- In every interaction, we're all asking the same question: "Will you show me what real love is?"
Whether we're creating a special dinner or starting an argument, we're looking for an opportunity to share love. If we don't love ourselves first, no one else will -- not because we're not lovable, but because it's not possible. Whether we love ourselves determines everything else in life, including our relationships, career, finances and health. Loving ourselves means not holding someone else responsible for doing it. If we believe we're not loved or lovable, we won't accept anyone's attempt to tell us that we are, because no one can prove what we choose not to believe. If we think, "No one loves me. I mess up all the time. I don't even love myself," the only thing we've messed up is our choice of thoughts. If we don't love ourselves, we'll try to get other people to make us feel fulfilled and whole, which isn't possible. When we no longer need other people to convince us that we're worthy and loved, we'll be amazed by how quickly all our relationships will improve. Daily life provides us feedback concerning our beliefs about love, and the state of our relationships is the evidence. Love is not an emotion, or butterflies in the stomach, or something that happens to us, or something we fall into. The only way we can experience love is to express it. Love is expressed through kindness and caring, acceptance and understanding, plus service and challenge. Being kind to people opens their hearts, while caring about people opens our hearts. Love means accepting people as they are and making an effort to understand them, to stand under them, which requires making ourselves vulnerable to them. Supportive challenge means providing people an ideal for change, while having no personal interest in whether they change -- challenge without service is a violation. We can't help our loved ones if we're focusing on what's wrong with them. Love says: "I'm willing to do anything to help you change if you want to change. And I'm willing to do anything to prevent you from being forced to change if you don't want to change, because I accept you exactly as you are." More important than what to look for in a partner is our attitude while looking, because we can't draw anything to ourselves that we believe we don't deserve. We attract people into our lives who precisely match what we are currently being, so we need to be the partner we want to love. We need to be in the vibe of what we want to have, even though it isn't present yet. Before we can receive what we want in a partner, our beliefs and attitude must be a perfect match. If we build a relationship with the best behaviors of the romance phase, we'll be surprised when we finally meet the rest of the person. A partner with challenging qualities can help us as long as we remember that conflict has a valuable purpose. We use our relationships to heal our issues and make us whole, so it's necessary to relate with less-than-perfect people. We relate with our beliefs about people, so our relationships have more to do with us than with them. Love doesn't require others to do something or to be something to win our acceptance and approval. Love means letting our partners be exactly as they are without wishing they would change for us. Love doesn't label people as wrong, because everyone is right from his or her perspective. When we focus on being receptive, rather than struggling to be accepted and understood, we can know our partner's thoughts and feelings. Love means that it's nearly impossible for our partners to have a need that we're not aware of, because we care about their needs as much as we care about ours. Love knows that whatever is good for either of us is good for both of us. In the area of relationships, two halves don't make a whole -- two wholes make a whole partnership.
Photo credit goes to William G. Thomas. This post was originally featured on The Good Men Project, and is also featured on the author's blog at gracederond.com.