Press pause for a moment … on your work deadlines, on your kid’s school schedules, on your long weekend plans, on whatever device is ringing and buzzing. I have an important question for you.
How is your love life going lately? How’s your heart? If you’re single, do you find that you’re not happy with the partners you keep attracting? If you’re coupled, are you noticing some troubling patterns? Are you sending out an SOS?
Recently, I’ve been reflecting on my own marriage and the spiritual lessons I’ve learned from it in the past 17 years.
I used to fail at love
Truth be told, I used to fail at love. Seriously. I used to be mean to my husband. I used to avoid intimacy. When our marriage nearly ended a few years back, I had to own up to these and other serious crimes of the heart, and then I had to change.
I learned how to get good … no, GREAT at loving and being IN love. At being happily married. At being one half of a successful partnership. The lessons aren’t innate. Whether you’re single or coupled, learning and practicing them will change your love life forever.
Lesson 1: Don’t wait around for what you want
How much better will it feel to be the master of your fate in love, rather than the victim of someone else’s supposed changes or deficiencies? Take stock of all your current complaints about how your love life is going and pretend all those jurisdictions are yours.
If you care about candlelit dinners, light the candles. If you care about a certain kind of food or level of cleanliness, make it happen! You really never know how it will be/feel until you try. For couples, this communication is key. Vague expectations are the blueprints for disappointment.
Singles: this means getting clear on what you DON’T want too, and recalibrating your actions to suit. If you’re yearning to meet the love of your life, make it known and start actively dating to find the one, and – effective immediately – cut ties with your on-again-off-again secret office fling.
Simply wishing for something, talking about it, complaining, or even asking for it directly and repeatedly won’t make it happen. They’re your dreams – don’t wait around for someone to make them come true. @HGLifeCoaching (Click to Tweet!)
Lesson 2: Judge not, lest ye be judged – and usually for the same brand of flaws
Note all the things you don’t like about your partner. For example: s/he doesn’t communicate, s/he isn’t being honest, doesn’t do what s/he says, is a cheater, is lazy, etc. Chances are very high you are committing the same crimes – just not in the same way or same degree. If they lie about big things, do you lie about small things? If she’s an avoider, what do you do to get out of uncomfortable situations? Rather than comparing your innocence to their guilt, seek the complimentary flaw that led you to choose them.
I promise, it’s there.
In the case of my husband, he was always needing to prove he was good enough, so he picked a woman who kept demanding. And since my issue was never feeling cared for, I picked an insecure man who would always keep trying. Neither one of us was ever satisfied until we caught wind of our dynamic and committed to growing up on both sides of our marriage. He had to man up and take care of himself first, and I basically had to do the same, take care of my own needs and not put it on him.
Owning up to your worst traits is never easy, but always cathartic. It leads to honesty, revelation, humor, forgiveness of yourself and your partner, and maybe even your parents and grandparents and other ancestors, when you realize you inherited it from them!
Lesson 3: Don’t forget that YOU picked them and why
We tend to be incredibly amnesiac when it comes to remembering that WE CHOSE (and why we chose) our partners once they start disappointing us. We’re the ones who invited them in! We forget everything we loved about them specifically, sometimes even turning those traits into what sucks about them.
For example, I loved my husband’s generosity, but when I saw him bestow it on anyone other than me, I got jealous and spiteful. Conversely, when I trained myself to remember and appreciate WHY I picked him, his generosity turned back to me and I could appreciate the enormous benefits of being with a universally generous man. Please take a moment right now to remember what you first loved about you partner, or what you find most attractive in your “type” – that feistiness, her vulnerability, his strength, her dedication, his loyalty, her sense of playfulness.
These attractions are like puzzle pieces. They fit into their corresponding shape in YOU, for better or worse. We can track our attractions to the source by asking, “what does it say about me that I choose this?”
Lesson 4: Don’t lose sight of yourself
Ultimately, you choose how you want to be in any relationship. It is certainly no one’s dream to be moody, nagging, distant, cold, spiteful, manipulative or mean – and yet, our worst traits tend to rise to the surface the minute things heat up. When you “act out,” what you’re really doing is acting out of integrity, and out of line with your ideals.
Have you been dreaming about who you want to be as a partner and living into that dream? Are you hunting down your dark side and putting it in check? Are you looking to yourself as your own source of happiness?
This is perhaps the biggest lesson of all.
Take it from someone who knows. Like Joni Mitchell, I’ve looked at love from both sides now. And I can honestly say that, 17 years later, more than ever – I’m deeply in love with my husband and deeply proud of the life we co-create every day.
For those of you needing a love-upgrade in your life, you can get it. But being honest about your shortcomings and adopting a new perspective will only bring you halfway there. The real magic comes with the design you put into place with your actions – and we have a method that shows you exactly how to do it.
P.S. Our free tool will help you better navigate the dating world, get deeply honest about what you really want, and rock out your first few dates. Download your free guide here: How to Rock the First 3 Dates!
Laurie Gerber is a Senior Coach and Co-President of Handel Group® Life Coaching. For over 15 years, Laurie has led international events and private coaching courses. She has appeared on MTV’s True Life, A&E’s The Marriage Test, Dr. Phil and TODAY.
Image Courtesy of Pablo Heimplatz.