The thing about love is that it cannot be quantified.
People can throw around biological “love hormone” terms like oxytocin and dopamine. They can say that love is a survival mechanism necessary for procreation. But in the end, love is too unpredictable to measure.
You can’t explain why you love one person so hard, and feel nothing for another.
You can’t explain the horrors of jealousy and fear in a relationship—and to what point that horror can escalate.
You can’t explain why you simply CANNOT stop loving someone—even though you know you should.
Which is probably why you read this blog. Because where science fails (and it does), solidarity takes its place. Yes, we may all experience love in different ways, but at least we can look at each other and empathize with each other over the confusion and volatility that is… LOVE.
A Lesson in Love
I was recently adopted.
The family who adopted me are very different to other people. They are brutally honest without being judgmental. They admit to wanting my company even though it makes them somewhat vulnerable when they do. They allow for a diversity of opinions and don’t condemn anyone for not agreeing with their views. They also allow for a diversity of personalities without expecting people to change in order to suit them
To me, this is what love is all about.
My new family has taught me these principles. And being the ferocious thinker that I am, I’ve had to process this version of love—because it’s new to me.
Where Did You Learn to Love?
So how does this relate to dating?
Well, I think we learn how to love from our families. The reason so many of us are incapable of showing love is because we simply don’t know how. We don’t have a template to work from.
Your mother or father may have severely dropped the ball during your childhood; and perhaps their parents did the same with them. (I’ve played the blame game; it’s pointless)
So what are we left with? A string of unsuccessful relationships where we’ve allowed misunderstandings and fear to overshadow the light & beauty that is true love.
Dating is hard. It’s difficult to expose yourself to others who are damaged in different ways than you. It’s so easy to allow your own complicated experience with love to tarnish a new relationship.
But it happens—every single time.
Over the years I’ve destroyed relationships that were very important to me. I didn’t try to destroy them, but I did—without realizing it—allow pride, selfishness and fear to creep in.
When a friendship ends or a family tie is severed, it makes me very depressed. I’ve lost good friends over the years because they disagreed with my life choices. I’ve lost family members because of differing political & religious views.
I discovered the hard way that many of my relationships existed out of obligation—not a true willingness to have me around.
And one of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn is that people will tell you that they are there for you no matter what—but most don’t really mean it.
So maybe love cannot be quantified by science or biology, but we can learn from our mistakes and get our relationships RIGHT!
I’m no expert… I admit that. But I’ve been lucky enough to meet people who are (in my eyes) experts on love.
This is what they have taught me.
1. Unadulterated ACCEPTANCE
Okay, I’m going to try my best not to climb on my soapbox right now. But I will admit this to you… I really hate it when someone tries to change me.
You probably do too. Most of us want to be allowed to be ourselves without feeling pressured into tweaking our personalities to suit others.
I’m an awkward guy. I don’t do well meeting new people. It takes a while for me to show new people my true personality. To open up to them. Most don’t stick around long enough anyway—which is fine.
There’s a reason I’m like that: I have a long history of relationships where I tried to accommodate the other person by being who they wanted me to be.
This has always been a recipe for failure.
You can’t keep changing your identity, no matter how versatile or adaptable you think you are. People will always find you out. And when they see that you’re someone different to who they thought, they will usually leave.
So what does real acceptance look like?
How to Disagree Like a Pro
You don’t have to agree with everyone on everything. Even the big things like religion, political views and sports teams (yes, I went there).
As my uncle always said, “You can disagree without being disagreeable”. It’s true. You can voice your opinion without raising your voice, getting aggressive or disliking the other person.
You can feel heard without forcing your opinion on someone. Not everyone is going to agree with you. Accept that.
Learn these phrases:
- “Okay, I have to disagree.”
- “I hear you. I don’t agree, but I see where you’re coming from.”
- You make a good point, but I must disagree.”
You can be civil. Forcing your opinion on someone isn’t worth the relationship. It’s just not.
Now don’t get me wrong; there are some disagreements that touch on values. When your value system is far removed from someone else’s, a rift will form.
Racism is a good example.
I was brought up to be racist, and deprogramming myself from that is a life-long battle. I simply could not be friends with someone who hinders that deprogramming. I’ve lost family members because I couldn’t reconcile with someone who treated others like they were subhuman.
This is what I call a deal breaker. If the relationship cannot continue because your values are just too different, don’t feel guilty for ending it.
Yes, you’ll be sad. Even depressed. But some relationships need to die—and for good reason.
Everyone Has a Vice
Guess what? Every person struggles with something.
Yes, you too. It may be a hidden problem that no one knows about, or something visible that everyone can see. But you have a vice, just like everyone else.
I think it’s important for us to accept each other despite our vices. It’s easy to look at someone and say, “Well, at least I don’t have that problem.” But your weaknesses lie elsewhere, so remember that before you judge another person.
True love in any relationship can only come if we accept each other for our faults, our imperfections and our weaknesses.
You don’t know what people are going through or struggling with. You don’t know the history that resulted in the person they are today.
So follow this one simple rule:
Be kind. Always.
2. Unconditional SUPPORT
When someone tells me they’ll always be there for me, I’m sceptical.
In my experience, not many have stuck to that promise. It’s a hard promise to keep, so be careful when you make it.
But support can be shown in many other ways. Here’s my take—so let me know if you agree.
Become a Phenomenal Listener
I love watching people in social situations. It’s a firm belief of mine that listening is the key to any successful relationship.
Being a good listener makes you a better parent. It makes you a better spouse. It even makes you a better lover.
And I’m not talking about listening to someone ramble on about something that’s important to them. I mean really paying attention to people when they open themselves up to you. Noticing what makes their eyes light up. Getting to know what their passion is.
This is real listening. If you can learn to listen well, you will learn how to love people more fully. Simple as that.
Check Up on Those You Love
We tend to presume that our friends, family and respective partners remain as we left them when we last saw them.
But things change quickly. The person you have a relationship with may be going through hell right now. They may be struggling with something you know nothing about.
Check up on them. Not in a creepy way. Just send them a text to show that you care. Nobody is an island. People need you just as much as you need them.
And perhaps if you show you care, that person will check up on you one day when you need it.
Voice Your Appreciation
There’s a powerful relationship tool that solidifies interpersonal relationships. I call it relationship cement… It’s appreciation.
I love this article about small ways you can show appreciation for someone in your life. This works well for love relationships, friendships, work relationships, and family.
Telling someone that they are appreciated makes them feel valued, wanted and acknowledged. I don’t do it nearly as often as I should.
None of us do. Let’s change that.
3. Authentic FRIENDSHIP
Friendships fade away. I hate to admit it, but it’s true.
The friends you have today may not be the ones you end up with later in life. People move away. People outgrow you (or vice versa). People are fickle.
I’ve heard people say that friendships fade but family is for life. This is not true. Family members will leave too. It’s heart wrenching, but that’s life.
Authentic friendship must be present and visible in all your relationships. You can’t make a marriage work unless there’s a friendship. Looks will fade. Sex will die down. People will compete for your attention.
Friendships—AUTHENTIC FRIENDSHIPS—last forever. So build more of them, and focus on building a friendship with your partner. In the end, it’ll be all you have left; so make sure it’s a strong one.
Value What You Have
People are so beautiful—each one in their own special way. Love is weird. You don’t expect to love someone; and then it happens. It’s totally random.
Someone may be loving you from a distance right now—and you have no idea.
My point is this… value love for what it is. It’s inexplainable; sometimes messy; often painful… but it’s always beautiful if you let it be.
So to Cindy, Stuart, Damian, Talia, Matt, Tash, Joel and Arabella… thank you for being the people you are. Thank you for showing me what a real family looks like. I know you guys have your issues just like everyone else, but don’t ever let go of what you have with each other.
Take it from someone who has lost countless people—and cried over every single one…
…what you have is precious.
More precious than you realize.