without action are meaningless.
14. Know your partner’s love language. Understanding your own and your partner’s love language can help you navigate your relationship and allow you to see things from their perspective. How you show your partner love and what they actually need from you can be two different things.
15. Don’t rug-sweep. I’ve never liked confrontation, but rug-sweeping concerns, frustrations, disappointments, and outright problems is like throwing smoldering logs near dry leaves—it’s only a matter of time before a fire starts. So many relationships survive this way because sometimes it feels easier to keep the peace and we get scared of what may happen, but again, relationships built on not being open and truthful are weak at best and toxic at worst.
16. Your head, your heart, and your soul. Your head is logical; it will look for the safest option, but the thing with the head is it doesn’t feel what the heart and soul do. If you solely listen to your head, you miss out on what your heart and soul are trying to tell you. Your heart can be confused, so I believe it’s the soul that holds our truth, and we don’t listen nearly enough to our soul.
17. Believe the energy. Energy is a powerful thing and can be felt when people are apart. We can end relationships, but sometimes the energy is so strong that we energetically remain connected, and that takes a whole lot of other work. The energy between two people is not something we choose; it just is.
18. Accept that we change. Who we are in our 20s will be different to who we are in our 30s, 40s, 50s, and so on. With that, what we want and need also changes. When a couple can identify this and are fortunate enough to have the self-awareness and ability to grow together, that’s a gift. Who I was in my 20s and the partner I wanted differs greatly to the me of today and the partner I want. People are energetically drawn to us at the different stages of our life, and as we change and grow we energetically attract what we now need. It’s hard to stay in relationships where you no longer connect.
19. Social media is a highlight reel. Some people love to declare their love on social media. Good or bad? It’s a personal thing; however, the strength of a relationship cannot be determined from someone’s highlight reel. Some people do in fact use social media posts to convince themselves, their partners, and whomever else that things are perhaps better than what they truly are. The only two people who really need to know are the couple themselves. Don’t compare those highlight reels to your own life; comparison is definitely the thief of joy.
20. Jealousy is not love. It’s natural to feel a little jealous from time to time. What is not normal is obsessive jealousy—that is often projection of their own insecurities. Trying to control another and deeming that as love is toxic. Intense jealousy is mentally draining on both people. Whatever the cause, it needs to be sorted. Jealousy is about insecurity and control—it’s not about love.
21. Don’t be afraid to walk away. It’s one of the hardest things you will do, but sometimes it’s what needs to be done. Having children, of course, complicates the situation, but our children deserve happy, thriving parents, and if that means not being together anymore, then walk away. This is always a contentious one because many believe walking away is giving up, but here’s the thing—we get this one life, and to grow, we need to be in an environment conducive to growth. Staying in a relationship for any other reason but romantic love will see you stagnate—existing is not living. Being best friends or roommates and parents is great if that’s all you want out of a partnership.
22. Let love teach you. Let it teach you how to love yourself. Let it teach you what love really means to you. Let it embody and engulf you. Let it shine a light on your wounds and what you need to heal. The beauty in love is incredible, it’s captivating, and it’s all-encompassing, but the pain, the heartaches, and the struggles—that’s where we learn. Use those learnings to discover who you are and what you desire.
23. Above all, don’t be afraid to love. Open yourself up to love. Do your work and let love in. Will there be more pain? Maybe. But there will also be joy and passion and the opportunity to connect with another soul, even if for just a moment—it’s so worth it.
“You can close your eyes to the things you don’t want to see, but you can’t close your heart to the things you don’t want to feel.” ~ Johnny Depp