I have seen many a Valentine's Day come and go. (Trust me on this.) That said, I have had my share of broken hearts, romantic dinners and cozy nights by the fire with the "man of my dreams" who later turned into a toad. (I had always thought it was supposed to be the other way around). I have sat in a heap in the middle of the floor when he made his exit, and opened the door with delight to hear him proclaim, "You are the love of my life." Good Lord, how ever have I survived the mercurial ups and downs of these relationship dramas that I had let define my happiness and sense of personal worth for the majority of my adult life (and probably way before)? Remarkable.
Now then, please understand that I am a work in progress right along with you. This "personal work" of mine is my disclaimer. I want to offer, with some caution, that my progress has been steady (with a few noteworthy setbacks). A number of years ago, I had a pivotal wake-up call that caused me to take a look at myself and my behavior. I was a successful professional woman who could not get a grip. And the moment that caused me to finally make that observation was not pretty. That I had lost myself in a fully dysfunctional relationship would be putting it mildly.
Since then, I have made it my life's work to take a deep look at the propensities we may have as a species when it comes to love and intimacy. I have witnessed my own part in that dynamic, and now know how to transform patterns that are no longer working -- both for me and for my clients and those who follow my work.
The following tips are among some of the most important of my discoveries:
1. Find a way to love yourself. You absolutely, positively have got to find a way to love and adore yourself. I realize the whole idea of "self-love" has been woo-wooed to death. Nonetheless, it is the single most important factor for you to figure out how to do. And while you are in the discovery process, please note what true self-love is not: narcissism. What is it? Well, I have written an entire book on the subject and I am still learning myself. Please join me. If we get this one right, we are home free. Whatever comes your way, you can deal. Why? Because you've got your own back. And you absolutely know that as long as you are drawing breath, your back is not going to leave you.
2. Be open. In your process of self-love and self-discovery, you will begin to uncover what is really true for you and learn how to communicate it. You can even begin to unearth radical truths. Once you do, because you are cultivating self-love, you will have more courage to tell others (particularly the significant ones). It could be something as simple as, "I suddenly realize that I do not like to make oatmeal for you. Furthermore, even the sight of oatmeal, which to me, resembles something close to wall paper paste, makes me dry heave. Therefore, not only am I not going to make oatmeal for you again, I will not be in the room while you are eating it (if you choose to make it for yourself), due to the aforementioned discoveries. And, the oatmeal thing has nothing to do with me loving or not loving you. I love you." That, I would say, is a radical truth revealed. And, once you take the initiative to be more open, your partner may be inclined to do the same. (For those of you currently not in a relationship and wanting to attract one, you can still do the exercise. In fact, you have the edge on the rest of us. When love comes knocking at your door, you will already have identified some "stuff," which will help you be more truthful, creating a good foundation for honest communication. Win-win to be sure!)
3. Be available. Take responsibility. Listen. Being available means being available. If your partner calls you in the middle of crunch time for your power point prep, which you absolutely must finalize in fifteen minutes -- you still need to show up for him. Even if it's only for a nanosecond, be there, fully, for that nanosecond.
In loving yourself and therefore taking responsibility for yourself and your feelings, realize when you are hurting that it is up to you to communicate what is going on. And if you want to really be heard, rather than launching the dialogue with something like, "I cannot believe you did that." Say what you felt when he did it. Here is an example: "When it seemed like you were flirting with my best friend, I felt threatened, afraid and abandoned." Now then, you have to have the self-love part at least launched to be safe enough in your own skin to do this exercise. (Time to get cranking.)
Listen. Both to yourself and your own heart, and to the heart of your beloved. The results will be magical. Trust me.
Rest easy. You are well on your way to full on loving and being loved or you wouldn't be attracted to this material. And finally, I want to share one of my favorite quotes from a cherished spiritual teacher, the late Emmet Fox: "If you could only love enough, you would be the happiest and most powerful being in the universe." Now, start by loving you, and be happy... right now.