I have a friend who is falling in love. I have seen her through some pretty messed up relationships. I have seen her keep some of these guys in her “emotional recycling bin”. Afraid to throw them out, Just in case they would change. Being with one guy but waiting to see if something better comes along (or to go back to that recycling bin). I’m not all that young, and when it comes to the topic of life-long love, it will be an eternity before I feel anything but young in that regard. I will never have all of the answers.
Love is such a unique and complex entity. It starts out as this distant thought that most people think of very lightly for as long as possible. Then, time creeps up on you, and almost in an instant, forever starts to become more than a thought. Marriage has never felt light to me. When I Love- I love with all my heart. All my soul.
I have offered advice- sometimes too much. But, my friend, before you fall into that deep FOREVER love here are some things you (and anyone in love) should do.
1. Establish a true acceptance of our parents and of their relationships.
Some of us were blessed enough to have parents with a very strong and loving relationship. Others were not so lucky. Leave behind any resentment and negativity you feel about your parents’ relationship. You are not your parents.
2. Rid ourselves of our immaturities.
When I envision the journey from first love to FOREVER love, I see the changes I have made. I see myself letting go of pettiness. I see an understanding person. You need to become a woman that possesses very little jealously, selfishness or bitterness. I know no one can be perfect. You just need to grow every day. Before you can dedicate yourself to a man, you need to be a woman mature enough to handle the situations and face them together with a sort of grace. I think we all need that.
3. Love who we are and find true confidence.
I have told you before- before you can love anyone you must first love yourself. I want you to build a life with someone, not build yourself into someone. It becomes all too easy to establish a sense of identity in someone else. Before promising yourself to someone for forever, you have to be able to know how special and incredible forever can be with you. You have to believe that first, not wait for someone to tell you.
4. Feel like we have and will continue to follow all of our dreams.
Contrary to some beliefs, following one’s dreams isn’t just a quest limited to a person’s twenties or thirties. The ability to continue to follow our dreams is a lifelong gift. We all need to feel like we have followed our dreams pertaining to being young and single. We also have to feel like we will still be able to follow our dreams with our partner. A partner is someone to grow with; you must follow the desires of your hearts and minds with one another. Being confident that you can do those things without someone else, and that you’ve done all that you’ve wanted to do on your own, is crucial.
5. Let go of unfair expectations of ourselves.
I know I am a perfectionist. I can be incredibly hard on myself. I have beaten myself up about everything from the lack strength in my arm after surgery to my sub-par abilities in my college constitutional law classes. We all do it, especially when we are younger and have less acceptance for our inevitable imperfections. Before we can really fall in love, I think it’s important to be able to let go of this expectation of perfection for ourselves. We can’t expect perfection in our relationships or in who we are. We will be many things in our lives. We have become mothers and fathers. If we are going to do that with any amount of happiness, we will need to be able to accept imperfection, and see the beauty that lies within each of us.
6. Become entirely conscious of the fact that there is no need to rush any stage of life.
Rushing is in your nature. You get excited. You want to move on to each new and intriguing stage of your life. However, part of being truly ready to fall in love is knowing that like all other stages, it doesn’t have to be done in a hurry (How many times have I said- Go SLOW. And then SLOW DOWN SOME MORE?) Love is not a testament to the validity of your adulthood or to your mature relationship. It isn’t something to check off your bucket list. When you fall in love, it should be the right time for the right reasons. It should be something you can afford to spend the time you really want to on.
7. Understand what we require from life for true happiness.
This may seem like a no-brainer upon first glance, but it is actually extremely difficult to concretely determine what it is that each of us needs for happiness. If it’s passion and laughter that you need in life, that isn’t something you can compromise. You have to be able to do things you are passionate about and that bring you true happiness. You have to be able to go on hikes together, or order pizza for movie marathons. You have to be able to talk about what matters to you. You have to be able to do what you love. The first step to all of that is just figuring out what those things are you need in life and making sure you have them when you are ready.
8. To have stopped making decisions out of fear.
Being with someone forever shouldn’t be because you are afraid to be without them. The same goes for your career choices or your choices with living circumstances. You shouldn’t live in one place because you don’t know if you’d make it where you really want to be. You shouldn’t be with a person because you are afraid you won’t find someone else. You shouldn’t settle in life at all, and you certainly shouldn’t do so because of fear. As adults, we must be able to thrive in the unknown and follow the rhythmic passions of our hearts and minds. During the next few years you will face situations that are terrifying and complicated. However, entering those years knowing that your heart is stronger than your sweaty palms, can make all the difference in the end.
9. To understand the importance of understanding.
Being young can often mean being innately selfish. This is often a good thing actually, because it helps to encourage each of us to work towards our dreams vigorously and not allow others to dictate our life choices. However, when it comes time to share a life with someone, selfishness can be toxic in certain ways. Relationships brings differences. It means making decisions alongside someone else that strongly affect the both of you. It means looking at situations from a perspective that isn’t your own. It means compromise. It means respect. Before any of us are ready to offer a partnership in this world, we have to be ready to let go of stubborn attitudes and pridefulness. We have to be able to understand.
10. To know what love is.
“Love is patient. Love is kind. It is not envious, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”
Corinthians 13 (ANYONE WHO REALLY KNOWS ME AND IS READING THIS IS SHOCKED THAT I QUOTED THE BIBLE.)
11. Never lose yourself.
Before you fell for anyone and entered into a relationship. You were a professional with a career and a bright future. You were a parent. You were a friend. Anyone who stands in your way of being the best parent, the best photographer, the best coach, the best friend isn’t worth it.