*Editor’s Note: This piece is part of a series—lucky you. Head here to read Part II.
Even when—especially when—love breaks my heart, it is always my greatest teacher.
Because I’ve been in a long relationship, I’m often asked, “How did you do it? What do you know about love that I don’t? What’s your secret?”
What do I know about love? Not much. I’m still in the process, still learning, still growing, still flubbing up, still figuring out what feeling love, giving love, and receiving love are all about.
There is no secret formula for making love last, but if we are open to learning about its blessings and the golden wisdom it can offer us, we are well on our way to activating its sacred journey.
Whatever stage you are in, my intention in writing this article is to point your love compass in a positive direction, and when you are ready, keep all my Love Wisdom in your heart, body, mind, and spirit to use as a guide for your one precious life.
Love Wisdom: Open heart. Flexible mindset. Humble apology.
In the movie, “Love Story,” Jennifer says, “Love is never having to say you’re sorry.” I don’t agree. Saying “I’m sorry” goes a long way toward mending a relationship. Use it as an honest gesture that says, “I messed up and care about your feelings enough to say, ‘I’m sorry.'”
Humble yourself, swallow your ego and pride, and care about your partner enough to apologize when something you did, said, thought, or felt was the root cause of hurt. If you’re genuinely sorry for messing up, say it from your heart. It can go a long way.
When my husband and I communicate on different planets (which is most of the time), we make a conscious effort to let go of our defensiveness, listen to each other’s views, and bring humility, empathy, compassion, and respect to the table.
Before you assume we should be dubbed “the perfect couple,” don’t get me wrong. This highly mature way of behaving doesn’t happen often. First, we need to take the space and time to reflect on the situation and cool down.
When a place of higher consciousness suddenly awakens me and a gentle inner voice reminds me that I’m not perfect either, my entire being shifts. “Let go, Melody. Forgive. Compromise. Love is worth it. Remember why you were first drawn to him? It’s still there somewhere. Invite flexibility, joy, happiness, and love to your heart. See what happens.”
My inner transformation often has miraculous results. Just when I have lost all hope, a heavy energy lifts, and light begins to shine on both of us.
In my intimate “look within” moments, I realize that I always have a choice. I can throw in the towel, insist that I am right, or decide that almost nothing is worth this impasse and sadness.
More than anything else, be kind and gentle with yourself and be kind and gentle with your partner. We are all children in adult bodies still struggling with unhealed childhood wounds that affect both ourselves and our beloved.
During every challenge, I believe in one consistent mantra. We are both perfectly imperfect, and as Maya Angelou says, “When we know better, we do better.”
Love Wisdom: Love isn’t always a decision formed in your heart.
Because there is no playbook for learning how to give and receive love, my beloved and I signed up for a workshop called “Marriage Encounter.” During the three-day weekend, facilitators insisted on the validity of one primary mantra.
Love is a decision.
Even though their affirmation was counterintuitive to my belief system, I remained open to learning what it meant, and I’m glad I did. It has come in handy more than once.
Love isn’t always felt in the heart. When love leaves your heart, make a cognitive choice to keep the concept and energy of love alive anyway. Trust that somewhere underneath the noise, upset, hurt, and disappointment, the sacredness of your love will move back into your heart when you least expect it.
Let go of any obsessive thoughts about how your relationship should feel. Distract yourself. Take a healing walk in nature, offer to help someone in need, or delve into a new project that exhilarates your spirit.
Give yourself space. Give your partner space. If the relationship is meant to be, love will resurface.
At the right time, you will feel the warm energy of love move within you. Before you know it, something in the air, something in the energy field between you, something in your moods, miraculously shift for the better. Just when you think everything is hopeless, your hearts may open toward each other, and love may rise to the surface once again.
Ebb and flow. Flow and ebb.
Love Wisdom: Unfreeze your voice.
When you have a conflict, give yourself an equal and unique voice and speak your truth with strength, clarity, and love. If my sense of fairness feels compromised, I give myself a solid voice and communicate everything I am feeling.
I may do it verbally or I may do it in writing (or both), but one thing I don’t do is give up.
I will persist, be clear about the cause and effects of the negative situation, and then hope for the best outcome.
Above all, don’t dumb down, make yourself meek, or demean yourself in any way. Don’t allow your partner to treat you this way, either. Stand taller than ever, feel your breath—not theirs. Notice your feet standing firmly on the ground, breathe in a large dose of courage and strength, and lovingly and honestly verbalize your truth.
Communication Technique #1: “I Messages”
It takes courage to change any negative patterns of communication. Instead of verbally attacking your partner and saying things that will hit them below the belt, use “I messages” to tell your partner how their behavior affects you both emotionally and psychologically.
An “I message” is a valuable communication technique that can lead to a transformational shift, greater mindfulness, and deeper emotional connection.
Example: You message: “You’re always ignoring me and you’re always busy. You make me last on your list. I can’t stand you. Why do you do this to me over and over again?”
Example: I message: “When I’m ignored, it reminds me of how I felt when I was young—invisible, sad, and alone. I need to feel like I matter and that I’m heard and seen. I know our lives are hectic, but I need more attention and time, and maybe you need it from me, too. Let’s make a loving pact to give each other quality time. How about it?”
Communication Technique #2: Active listening
Stop your brain from formulating what you’re going to say to your partner as they are talking to you about their feelings and thoughts.
Try your hardest to be fully present and to truly hear what your partner is saying to you. It takes patience, but it’s worth it.
Pay attention to their words, tone of voice, the subtle cues and clues underneath their words, facial expressions, and gestures.
Take it all in, and then feed back to your partner what you think you heard them say. Ask them if you left anything out, and if needed, listen again and repeat what you think you heard this time.
Active listening helps the other person know that they are heard, seen, and loved. Active listening tells the other person, “You matter to me. You have my complete focus. I love you. I hear you.”
Love Wisdom: Initiate couch time
If you have a busy schedule with work, kids, and endless to-do lists, that’s okay. Just make sure to initiate couch time. Even 15 minutes can give you a quick burst of connection and bonding.
Couch time is a safe space to say hi to each other, hold hands, show your love, and give each other a hug. It’s a place to take time out to see and hear your partner.
It’s also a safe space to bring up a discussion. Take turns, set a time limit, remember to use “I messages” instead of “you did this, and I did that,” and integrate active listening so you both know you were heard.
Love Wisdom: Value yourself.
Value yourself. Know your worth. Respect yourself. Believe that you deserve to be cherished.
As Dr. Phil says, “We teach people how to treat us.”
Ideally, our partner needs to be the highest version of themselves toward you, and you need to be the highest version of yourself toward them.
No matter how long you’ve known each other, don’t take love for granted. Don’t kick it to the curb. Invite gratefulness, appreciation, awe, humor, and wonder to your love party.
Love Wisdom: Commitment.
When you make a commitment, it doesn’t mean that you crowd each other and do everything together. Give each other room to breathe.
In The Prophet, Khalil Gibran poetically expresses his feelings “On Marriage.” I don’t agree with every word, but I do agree that there needs to be “spaces in your togetherness.”
“Let there be spaces in your togetherness and let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the Cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”
A relationship is a dance. Going away from each other, moving toward each other, being alone, and being together. Even for 50 years.
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