Would you know love if it was right in front of you? I think in many ways we have become a "grass is greener" society. We have so much media stimuli and choice in terms of material goods, it seems like we have become conditioned to continually look for more "features" even in our personal relationships. Social scientists have called this phenomenon the "tyranny of choice." It's like we are addicted to the concept of love but have attention deficit disorder (ADD) when it comes to commitment. With the high divorce rate and breakdown of the traditional family, our vision of love often comes from Netflix, a reality show or a Hallmark card.
What is this thing called love anyway? A few years ago, I had dinner with an old boyfriend. He had been "the one" -- the one I had compared others to and was sure I was destined to marry. We both let the relationship slip through our hands. We had so many options floating around us that we didn't see the treasure in front of us. As we spoke, we realized that time gave us perspective. We acknowledged how foolish we had been.
At the end of the evening, he said "I love you." Since he was married, it took me by surprise. Then, as I looked into his eyes and thought about our conversation, I realized what he really meant. We had moved past what the Ancient Greeks called eros (physical love) and philios (friendship love), and had made our way to agape (unconditional love). It's what the Bible's "love chapter" 1 Corinthians 13 summarizes as: "Patient, kind, not jealous, boastful or rude. It bears, believes, hopes and endures all things. [Agape] love never fails." It dawned on me in that moment how fortunate I was to recognize that powerful form of love.
The search within...
As Buddha said, "You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection." Unconditional self-love is the first step toward success and happiness in life. So where do you start?
- Spend time noticing who you are. What do you value? What brings you joy? It's like my favorite scene in the movie Runaway Bride. Julia Roberts' character didn't know what type of eggs she liked. She would always order the same kind as her many fiancés. After she left Richard Gere's character at the altar, she took time to really find out what she liked. Then she was finally ready to marry him. Know who you are and then love every bit, especially the quirks.
Looking for a mate...
So what if you've done the inner work and you're really looking to find a partner?
- Know what you want. Once you know who you are, it's easier to decipher your true heart's desires. Write down what you're looking for in a mate -- then narrow it down to your top three traits. Also, be clear on your "deal-breakers."
Love the one you're with...
What if you've already found your partner, how do you nurture love then?
- Set a shared intention. If you have been graced to find someone who synchs with you and have decided to commit to that person, then it's up to both of you to make it the time of your lives. The power is in your hands. It starts with setting an intention. Outline your shared vision for the relationship.
As they say, "To love is to live." Give love freely, willingly and without expectation, and your life will be full of joy... And love will find you.
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