Life has a way of answering questions you didn't even ask. As I lean upon my 40th birthday and reflect upon my adult life so far, I find this to be especially true when it comes to relationships. From being the recipient and the perpetrator of heartbreak, to cyclically selecting the wrong type, to over expectation, to self-doubt, to romantic bliss... the list is seemingly endless on the ways I have grown in my understanding of relationship dynamics.
While I'm sure there is still plenty of room for self-sabotage and reflective growth, this is a list of 10 nuggets of wisdom I am happy to have shaped from my experiences thus far. I share this with the hope it will resonate with some of you, maybe even help; these are messages I have found in the mess.
Healthy relationships come from within.
Just because you are available for a relationship doesn't mean you are ready for one. If you're not comfortable enough with yourself or with your own truth when entering a relationship, then you're not ready for that relationship. Don't make the other person suffer for your own lack of integrity or inability to embrace the truths of your life.
Heartbreak may mean the end of a relationship, but it's not the end of love.
Know this... life is too short to not kick fear in the ass and allow yourself to love again. People may call you a "hopeless romantic." Be confident in knowing that you can be a romantic without being hopeless. There are good people out there; and that at least one of them is right for you. Don't let your pain, fear, or anyone convince you to settle for less.
When entering into a personal relationship, be honest from the start.
Believe me when I tell you that I know it's tempting to lie and smear the truth, but it never helps. It's simply better to be honest from the start. The feeling of disappointment that comes with the realization that you are incompatible is much better than the feeling of pain and betrayal that comes with finding out that either of you (or both) are full of crap.
For a great love, cultivate a great friendship.
Endless love is fueled by endless friendship. If you want to have the greatest romance ever, have the greatest friendship ever. Cultivate it; do not let your friendships die. Remember, it's not a lack of love that destroys relationships; it's usually a lack of friendship.
Be comfortable... but not too comfortable.
Sometimes the comfort of being in a relationship lulls you into mundane complacency; you become irrelevant in each other's lives. We call this phenomenon growing apart. Don't let this happen to you. Keep the spark alive. Flirt. Be on your best behavior. Keep interested in each other. Go on dates. Keep the passion going. Express your appreciation. Be a good friend. The true dynamic of a successful friendship and relationship is when the respect is mutual and reciprocal.
Have a funeral for past relationships.
Think of how liberating it would feel to have a funeral for past relationships and drama. Take the time to look back and give the past its proper recognition. Reflect upon what you can learn from your experiences; the good, the bad, the pretty, the ugly. Learn and move on. Recognize past relationships for their impact on your life and most importantly, recognize them for what they are... gone. Let go.
Don't try to control other people's behavior.
It is a tremendous burden to attach yourself to outcomes and behaviors you simply don't control. The only control you have is your own behavior; and that's tough enough to control. What chance do you thin you have of controlling other's? Free yourself from such fruitless stressors. Instead of trying to control the behaviors of others, set a standard in your own life. Refuse to be disrespected, lied to, or mistreated. Set standards of personal behavior and standards of what you accept from others. Setting standards for yourself is a healthy and effective way to avoid the fruitless burden of trying to control others.
We live in a multidimensional world. Don't live a one-dimensional love.
If you love someone... feel it, speak it, show it, be it. Do more than tell them... show them. Let them feel your dedicated respect and your unwavering devotion. Ensure that your commitment and passion are known and unquestionable. Show them what they mean to you... what they are to you. And... if you don't feel inspired to show your love in this multidimensional manner... be kind enough to let them go... so they can find someone who will.
Stay alert! Don't let someone's words blind you from their behavior.
They can say all the right things, they can make you feel things you've never felt before but don't be fooled; their actions will reveal their true character, desires, and priorities. Behavior speaks; pay attention to what it tells you. Behavior is math; pay attention to what it reveals.
Don't live an on-hold life.
Stop just sitting around waiting for "the right one." The love of your life is out there... but they won't just drop on your lap, nor you on theirs... so stop living an on-hold life! Go out there and experience your life, write your story, and live your fairy tale. It is on that journey that you'll cross paths with the love that's worthy of the story.