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The first place we learn love is from our parents. Let’s face it- many of us are at a disadvantage here. They tried, but didn’t leave the best example. Some of us may have been blessed with others: grandparents;aunts and uncles; family friends, community pillars who provided a great or at least decent example of love. No wonder when it comes to practicing love some people seem to have it all figured out while others can’t even find the door. It’s all good though because the one thing about love is we have plenty of opportunities to learn from the relationships we find ourselves in. And because true unconditional love is a well that never runs dry, there’s so much more to learn and exercise even for the most experienced lover out there.
While small children learn from mimicking what they see, as we mature we learn by trial and error. Don’t be down on yourself for a failed relationship. Let it be a teachable moment. Commit to learning from your mistakes and honing in on what you can personally do better. The good thing is we don’t have to wait until we’re in a romantic relationship to practice what we’re learning.
We each have a myriad of relationships NOW; the training ground for us to learn ourselves and how to relate to others. the patience, understanding, commitment that love and marriage require don’t magically appear when you say I DO. Being an honest supportive lover doesn’t come overnight. We have opportunities to know ourselves better by critically evaluating the relationships we are in right now. We can learn something about ourselves from each one. Instead of thinking how to manipulate people to our liking we need to think about what our personal contribution is to a situation that may have ended so well or so terribly.
Through various professional relationships, I learned in some situations I can take things personally. Taking things personally is something that can do real damage in a romantic relationship. While Doing life together, inevitably someone will have a bad day which has nothing to do with you. Taking things personally is a set up for not being able to be there for your mate during a tough time. I also learned I can be very accommodating with strangers, but less so with those closer to me who I expect “more” from.
Learning from the relationships we find ourselves in requires us to place value on the people and connections we make. Otherwise we will dismiss the lessons we should learn as random interactions or just an interesting story to tell our friends later. It shouldn’t matter whether people will be in your life for a minute or for years. That person and interaction should be worthy enough of my attention and the true love I seek should make me humble enough to learn from all my interactions.
This is where it gets tough. Once we’ve identified an area for improvement in our relationships, making changes to our outlook or behavior isn’t always easy. After all we’ve probably be doing the same thing for years!
Here are some steps you can take when making changes to improve you relationships
1. Tell Someone You Trust That You Plan to Make Changes and Ask Them to Check In On How Things Are Going.
This is good for many reasons. A trusted friend can be supportive of your efforts and provide necessary encouragement. Also you are practicing being vulnerable- something you’ll need to be- in a successful relationship. For obvious reasons you can’t be vulnerable with everyone. If you need to change your work ethic, you probably should not confess to your boss that you’ve been doing the bare minimum to get by. Or worse yet, that the only reason you want to make things right on the job is because you don’t want to do the bare minimum when you meet Mr/Mrs right! Now, if you are in a romantic relationship, sharing with your mate is the way to go, Chances are s/he is already aware of what you may need to work on. Having an honest and open conversation about your desire to make this better will provide an opportunity to grow together. S/he will certainly respect you more for making the effort and inviting them to be a supportive partner along the way.
2. Be Patient with Yourself! You May Not Get it Right The First Time You Try.
Give yourself credit for trying and keep at it. No one expects you to be Mr/Mrs Perfect. But you should expect to give it your best especially for the people you’re learning to love!
3. Share Your Successes!
As you find yourself succeeding in building better relationships, find others to share this with. You will be reinforcing the positive changes you’re making and investing in the growth of others. Also you’ll be building a community of people learning and practicing love. It’s sad to me that people can often give more attention to the horrors of love gone wrong instead of sharing the highs and joy of getting love right! We need more honest positive stories of people working at love and succeeding!
4. Last but Not Least, Ask God to Help You Change and Maintain.
Back to a point made earlier: unconditional self-sacrificing love runs counter to our need for self-preservation. Also, change is hard. As we learn to let go of purely selfish motivations and learn to be there for others, we will certainly face somethings in ourselves that we’re totally ill-equipped to address. We shouldn’t let this discourage us. Ask the Master Lover to help us. After all, God surely knows exactly what’s at the heart of it. Be committed to and prepared for whatever journey He takes you on to fix it. I’m sure it’ll be quite the adventure; but be committed to the process. You’ll come out like gold and your relationships will be that much better!
♥ ♥ ♥
Keep Reading for Additional Resources
Here are example questions relating to some key components of true love you can ask yourself as you reflect on the people and relationships in your life now.
Q: Am I looking for more ways to contribute to this relationship or am I looking for more ways to gain from it?
Q: Am I waiting for an opportunity to get even with a person instead of letting go of a wrong they did? Do I keep bringing up the past instead of letting go?
Q: Am I trustworthy with the personal information I know about people or am I sharing their business with others?
Q: Am I always honest with people or do I bend the truth to get my way? Do I speak the truth to build people up or to tear them down?
Q: Am I willing to hear constructive criticism from others or only those things that make me feel good?
Here are example questions for reflecting on situations
Good and bad times are rarely the result of one person’s actions.
Q: What did I think, say, do that contributed to the situation?