There is no culture in the world that does not love. As human beings, we long for love. We die for love. Some even kill for love. Love is mysterious, unpredictable, magical, emotional, irrational, and wonderful.
What word(s) come to mind when you think about love? What is your experience with this four-letter word?
Does a certain face, image, smell, or feeling arise within you? My guess is that some of your thoughts about love might be pure and sweet; others are confusing and perplexing.
Whatever comes to your mind, I’d love to challenge and encourage you to think through four questions about this four-letter word.
They are as follows:
1. Will you be open and accessible to love?
2. Will you maintain curiosity about the other?
3. Can you tolerate & accept differences?
4. Can you commit to practice forgiveness?
-Let’s quickly look at each one of these-
Are you open and accessible to love?
Your immediate response to this question might be a resounding “YES! Bring it on!”, but I want you to pause and contemplate this. Being open and accessible means you are reachable and present, you are willing to let another see you for who you really are. This is, undoubtedly, frightening because you might be thinking “once someone really gets to know me, they won’t love me.” So then I’ll feel rejected and I can’t bear that.
Or you might be thinking, I can’t let love in because then I won’t have as much control over my life, my freedom will be diminished, or I will be trapped by expectations and obligations. Maybe you’re thinking – I can’t wholeheartedly let love in because I can’t trust it; I will be disappointed and hurt. Or maybe you’re worried about losing yourself in the relationship, or getting taken advantage of. Perhaps in your heart of hearts you’re thinking – love won’t last, so why bother.
Be honest with yourself here as you answer this first question. How reachable are you, friend?
Will you maintain curiosity about the other?
Committing to curiosity is no problem initially, but the longer you’ve known someone, the easier it is to lose curiosity. You think you know it all (or most of it!) and as a result, you don’t take an active interest in the other person. Yet, research tells us that remaining curious about your partner sustains friendship and love.
Why? Because it lets them know you care deeply and you want to understand them. When you are curious, you are engaged. Full stop!!
Can you tolerate & accept differences?
If you’re anything like most of us, the things that started off as intriguing, “cute”, and different in your partner are some of the things that now drive you crazy. And if you’ve ever had the thought, Why can’t he just do it this way, then you are not alone!
Radical acceptance is one of my mantra’s in my clinical practice and my life! Sometimes I get so frustrated with the ways in which my husband does things (different from my way!) that I literally have to stop and remind myself to breathe deeply and accept the difference, whatever that may be (it’s often about the stupid stuff – like wiping the kitchen counters down).
Can I get an AMEN, pleeeeze??
So remember to accept the things you cannot change and remain in dialogue (ideally with a sense of humor) about the differences!
Can you commit to practice forgiveness?
The people you love the most will hurt you the most (not intentionally) and you will hurt them. It’s par for the course in the dance of intimacy, my friends. But “I’m sorry” is a complete sentence. So practice saying it – over and over again.
When forgiveness is a part of your relationship, you will be happier, healthier, and enjoy longer, more satisfying romantic relationships!
So here’s to bold and brave ways that you can love well in 2022.
~Dr. Andrea Gurney