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.
- Become your own best friend. Be kind to yourself. Take care of your health. Get enough sleep. Eat wholesome foods. Exercise regularly. Minimize toxic substances and people. See the "alone" hours as a gift to indulge in something you truly enjoy doing.
- Begin each day by affirming your worth. Say to yourself, "I am loved. I feel great to be alive! I deserve extreme blessings!" True self-love is not the same as narcissism. A person who goes out of his way to show his importance is actually covering up low self-esteem. When you feel a sense of inner acceptance, there is no need to prove yourself to others.
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."
- Get out of your comfort zone. In other words, do things you normally don't do. For example, I just took an introductory week of capoeira -- a form of Brazilian martial arts. I wasn't necessarily there to find a date, but did notice that there were some wonderfully handsome and fit men in the class! Since many moves are done in pairs, you're forced to come face-to-face (and you can see ahead of time if he can protect you). At the very least, you'll get an incredible workout and possibly some eye candy to motivate you to return despite sore muscles.
- Do more of what you love. You could take the opposite tactic and join an advanced class of something you really love. Then, you are likely to meet others who are just as enthralled and proficient in the practice. For example, for me it would be a yoga immersion program. Think about a hobby or activity you really like. Although online dating is certainly an option, it's helpful to get out and get active!
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.
- Understand each others' love language. As so clearly described in Dr. Gary Chapman's book The Five Love Languages, take time to gauge what makes your mate feel loved. For example, you may want words of affirmation and he/she may value quality time. Make sure you're speaking your mate's language and he/she knows yours.
- Show up fully every day. No matter how busy you are, make a point to show you care. Use technology to reach out during the day. A simple "I'm thinking about you" text can go a long way. Then, be present with your mate when you are together. Put down the iPhone, Blackberry or tablet and actually make eye contact.
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.
For more by Dr. Terri Kennedy, click here.
For more on love, click here.
For more on relationships, click here.
For more information and inspiration, go to www.power-living.com. If you're wondering how coaching can help you, schedule a free consultative interview. To book Dr. Kennedy for a speaking event, go to www.drterrikennedy.com.