My recent re-initiation into single life has got me scrutinizing all of the fairytale-chasing, fucked up moments that led to this very one. Here I am drinking coffee, surfing the web, wishing I had a lover to feed me breakfast and sweep the hair off my face. We would laugh together, then kiss. He would tell me that I was lovable and remind me that I exist.
All these lonesome hours got me thinking about the key ingredients to a healthy, functioning, long-lasting relationship. I’ve narrowed it down to a short but ambitious list that (I assume) is only attainable through years of practice. I strongly believe that if you achieve number 5, the rest should fall into place. I am in no way a love guru, but being a young woman who’s fallen in and out of love with all types of humans, I thought some might be interested in what I have to say…
First of all, let’s define respect. We’ve made it a casual word filled with a great deal of fluff (one that’s said too often and rarely at the right time.) Simply put, RESPECT is to appreciate a sense of worth in a person. Think back to the outset of every relationship you’ve had. Before you got to know your spouse in all of their human weaknesses and shortcomings, there was a true appreciation for their excellence, because the unfavorable did not yet exist in your eyes. Slowly but inevitably the true colors are revealed and more often than not this is when the respect dwindles away and the importance of politeness if forgotten. Often, we nag when we don’t respect our partner’s decisions. We suffocate if we feel our space is not respected. We anxiously justify if we feel our own accord does not warrant respect from our spouse. If you want longevity with your lover then I would suggest practicing boundless respect and compulsory politeness. It does not come naturally but it is attainable with repetition.
I did not recognize the importance of intimacy until I had a very hollow affair. Obviously, I am not talking about the act of sex. I am talking about the subtle gestures and delicate moments that create familiarity and safety between two people. Eye contact held a second too long. Pressing lips but not kissing. Finding unknown crevices. Smelling skin. Inhaling. Exhaling. Intimacy is essential and we must memorize it. Without it we are incapable of getting past the exterior and penetrating the vulnerable soul of the one we long to love.
This one is tough. It comes so easy to some. I’ve spent a little time studying people who genuinely trust- as I, frustratingly, am not one of them. Trust seems to be inherent with lack of fear. Anxious apprehension of the other person causing you pain encourages doubt and self-pity. It may be that the only trust we will ever truly experience is among family members. We are bound to them for life, with involuntary confidence. Imagine what it would be like if we applied this kind of faith to our romantic relationships? Imagine the bottomless love possible for someone who trusts as if they’ve never been given a reason not to.
Human beings are flawed. We are constantly fucking up– I was ruthless before I learned this. No doubt, the one you love will hurt you, but if you are working towards enlightened love then you must learn to let go. Allow your partner to live and in turn free yourself from constantly feeling the need to punish. Forgiveness is tied to acceptance. Acceptance of who you are, who you will be, who you were. Acceptance of the changes you are going through, and the mistakes you make along the way.
5. Love (you)
I call this one the fifth element because it is the hardest to attain. It may even be on the same level as enlightenment (fuck, I hope not.) After many years of ups and downs, loving and hurting, tears and confusion. I have inescapably realized that it is not possible to truly love someone until you have fallen madly in love with yourself. Ugh it sounds so cheesy, but it’s real. When you LOVE yourself; anxiety melts, intimacy flows naturally, dignity breathes at your core, and forgiveness is a path to growth. If the one you love leaves you, you are still whole. Be kind to yourself. Feel the love within you. You do not need another person to love you because you already are love.