As human beings, we are driven to love and be loved. Love lives in our bones. It is our birthright. When you look at our culture, it’s simple to see how obsessed we are with the idea of love. Exhibit A: matchmaking shows like “The Bachelor” and networks that give entire days to wedding-related scheduling like “Friday Bride-day” on TLC. However we have been far less obsessed with practicing and learning what it really takes to create an intimate relationship that is happy and healthy. In fact, I frequently learn from my pupils and treatment customers that learning about love feels somehow antithetical to adore itself—“If work is taken by love, something must be incorrect.” We are, it appears, chock full of romanticized beliefs that love should be easy-breezy.
The space between the “actualities” of love and the “shoulds” of love is a powerful space that grows us up, making us more vulnerable and more courageous and joined than we understood we could be. What does it take to adore in the world that is real? How do we boom in an intimate relationship which is annoying and both romantic, passionate and lifeless, confusing and snug? If my nearly 20 years as close partner, professor, and a therapist, have taught me anything, it’s this: The cornerstone of a healthy and happy intimate relationship is self-awareness.
Real love starts with you. Why? Items gets stirred up in you—items you didn’t know things that is lying dormant for years, existed, items you really would rather ignore than look at. But your willing to turn your attention inward and admit the snowflakes which are swirling inside is what creates an astounding intimate relationship. A relationship which is safe enough and strong enough to weather the (snow) storms.
Adoring bravely means loving with self awareness. Loving bravely means:
Consecrating to the continuing practice of relational self awareness
Understanding the narratives you carry about love
Accepting that there are not any quick fixes or simple answers
Striving for authenticity
Being willing to look at your role in relationship challenges
Seeing your partner entirely separate from you and intensely linked to you
Seeing your differences as opportunities for growth rather than dangers
Seeking hues of grey, not black and white responses
Feeling energized, rather than defeated, of loving your partner by the work
Adoring yourself of, rather than in tender places, your imperfections and spite of
Loving your partner not, and of in spite of, her or his imperfections and tender areas
Loving is the work of a very long time and nobody does it absolutely. Loving bravely means attempting and failing and trying again. It’s not simple. But it’s worth it!