by Abigail Adams
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, alwaysnever fails.”
Although this quote may be the most famous quote on love, taken straight from the Gospels, most of us have a hard time putting this kind of love into practice. Most of the time, we are lost in fantasies about love involving highly romanticized visions of perfect dates, romantic evenings, and finding a life partner who perfectly understands us at all times. We imagine love as this rush of feelings that continue to last forever. We imagine finding THE ONE – an ideal person who complements us in every possible way and satisfies our every need. The only problem with that vision is that it is false. Inevitably, our romanticized ideals about love leave us with unrealistic expectations for any partner who might come along, even if they are the real deal.
Here are 15 truths about love that we tend to forget when imagining our perfect relationship.
1. Love is a choice.
We tend to forget that feeling love for another person and choosing to love them is a choice that we make. It is different from feelings of lust which are often intense, of short duration, and involuntary. We choose to love. No one else can make you fall in love with him or her, no matter how hard they may try.
2. Love is not infatuation.
Too often, we confuse love with what is actually infatuation. Infatuation is a rush of feelings that generally borders on obsession. Love is not an obsessive feeling. Love does not result in feeling possessive of one another. Love is a sustainable emotion. Infatuation is not. After the initial rush of intense feelings, infatuation dissipates until another possible lover is discovered; whereas love is long-lasting.
3. Love takes time.
Personally, I don’t believe in “love at first sight”. Real love takes time to develop. Love requires trust and really knowing the other person – their character, interests, beliefs, behaviors, and deeply held core values. You can feel infatuation and lust towards someone based purely onphysical attraction at first sight. But there is no way you can deeply know, trust, and respect that person right from the get-go. Love, admiration, and respect take much longer to develop and grow. With time, real love strengthens as you build trust. Love makes you feel physically safe and emotionally secure with your partner.
4. Love requires patience.
Along with time, love requires patience. We can’t love another person unless we learn to be patient withourselves, with the other person, and with things taking time to develop. Patience is an all-too rare commodity in this era of instant gratification. We expect instant results, next-day delivery, and romances that bloom overnight into soul-mate marriages. With patience, we allow the situation to unfold naturally, without rushing, demanding, or pushing the pace. Patience requires letting go and trusting that the universe will work things out the way they are meant to work out. Patience is not trying too hard or forcing something to happen. If it is meant to happen, trust that it will work out.
5. Love takes work.
Love is a verb. Love is an action. Love requires effort and hard work to be fully realized. Love requires two people equally working at the relationship, in order for love to grow stronger. Love is not a one-way street.
6. Love requires being present.
When we love another person, it is important to be fully present with him or her. It is extremely important to listen to what he or she has to say. Really being present in the moment with him/her and empathizing with that person when they share their story can mean the world. Listening and being present is the biggest and best gift that we can give one another. Listening, in this age of distractions, electronic devices, short attention spans, and self-centered absorption is difficult. We feel more important, respected, and special when someone really truly listens to what we have to say. Strive to be present physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Work hard to stay present without ruminating about the past, or jumping ahead to the future. After all, the present is the only true reality. The past is conjured up from memories we have reconstructed in our minds, and the future is made up of mental fantasies that we play out in our heads. The present is all we really ever have.
7. Love is kindness.
Love should never hurt. We get confused when we think that love equals dramatic up and downs, intense feelings, fighting, making up, game playing, and dramatic pushing and pulling. Yes, maybe that is how we understood love in middle school. Maybe those behaviors make for a dramatic and exciting Hollywood romantic comedy. However, in reality, mature love between adults is consistent, kind, and stable. You should feel safe and secure with your partner – both physically and emotionally. Life is hard enough without having your partner cutting you down, being critical, or belittling your character. Love builds you up. Real love is when someone treats you with kindness and respect, even when you disagree – even when he or she is angry.
8. Love for yourself is a prerequisite, before you can love another.
We can only give away what we ourselves already possess. We can only feel love towards another person when we love ourselves, fully and entirely. We often mistakenly approach relationships as this obsessive hunt for “the one” who will finally complete us, fill up the lonely places in our hearts, make us happy, and meet all of our needs forever. Unfortunately, such expectations are doomed to fail. When we look to another to provide us with everything we can’t give to ourselves, we are setting up unreasonable expectations. We put a tremendous amount of pressure on our partner and unknowingly sabotage our relationship.
Only we know what we need, want, and desire. The only person who can make us truly happy is our self. If we expect our partners to provide this contentment, they will eventually disappoint. Inevitably, we will then dump our partner and go hunt for a new one who we think will finally be perfect for us, and perpetuate the cycle. Rinse. Recycle. Repeat. It is only when we love ourselves first and foremost, learn to take care of ourselves, meet our own needs, and build our own happiness, that we will ever be truly content with another person.
9. Love is not selfish and self-absorbed.
When we love another person, we become bigger than ourselves. We are no longer self-centered. Our circle of care expands to include our loved one, and by default, other people. When we love, our capacity for empathy, compassion, and caring grows. On the other hand, if we are impatient, if we act selfishly and demand love or demand our needs be met in a certain way or at certain time, we are not ready for real love. This dynamic can also sometimes happen in toxic relationships, where one partner is emotionally abusive to another. Remember, love requires taking care of yourself first, while making concessions and compromises for another. Love is putting someone else’s needs above your own.
10. Love is being all in.
Above all, love is about being vulnerable. It’s about taking a risk and opening up our hearts to another person who may or may not leave us, who may or may not destroy our trust and faith, and who may or may not break our hearts. It’s a terrifying proposition. Being vulnerable and exposed is uncomfortable and unsettling. Most of us shrink back in fear when we experience real intimacy. Relationships take two people in agreement to begin, but they only take one person who wants to leave for them to end. It’s an unfair truth of the universe. However, really loving someone is about being all in. There is no safety hatch where you can play it safe by being half in and half out. Keeping one foot on the gas and one foot on the break while in a relationship is unpleasant, unfair, and unkind to your partner. This hesitant kind of love makes you small, cheap, and a coward. Be brave. Be courageous. Real love requires finding someone who is worthy of your trust. Real love means giving everything that you have, even when there are no guarantees.
11. Love is never perfect.
We all have ideals regarding love and relationships. We have this romanticized fantasy that when we finally meet our person, everything will fall into place. Love will be easy, it will be fun, and we will be happy and content. Yes, healthy relationships are for the most part fulfilling, satisfying, and joyful. But that doesn’t mean that they are absolutely perfect. It doesn’t mean that either person is perfect or always acting perfectly and ideally towards the other. No matter how wonderful your relationship might be, you will find yourself feeling annoyed at your partner at times. Your partner will say some senseless comment that will deeply hurt you, even when they had no intention of doing so.
Life is messy. Real relationships are about growing together, learning together, and negotiating compromise. We have to learn to state our needs and wants in an assertive, but non-threatening and non-blaming manner. If we expect our partner to read our mind and somehow know what we need and want without us having to say anything, we are dooming our relationship to failure.
We also have to release our preconceived notions regarding how our ideal partner will be and how it should feel. We need to be open to the experience and let things unfold naturally. We need to practice patience and self-compassion, so we can be compassionate, forgiving, and empathetic towards ourselves and our partner when they inevitably disappoint us at some point. A perfect relationship exists when two people are not willing to give up on each other. Either you accept your partner just as they are, or you let them go. Don’t fault-find.
12. Love is about being with someone you can be yourself around.
Find someone who you can relax with and feel comfortable enough to be yourself around. Find someone who brings out your best. Find someone who loves you, who likes you as a friend, and accepts you just the way you are. Any person who makes you feel like you are small, less than, or not good enough you need to run away from. Immediately. There’s this quote I love that ties in perfectly with this advice: “In a dating and courtship relationship, I would not have you spend five minutes with someone who belittles you, who is constantly critical of you, who is cruel at your expense and may even call it humor. Life is tough enough without having the person who is supposed to love you leading the assault on your self-esteem, your sense of dignity, your confidence, and your joy.”
13. Love feels like deep caring, friendship, respect, and admiration for another person.
We often wonder what “true love” should feel like. Well, it isn’t as hard as we might make it out to be. Love is that feeling of deep caring, friendship, respect and admiration for another person. Love takes time to develop. Love requires getting to know someone’s character and reallyliking that person. Ask yourself, if you weren’t dating your partner, would you still be good friends with him/her? Find someone who you love spending time with and who makes you want to be a better person.
14. Love can take you by surprise…
…And it often does. Love usually happens when we least expect it. Love does not happen according to our schedule. We cannot just decide one day that we are going to fall in love on Tuesday at 4:21 PM. We can’t just order love to happen at this moment in our life. We can do this with career changes, with moving into a new home, or changing our activities and hobbies we enjoy. We cannot force love. We cannot rush love. Love almost certainly will not happen at the time that you want, in the way you want, and with the person that you expect that it will.
15. Love is commitment.
Real love requires commitment by both people to make it work. There will always be other tempting options and attractive people out there. There might be the little question in the back of your mind wondering, “What if there is someone BETTER still out there?” However, real love happens when two people are ready to commit to each other. Love happens when both people are emotionally mature enough to ride the bumps, to grow, to learn and to build trust with each other, rather than always wondering if it might be easier with someone else. It isn’t. Real love requires work, commitment, patience, and perseverance. There’s a quote by Cheryl Strayed, author of the book TINY BEAUTIFUL THINGS, which summarizes this concept perfectly: “You cannot convince people to love you. This is an absolute rule. No one will ever give you love because you want him or her to give it. Real love moves freely in both directions. Don’t waste your time on anything else.”
Abigail is a native Montanan, although she has lived all over the country in the past 12 years. Through her travels, adventures, and her passions for conservation, connection, and developing a sense of place, she has listened to and learned from many friends about their lives. She hopes to help others access inner contentment and joy, recognizing the similar challenges we all face on this journey.