Let us take a moment to consider those we love. Those we engage in close relationships, where we are mutually attentive to each other. I’d like you to consider, who are you allowing yourself to be in these relationships? Meaning, what parts of you are you comfortable to share and express fully? Are you able to pursue your interests and feel supported in those endeavors? Are you able to express your needs and desires? Are you able to be fully honest? And, perhaps most importantly, is the love you are offering able to be received? Because, obviously, no relationship can be fulfilling if there is not a give and take.
Along with having our love received, I think it’s also important to feel that the intention with which that love is offered is also recognized. Having another person recognize our intention seems essential in a fulfilling relationship. For example, if you were to prepare breakfast for your loved one, and in making it, you considered all aspects of that person… the spices they like, the bowl they prefer, the temperature they enjoy and timed it so that it would be ready on their wake. These details, or intentional efforts that live in our love for another, elevate our breakfast offering to a loving intention accompanied by toast. If our partner were to awake, smell their favorite spices and be led by their nose to the dining table; and in their return love, pause to acknowledge the details of the offering, it is likely the giver will feel more fulfilled as well as the receiver. Now, if the receiver merely enjoyed the breakfast, and said a hearty ‘thanks,’ that may fill us, but likely not as deeply. My point, love is reciprocal and recognizing our partner’s intentions behind their actions, and acknowledging them, seems a valuable awareness of that love. I’d like to also hit the pause button for a moment and say that our intentions in sharing are what matters and that if we are also holding an expectation in our giving, then that detracts from the love behind the effort. If when our partner notices the cinnamon, but not the favored bowl, and we get upset, then we were not offering our love freely.
When we hold expectations surrounding our love, this mars that love and can ultimately prove destructive to the relationship. If every time our partner fails to notice that we used their favorite bowl and we then criticize them for that, they will not feel safe to freely receive our offered love. And, rightfully so, because it is coming at a cost. Love is meant to be free. Whoa, you may be saying! That would take an incredible amount of trust and openness with our partner to ensure our offerings are being received and we are also getting our needs met. Yes, that’s exactly right. Loving freely requires more trust than most of us are comfortable giving, and if I may, this is why relationships require effort and genuine work. A relationship of this kind requires complete vulnerability, honesty, self-reflection, planning, awareness of self-victimization, and a recognition of our personal intentions. This level of honesty is likely going to challenge every pattern you ever learned about love and loving another.
With that said, I think it also has to be about the striving. When we are willing to fall, get up, dust ourselves off, and approach our partner saying that we fell, and here is how, and here is what we learned, and here is why we are sorry, and here is what we would like to do next time. And, next time, we draw on that love to begin the process of breaking those patterns, even if it means saying to our partner, “I am so scared. I want to behave like this because it feels safe to me, but that is not the relationship I want to have with you. This is what I feel, and I don’t know what to do. I love you and I want to show you that. Can you please help me?” The more we do this, the more we break those habitual behaviors that likely just lead to cycle after cycle of the same arguments or situations.
Loving freely has to begin with ourselves. It means being willing to be as vulnerable as we can be, acknowledging where we are struggling, and accepting of where we have misstepped. It is about ownership and openness, in combination; to allow for the truth of who we are to be present in our love. Are you allowed to be this person in your relationship? What would happen if you tried? P.S. You likely don’t know yet. Try it. See what happens.