Unless you’re just in it for hookups, everyone wants more lasting love in their relationship, right? So how can we receive more of it?
Experiences with my current committed partner prompted me to try a little experiment addressing this question. So far, it has produced some pretty amazing results. I’ll share what I’ve learned below.
What is Love?
Before getting into how we can receive more, I thought it best to define what love is. After separating from my wife, I was forced to confront a better definition of it. A lot of reflection and post-dating experiences gave me more clarity on the subject. And yet…pinning down an exact definition of love still isn’t easy. Ask ten different people in a room what it is, and you’re probably going to get ten different answers. There may be some overlap, but people will still provide varying details.
Also keep in mind there are different kinds of love for different relationships. For example, the love a mother has for their child is going to differ from the love two couples share. My thoughts below reflect my experiences of love defined between couples.
Love as a Feeling
Many people associate love with feelings. When they connect with someone, be it during conversation, sex, cuddling, or a date, strong feelings emerge. Therefore they must be in love. From a biological standpoint, these feelings are caused by surges in adrenaline, cortisol, dopamine, and serotonin. Some scientist believe this cocktail of chemicals is one way evolution ensures propagating the human species. It’s all meant to be a very gratifying experience to keep us breeding. But should love be defined as a combination of chemicals?
Possibly, but from my experiences, it’s a shallow definition at best. Feelings come and go. They’re fleeting based on circumstances and whether or not you’re getting your way. In the beginning of a relationship, these chemical-feelings often cause us to idealize our partner. Perhaps we put them on a pedestal. Perhaps we put the relationship itself on a pedestal. But the other person’s flaws usually tear down those pedestals pretty quickly once the relationship matures. If this is the type of love you’re looking for, then you’re probably going to go through many partners until relationship stress and the other person’s flaws have you looking for the exit door. Therefore, a better definition for this type of love experience would be lust and / or attraction.
If you want something long-term with more fulfilling benefits, then you’re going to learn to see love quite differently. Feelings are simply one of the pleasures that result from love.
Love as a Commitment
Many people see love as a commitment. The mentality usually goes, since you are committed to me, therefore I am committed to you. Unlike basing love off of feelings, basing it off commitment shows more maturity. It is the reason why some couples can weather difficult storms and remain together for life. Commitment often overlooks flaws. Commitment overlooks stressful life circumstances. Commitment can cause couples to team up and tackle the hardest problems together, which can further strengthen the bond between them. It can also lead to more positive feelings in the long run. Like feelings, commitment is something that is born out of love. But as a definition of love, I also think commitment falls short.
Commitments can be broken. Even if you’re totally dedicated and committed, at any time your partner can walk away, even after showing a strong level of commitment over a great length of time. Furthermore, you may grow to a point where you realize your former commitment is no longer beneficial to yourself or your partner.
Defining love as a commitment means love must be duty-bound. You agree do this, and I’ll agree to do that. While this type of mentality might bring more security, it doesn’t guarantee anything lasting or very fulfilling. It can also cause resentment. Let’s say you exhibit more commitment than your partner. Over time this will eventually take its toll. If your main idea of love is based on commitment, you’re going to go through many disappointments, because everyone can only go so far with duty and commitment. Everyone changes, and those changes usually weaken commitments which are duty-bound. Sure, you may stay together for life (or not), but you’re not going to get the deepest level of satisfaction that can be gained through seeing love as something bigger.
Love as Sacrifice
Many people equate love with sacrifice. If they sacrifice their own wants and desires for the other person, they are loving them. True, sacrifice is a big part of any long-term relationship. Each partner will always have to sacrifice something to allow another person’s needs and desires to be met. But this works both ways. We are each our own person, and we can only sacrifice so much before our own life-goals and dreams are lost and we fail to achieve our life’s purpose. Some people sacrifice everything for their partner to the detriment of themselves. And that’s a tragedy. Because the truth is any good relationship should allow both of you room to grow into a greater realization of who you are and what you really want to accomplish in life. If you attribute your main definition of love as sacrifice, you’re not staying true to yourself, and you’ll fall short on long-term happiness.
Again, don’t get me wrong. Sacrifice is something born out of love, but love is a much bigger ideal.
Love Should Transcend Physical, Emotional, and Mental Conditions Between two People
The things discussed above are some of the things I used to define as love. Now I see them as added benefits that come with love, but don’t come close to defining it. I like to think of love as something that should offer more of a spiritual benefit to both partners in a relationship.
Love is the Opportunity for Personal Growth
Love between couples should be all about personal growth. Some of the most important things that I’ve learned about love that have proved this to me are listed below:
- It can’t be coerced
- It can’t be bought
- It can’t be explained with logic
- It can’t manipulated
- It can’t be owned
- It can’t be demanded
- It is unpredictable
- It’s bigger than our ego’s will ever comprehend
- It can define the greatest aspect of ourselves when we give into it
If the above statements are true about love, as I believe they are through my own experiences, then what is it?
Love has to do with ourselves first and foremost, even in a relationship. It involves the highest level of maturity, which focuses on the inner self, not the outer. When we first love ourselves, we’ll achieve an abundance within that will naturally flow to our partner. If you find a partner that can view love in the same way, you’ll both have a very fulfilling relationship which will transcend the ups and downs that all relationships go through. Feelings, commitment, and sacrifice will come inevitably in a way that is balanced. But these things which are born out of love won’t define the greatest and most fulfilling part of your relationship. Rather, it will be the space that each one gives to each other that allow each of you to grow consciously.
Love as a Conduit for Conscious Growth
Take a moment and consider the possibility that love between you and your partner is simply a conduit for your own conscious growth. At first this may seem selfish, the very opposite of what our culture commonly idealizes as love, which is supposed to be about putting someone else first. But is this really the best way to see things? I’ll review some experiences below that I have found to always be sound principle.
If you don’t stay true to yourself, then you won’t stay true to your partner. And therefore, they will not stay true to you. Two people who share the ability to stay true to themselves are rock solid. There’s no smoke or mirrors. Both of you know where each other always stand, and it allows respect for each other’s space and commitment to each of your life-paths. When you first love yourself, your partner will either be naturally wildly attracted to your deepest strengths and interests, or decide they are better suited for someone else. Of course this also commands that you allow your partner the respect to do the same.
First Find Someone that You Can Connect With
In an earlier post I addressed a great way to find someone that you’re compatible with, entitled, Dating After Marriage: How to Find Someone You’re Compatible With. Although it’s targeted towards divorcees, it’s a great exercise for anyone looking for someone they can connect with.
Once you’ve found this someone, and they’re willing to take a journey with you, then I believe it’s relatively easy to receive more love in the relationship. From my own personal experience, I’ve found that following three basic rules allows the space for a healthy, loving relationship to mature into something deeply satisfying.
The Three Basics to Receiving More
- Put the things that are deeply important to you ahead of the relationship. Work towards fulfilling your own goals and dreams first. I’m talking about the very thing that makes you tick, that define who you are. Maybe you’re passionate about being a vegan and your goal is to raise awareness and stop animal cruelty. No matter how your partner feels, don’t change what’s important to you. Maybe you like to travel but you’re partner doesn’t have time to go with you. Go anyway. They’ll be there when you return. Maybe you want to start your own business but your partner doesn’t want to contribute. Go it alone. Whatever it is that you’re passionate about, make it a priority for you. And don’t sacrifice the routines and schedules you have developed that allow you to be that person. You’re going to want to be with someone who respects you for you.
- Next, drop all expectations of what the relationship should be like. Expectations will only cause resistance when they aren’t met. All of your expectations will never be met in any relationship. You’re two very different people. Besides, expectations makes us focus too much on the other person and holds us back from being who we are. Remember, if you’ve already done the preliminary work and dated this person long enough to see that you are a potential match, dropping all expectations will give the space for positive benefits to sprout. Dropping expectations allows the space for the relationship to inevitably take care of itself.
- Lastly, be and unconditional giver, as long as it doesn’t interfere with your life-path. Be an unconditional giver in the little things and in the big things. Don’t focus on what you’re getting in return. Instead, learn to enjoy the fact that you are giving without expecting. I have found there is immense pleasure in being a giver. It does something for the soul. It slowly weeds out the negative emotions that choke out relationships. It’s amazing how positive things become when you don’t focus on what you’re getting while you are giving.
As I began to follow the three basic rules above, I noticed some pretty amazing things. First and foremost, I was extremely content with myself. No longer did I focus on any of the negative aspects of our relationship, but I was highly motivated to focus on the positive aspects of it. And then I noticed something else. I didn’t feel as if I had to be in the driver’s seat. I think we all go through a period where we find someone we really like and doubt or fear will try to creep in. Maybe we’re afraid it’s too good to be true, or that we’ll mess up and lose the person. So we try to steer the relationship along. But that usually messes things up. When I consistently followed the three rules above, it was as if I had called Uber and the girlfriend and I were now riding to a new destination completely carefree. In other words, the relationship was taking care of itself and I no longer had to concern myself with the what ifs. If you feel like the three basic rules above might help out your own situation, give them a try. And then don’t forget to return and let me know how it went. 🙂