So you’ve met someone and things are going great. Incredibly great! Maybe you expected it. Maybe not. But here the two of you are hitting it off and enjoying yourselves. Your conversations are getting more serious, your interactions more intentional and memorable. Your chemistry is undeniable and you have so much in common! You recognize all the signs of something real and you begin to question, could this be it? Is s/he the one? You’ve been here before and been terribly wrong. Caution is your best friend and you don’t want to jump too soon. The last thing you want to do is get hurt. You certainly don’t want to lead anyone on either. You feel the need to evaluate the situation and take a critical inventory of things. You begin to look for answers to the question: Is this someone I can fall in love with? Are we compatible? Supportive of each other? Are we meant to be? While you work on figuring all that out let me pose a different question to you. Instead of trying to figure out whether you can fall in love with this person consider, Can you learn to love together?
Unfortunately, falling in love is really only one side of the equation. We all know of an individual who was devastated to discover the love they had for someone was not mutual. Falling in love can be one-sided. Learning how to mutually love and meet each other’s needs is a different case altogether.
Love is more than how you feel at any a particular moment. It’s a choice in how you choose to relate to someone else. It takes commitment, sacrifice and being purposeful. All things that should be nourished, developed and grown daily. All things we can learn to do better. Maybe you consider yourself to be one of the best lovers around. Not much room for improvement. Good for you! But here’s the thing- loving someone requires getting to know them intimately and tailoring the way you express love to meet their specific needs. Even if you are excellent at being committed, sacrificial, and purposeful, it all falls short if the person that’s directed towards isn’t able to recognize it.
Take for example the story of a couple and a loaf of bread. Despite being deeply committed to one another, for years the wife felt unloved and under appreciated because her husband always gave her the worst part of the loaf- the end piece! He even had the nerve to save it for her as if to rub in her face that she was only as good as the end of the bread. You can’t even make a whole sandwich with it, she would think to herself. As it happened, eventually she had enough and let him know how awful it was being treated that way. Like any good twist, the story ends with the husband in total shock and dismay. Of course he loved his wife! All these years he made it his goal to only share what he thought was the best part of the loaf with her- the plump doughy end piece. He would sacrifice his own desire for the end of the bread just so she could have it!! He was committed, sacrificial and purposeful, yet they were clearly disconnected.
It’s a simple illustration, that magnifies the point: even if you are excellent at being committed, sacrificial, and purposeful, it all falls short if the person that’s directed towards isn’t able to recognize it. Learning how to love together requires a whole different skill set than simply being emotionally available and open to being in love with someone. It requires us to be focused on the other person, not just how we feel. It requires us to learn how the other person wants and needs to be loved and being willing to do so.
Learning how to love is something my husband and I have fully embraced. Honestly, It’s exciting and intimidating all at the same time. But as we learn new skills and sharpen existing ones, we discover just how much it’s worth the effort. Every challenge we overcome draws us closer and reaffirms what we’ve built, and where we’re heading.
So back to you and your special someone. Yes, I sure do hope you can fall in love! Most of all, I hope you are able to recognize the qualities that will make the two of you great partners in the school of love. Here are some things to consider. We’re still learning as we go, but hopefully this will point you in the general direction.
Learning to Love Together Requires Both Individuals to Be
There’s no getting around this one. The walls have to come down. It won’t work if you’re both waiting for the other to open up first. Take it upon yourself to be open with you partner. See how s/he responds.
Trust that you have each other’s best interest in mind. It can be easy to misinterpret someone’s words or actions. Don’t assume the worst. As you learn to trust, it will make being vulnerable a whole lot easier.
This is not going to happen overnight. Even longtime lovers have things to improve upon. Celebrate your successes and don’t get bogged down by any set backs. Learn from them and be the better for it.
If you don’t have a title or don’t know the nature of your relationship, this is an issue. You need to be all in. No half stepping. No side boos. No keeping your “options” open. There’s no point wasting your or anyone else’s time. Also, your level of commitment goes hand in hand with honesty in your intentions for one another.
Being a lazy lover will get you nowhere fast! Pay attention to each other. Notice what your partner responds positively and negatively to. Don’t look for the worst in each other. Instead discover the best parts of your partner and how to bring out the best in them. When they shine, you shine too!
As you discover new things to work on and improve, be proactive. Discuss it together, have a plan, get resources if you need to and work on it together. Encourage each other along the way.
Be willing to learn and adapt. You don’t have to be stuck in your ways. You can choose to be different. Learn from past mistakes and turn a new page. That also means not comparing this relationship to previous ones. While it’s ok for you to learn from your past, it’s not ok to compare your partner with someone else and how they would’ve done something. You expect your partner to have fresh start with you, so do the same.
Listen to each other. Don’t rely on inference or intuition or second hand sources. Learn to speak to each other and talk things out. Learn to listen to what your partner is communicating to you. Read a book on how to be an effective listener if you have to!
They say love always wins. That’s true because love forgives. When you forgive, there’s no room for grudges or bitterness to take root. You will have bad times and negative experiences. You will do things that annoy or hurt. Remember, what you both are building is too important to tear apart. Deal with your issues and move on.
10. Able to Live the Golden Rule
If nothing else sticks, please, please practice the Golden Rule: “Do to others what you would like them to do to you” (Matthew 7:12). Basically, treat your partner the way you would like to be treated in good and bad situations. Especially the bad situations. If you were the one who did wrong, how would you want your partner to speak to you and behave towards you? It goes both ways!
Hope you find this useful. Happy loving! And be sure to share what you’re learning with someone else!