In my lifetime I have adventured through the spectrum of love in relationships of all kind. I’ve seen the worst understanding of love to the best manifestation of it; I’ve also been the worst manifestation of it and the best understanding of it. I’m sure that you have seen the spectrum of love as well, from family, to friends, pets, God, strangers, nature and romance, or with yourself. Did you know that they all originate from unconditional love?
I could write about romantic love alone but that is not the only great love we should focus on, work on, “find” or maintain. I believe the changing should begin with our relationship to love. For no matter how much we want to be with someone or care for someone, if we don’t know what unconditional love is supposed to look, feel, sound or be like – we are always operating with a faulty manual.
Love really does need to begin with yourself. I know it may sound cliché by now, but it may only sound that way to you because you’ve simplified it down to an over-used Instagram quote that you read, agree with, liked and scroll on. There needs to be engagement with this belief. And it needs to be an honest engagement with the difficult questions that come with it. Whether you are single or coupled, a parent or child, a friend or enemy, closed or open, looking or waiting… the love in which you believe in… is it given to yourself with the same understanding, appreciation, willingness and maintenance? Where did your idea of love and its expression and expectations come from? Is there any hint of martyrdom, indifference, control, fear, or even manipulation involved? What are the conditions?
What You See, Is In You
For you see, those you look at that anger you, that frustrate you, that make you question their love for you – is a mirror of those fears, angers, frustrations and difficulties within yourself that you have not addressed fully. And in this lack of awareness, your responses and reactions are acted upon these unconsciously hidden inner fears and frustrations. Most of the time this reflection is not about the person you are looking at, it may not even be an old relationship prior to it, a lot of the time it is from other situations of love that we grew up with that have stemmed into all these other aspects of our lives that have love as well…
Think back to your childhood, what is one memory that you very clearly recall that was one of the first lessons of love? Was it watching your parents? Your first kiss with a boy? Someone you love passing away? Connecting with your first pet as your first real friend? When you told your secrets to someone you trusted? Did it end well?
In each of these and many more scenarios, visit this memory with self-compassion, honesty, empathy and fearlessness – for there really is nothing to fear but the feeling of fear itself. These are natural emotions that were never fully expressed or let go of, and, if you would like to now… you can, it will help you and it will help all your relationships in life.
When you visit this memory, notice the feelings that arise when you think of it, as that is your greatest compass to understanding how this relates to the present. Again, if you are not ready or willing to engage with it honestly then it is better to wait till you are ready. But know that denial, negligence, and avoidance will affect your present life, subtly and intensely.
Do you feel an uneasiness in your body rising? Do you feel a heat in the stomach rising up into your face, turning you red? Do you feel difficulty breathing or notice yourself holding your breath? Or your body is pumped with adrenaline and you can’t stop fidgeting your leg or fingers? Jaw or fists clenched?
It may be even more obvious and recognizable in your thoughts, where you may think this activity is pointless, that it’s all someone else’s fault, or that things won’t change… perhaps there are clues in your emotions, a hopelessness or deep sadness and pain when those memories are engaged.
Then, Let Go; Now
After you’ve identified how you truly feel about it, it’s time to let it come full circle, to let it go so that it no longer affects the relationships you have now. This can be done in many ways and it may take some time. Sometimes all it takes is awareness of it so that it can be brought to light and accepted; sometimes we need to let go of it physically as it stores this stress in our cellular body – and I advise holotropic breath as it is very powerful and effective, especially if you notice very physical responses; sometimes it’s a mental or emotional blockage/habit that needs to be retrained and other forms of energetic healing are helpful with this. Most of the time it is all of it put together. Listen to your self about what you need.
It is important to learn how to connect it to the now, for once you realize how it feels in your body, what kind of thoughts you have about it, and emotions that arise when you experience it – you will be that much more able to recognize the same reactions/responses in present situations. And it will dawn on you that you are repeating a stress response to these similar experiences in present time. We have developed from our painful and traumatic pasts a defensive fight, flight or freeze response to issues, and it like a knee-jerk reaction when we are not aware of what caused us to have this stress response. Yet once we do, and are willing to change our present circumstances, you will be able to make changes to your understanding, responses and reactions. For a loving relationship is two ways, so is a conflict – when we do our part to change our participation, the stress response of others may not need to be triggered back and in turn you and others will be able to communicate this issue mutually and lovingly.
For example, you may have been told as a child by family members that you are too emotional or aggressively expressive. And over time, you battled with this notion that you were and fought back to their judgement. Anger may have been the expression but inside you felt like you had a lot of love to give, but you became your own self-fulfilling prophecy. All romantic relationships after would end up with you feeling like you were un-loveable and that you kept pushing people away, that you were too much for someone to “deal with,” or when you met someone who could “manage” you – you were not yourself. This is self-sabotage at its best, and in this brief scenario, it could be (as it was for me) to realize that your emotional expression was being stifled and to acknowledge that you don’t have to fight their every response/reaction, that through these difficult times you can change your participation in it – that you truly had a role in your own pain and suffering. You may need to change your relationship to love, by giving yourself some more room to breathe out your past pains and believe that in communicating where your frustrations come from that others will help support you to the finish line, where you can finally let go of the struggle.
Ways to Change Your Relationship To Love
One of the most popular references I give to people is the book The 5 Love Languages, by Gary Chapman. I was given this book by a goddess friend and it has changed my communication of love. I thought I was already quite good at communicating but, this put into perspective that the way I grew up left me with very different and personal experiences with love, as do others. And by learning that there at 5 common ways in which people express and receive love, I was better able to change my dialect for different people and redirect conflict into loving communication. My relationships in family, friends and partners vastly improved and we spoke from open hearts.
Another way to change your relationship to love is to push the boundaries of honesty and compassion. There is honesty and there is bluntness. Honesty should be coupled with compassion, because ultimately your goal is to be in more loving relationships. Compassion is key. So, why self-sabotage yourself by not being your full authentic and loving self, and trusting that beating around the bush or not taking the time to express yourself in the most loving way possible would be a better option? It does not make you stronger, it hinders you from the difficulty of courage in love. The courage to love as much as you can is a character of a strong person.
Take the time to redefine your understanding of love. For I see too often the desire to want more out of relationship yet one is unwilling to see how their expectations or settling behaviour limits the expansion love can give. Look to a relationship you have in your life (doesn’t matter if it’s with god, parents, children, nature, pets, etc.), one that is truly unconditional. Where it is mutual, expectation-less but yet it meets all necessities of a full and joyful heart. Take the simple lessons from here and apply them to other parts of your life where you want your loving relationships to improve.
Love yourself. Love. Yourself. This is not about getting the right selfie, or being selfish, or putting yourself on a pedestal above others. This love for yourself is something much deeper. The kind of self love where you are happy with your own company, the kind that understands saying/doing hurtful things to others will hurt yourself. The kind of self-love that does not depend on others for it to be real, if you love yourself in this honest and compassionate way – others who are the same will see that in you from a mile away and you will begin to welcome more loving relationships – of all kind, into your life.