We all crave love.
Its not just something humans coincidentally desire - love is something that we need.
From birth, our development and survival has relied upon a healthy and loving attachment to our family, community, and environment. We are able to take risks and discover new things about ourselves and the world, but only when we feel fully supported. This healthy attachment is what nourishes our growth as an individual.
Yet there is a fine line between being supported and being vulnerable.
And every relationship we will ever have is a never-ending dance along this line of support and vulnerability. So in order to create a meaningful and lasting connection with another person, in order to truly experience love, we must provide support and open ourselves to be vulnerable. Its a constant ebb and flow, and sometimes it can feel overwhelmingly impossible. But here is the paradox...
In our attempt to create a lasting connection, we must understand that everything in life is temporary.
The biggest problem most of us have with trying to sustain our relationships is not the lack of desire or motivation to keep loving that person, or to stay interested. The most challenging thing tends to be our misunderstanding of "lasting" to mean permanent. But the only things that last in life are the ones that don't remain the same, but rather they grow and evolve.
The things that last in life are the things that wildly embrace change as neither positive or negative, but as another side-step in the dance. Permanence is a concept that does not apply to reality, especially to relationships. And when we confuse a relationship that lasts with this idea of "permanence," we do ourselves a big disservice. We stifle the natural ebb and flow. We constrict ourselves by adhering to something that is impossible.
Love that lasts invites us to experience impermanence as a beautiful part of being human. So, here are a three ways to cultivate lasting connections and nourish all of your relationships.
1. be fucking Authentic
Because if you are going to love someone else, you better be able to love yourself.
Most often, the mistakes we make in relationships are caused by the way we think things should be. I call this "shoulding" all over ourselves, and its pretty gross. Clinging to the idea that your personal relationships should follow a prescribed set of guidelines is not only extremely unhelpful, it is toxic! And it is something that we all have learned to do.
We define how "good" our relationships are. We count the number of times we talk per week, or have sex, or go out on a date, or who pays the bill. We compare our relationships to movies, the ideal or less than ideal expectations from our parents, or our friends' relationships and perfect they appear to be from the outside.
So stop shoulding, and just be yourself. What do you want? What do you need? And why does that make you any less (or better) than anyone else? Because comparing our relationships (and ourselves) to standards that have been set by others is exactly the behavior that stops us from creating real and authentic connections.
Being authentic should be our number one goal in a relationship. And when we unashamedly embrace our authentic selves, all of the time, we invite others to do the same. Only when this happens will we be able to create a connection that is worth lasting.
2. define Truthfulness vs. too much information
It always boils down to, "he said, she said."
Communication is the most common obstacle in almost every relationship. And although being truthful comes from being authentic, there is another line we must dance between truthfulness and too much information.
The depth and purpose of our love is defined by the ways in which we express our truth to another person, however much or however little.
I think we can all agree that being truthful is quite valuable and necessary to sustain a healthy connection with someone. And if you believe that flat out lying is the answer to your relationship problems, let's be honest, you're probably not reading this article. So in terms of truthfulness, how do we know what's too much information? Well, it is going to depend the circumstance and the people involved, and it's never as simple as black and white.
But there is a way for us to practice putting ourselves in another person's shoes, and it's called empathy. We can exercise our ability to be aware of another person's feelings, thoughts, and maybe even their fears and desires. Then, we can almost predict their response and decide whether or not it will have a positive or negative result. And when we actively empathize with another person's situation, even if we don't understand or agree with it, we innately deepen our intimate connection.
Sometimes we have to ask someone, "Do you want to hear about this?"
This is a question that is both authentic and truthful. If that person does not want to hear about something that you really need to share with them, maybe a change needs to take place. And growing to love another person requires us to constantly be creating small shifts and changes within ourselves.
3. it never hurts to be Grateful
Everyone loves feeling appreciated.
And everyone just wants to be seen and heard. Expressing our gratitude on a regular basis is such an important part of maintaining a connection, in both new and long term relationships. It's the give and take. Being grateful for the exchange of energy and the offering of love is absolutely vital if we want relationships to develop in a positive direction.
Our loved ones will only know when we want something to continue if we show that we appreciate it.
Gratitude can be shown in a multitude of ways, through words or actions, but it must be expressed. If we simply think about how great someone is, and how much we like this certain thing they do for us, or how they make us feel, then they will never know how much we appreciate them. And to create that lasting connection, to continue experiencing those things that we love, we have to express our thanks.
Everyone has a different way of giving and receiving love. Some people like to hear it, some people like to see it, others like to receive gifts or small surprises. The Love Language is a book that explains how people often share love in the same way that they like to receive it. So in terms of how to reciprocate love, how to express your gratitude and your appreciation in a way that it will be best received, think about how this person most often expresses their love to you.
Showing your appreciation will not only strengthen your connection with another person by making them feel loved. But studies have also shown that practicing the emotion of gratitude can literally change our brain structure and allow us to love more fully.
Remember, its all about the ebb and flow.
We must embrace change and allow our relationships to evolve if we want them to last.
We must offer support and encourage vulnerability.