Real love is akin to getting married, having babies, or even getting a dog. Many people have some romantic fantasy about all these things without looking at the work involved or the responsibility or the commitment required. Some think more about the DJ they want at the wedding, the gurgling and happy baby, or the fun-loving puppy. They don’t think about how to live with a person every day, deal with a colicky newborn, or manage a “mouthy” puppy who keeps eating the sofa.
Each of these wonderful things has another side that you must acknowledge going in, or you will fail. Every day, couples get divorced, dogs are dropped at shelters, and cranky babies are ignored or, worse, mistreated—because the responsibility inherent in marriage, parenthood, and pet ownership has been ignored.
To love someone, really love someone who really loves you, too, is about being a good and sane and supportive and caring partner; knowing how to understand and compromise; knowing to accept your partner for who he or she is without trying to change them.
1. To find the right person, be the right person. Before you get back into a relationship, build your life. Finish your unfinished business. Become objective about what went wrong in your last relationship, and in the relationships before that. Do a relationship inventory and a life inventory. You must discover the patterns and habits that torpedoed previous relationships before you get into a new one. If you’re in a relationship and trying to salvage or save it, you—both of you—must figure out and heal that which has been hurting you and your relationship. If one partner changes, the other is forced to change or leave. You cannot maintain the status quo when one of you chooses to change.
2. To be the right person and to find real love, you must develop your boundaries. Know what you stand for before you have to stand for it. Is an affair a deal breaker? What else will you NOT stand for: Porn use? Pot abuse? Drunkenness? Forgetting to call? Standing you up? Not being financially stable? Not holding a job? Not being honest? You have to know this before you are tested. You have to be able to say, “If xhappens, I am out of here—without argument.”
Make sure you know what would be a deal breaker for you—and make sure you break the deal if it happens. Be committed to walking away when a deal breaker breaks. If there are other things that you think deserve second and third chances, then commit to walking away the second or third time it becomes an issue. If you stay beyond that, you’re basically lying to yourself. Walk away for what you believe in. Otherwise you’ll just be stuck in dysfunction again and bargaining with yourself in order to accept what you shouldn’t accept.
3. Real love communicates in a healthy way. Name calling is out. Blaming and nitpicking is out. Accusations are out. Learn to begin sentences with “I feel” or “I think” or “In my opinion,” and be with others who communicate similarly. Don’t let anyone project onto you what you are thinking or feeling. Don’t defend yourself against that which you’re not doing. There is much game-playing in dysfunctional relationships. The only way to win is not to play. Healthy relationships are about forthright and honest communication.
4. Real love requires goals and aspirations, both individually and as a couple. You have to have plans and dreams, and agree on the future. You must help each other fulfill your hopes and dreams as individuals and as a couple. Figure out what you’ve always wanted to do—and do it. Find out what your partner wants in life and out of life. Figure out, early on, if you can and will support each other in achieving everything you’ve always wanted. It is important that you figure this out early on.
5.The most important thing to know about real love is that love is an action from you and to you. Act it and insist on it. Every single day, whether in a relationship or not, you must affirm that love is what you do, not what you say, and you must insist