Understanding “True” Love…

We all crave love…true love–yet defining what that is supposed to look and feel like can be difficult to do.  So many people go day after day asking themselves “What kind of love am I looking for?”– reality is, the only love you should accept is “REAL” love.  Notice I didn’t say “True” , because love is real then it will be true; besides the word “real” encompasses a wider spectrum than “true”.

Love shouldn’t be an act, it shouldn’t be superficial, it shouldn’t be a place where you feel you cannot expose all your light and darkness; if the love is real it will help you grow and transcend such darkness.  No one else can do the work required to transcend our pain but real love can certainly inspire you to do so.

One doesn’t have to have life “figured out” before allowing real love to come in, that would be impossible as at one point or another we are working on something.  What I believe is important, is for you to have the desire to grow and to show yourself for who you really are.  When you are working on yourself, you are loving yourself and when you are loving yourself you will attract those who will love you in a healthier way.

In this day and age there are hundreds of “relationship coaches”, many of who give advice which I find preposterous.  They don’t teach people to focus on themselves first; for in order to be able to offer love you have to love for yourself.  They don’t teach people to cautiously learn to be vulnerable, instead many of these “coaches” teach people to hide their wounds, to pretend in order to attract a mate.  What do you think will happen? inevitably such a person will attract another who is also on the same path…pretending.  After the honeymoon period is over, life will expose all the intricacies of each one; usually the result is disappointment.

Many “couple” therapists often find themselves with the dilemma of having to find a way to explain to their patients what it is we call “true love”.  It can be hard to try to explain love for usually human beings are used to calling their love true love every time they start a relationship.  We are overwhelmed by the illusion, the passion and all that torrent of neurotransmitters endowing us with endless intense emotions. However, after a period of time questions arise which make people question their choice; disappointed they tell themselves “that person wasn’t my true love”.  In many cases they are accurate, as most relationships are meant to help you recognize the things inside which are hidden and which need work.  Most of your relationships are meant to prepare you for your “True” love….before I move on, let me emphasize one more time the importance of being yourself no matter what, because in order to experience “true” love you will need “real” love.  

Scientific research has taught us there are many types of love. We have romantic love, possessive love, animal love; based solely on physical attraction; love based on friendship and of course the love which cultivates intimacy–as you can see defining what exactly true love is, isn’t always easy. I would describe real love as one where you “learn and grow; a love which can be challenging but which is based on a deep desire to be vulnerable and to expose your dreams, fantasies, wounds, talents and shortcomings.  That type of love can be very rocky to start with but over time it helps you mature and develops your understanding for one another in a way that is honest and not just “tolerable”.  Who wants to be somewhere where you are just tolerated instead of  loved?…loved even with that you consider your shortcomings.

In our society we have made the mistake of confusing “tolerating someone” with “understanding someone”.   So many couples “tolerate” their partner, they simply ignore that which bothers them and label it as “acceptance” /”tolerating”.  In order to truly accept someone you have to first understand that person.  In order to understand someone you have to take the time to get to know the person behind the mask, to walk with them as they show you their wounds; to agree to disagree, to be willing to have arguments without mentally escaping, without giving up and then labeling such action as “acceptance”.   You can’t accept or understand what you don’t know or have not experienced.  Love then is more complex than it seems.  Tolerating is the biggest reason behind a couple’s break up; that and the misunderstood idea that someone was being good and someone was bad and chose to simply give up.  A relationship takes two people and tolerating someone isn’t loving someone.   

When one is willing to be vulnerable; even if that makes you look needy, scare, or whatever other negative connotation you have been taught; is when one can grow and transcend, allowing you and your partner to build a strong relationship together.  Fake confidence isn’t strength. It takes real strength not to ignore your feelings, your wounds and those of your partner.  It takes strength to face your partner, to get to know you partner knowing you may not like what you will find.  It takes strength to show yourself as you are, with your highs and lows.  Being vulnerable isn’t weak, it’s being strong and having a quiet but real confidence.

There is no exact formula to describe what “true” love looks like but I will give you a few hints on what “real” love looks like based on my own experiences.  If it helps you great, if you feel is no for you that is okay too; we are all different.  The only thing I would like for you to do is to ask yourself one question: “Do you want love?” or “Do you want REAL love”, if you want the latter one, then its time to start getting real with yourself first….

True love starts with self-love .-  Often we fall in love with love. We tend to nurture an ideal which for generations has conveyed to us the image of romantic love.  Let us not make the mistake of continuing to feed this erroneous concept which has lead to loss of self esteem as well as emotional and physical suicides.  
To love in  a real way we need to value ourselves first, this includes loving ourselves enough to walk away when we truly know the love is gone, is damaging us or pushing us towards self destructive behaviors.  It is important not to forget, that to  say “I love you” you must first learn to say “I”.… Am “I” being true to myself? Am I able to expose myself as I am?” “Am I growing?”, “Am I being vulnerable?” “Am I facing my wounds and working on healing?”

Self-love and self-knowledge are the keys to generating healthy relationships.  To find the right person, to find “true” love, we must prepare ourselves for a relationship. This demands an interior work which will take time and which can be very exhausting and challenging but it is worth it because YOU are worth it.  Start preparing yourself, don’t expect your work to be done before you meet the ‘right” person; at the very least you will be at a place where what you can offer is real and where you have learned what it is YOU like and dislike independently of someone else.

Real love is built.-  “True” love is not built from nothing; to build love it is necessary to be honest with one another and be a team. A relationship isn’t a place for either party to simply fill their loneliness or to play victim and/or savior.   In order to be able to be part of an effective relationship field all pretenses have to be drop.  You are not there to be the victim nor to save someone.  NO ONE can be saved!  If anybody “saves” themselves is by their own merit.  In the same way, if anybody falls under the “victim syndrome” is due to their own need to play a toxic role (this excludes women or men who are mentally and physically abused against their own will). To build love requires more than traditional “communication” , it will require more than just being sympathetic, it will require for you to be empathetic.  In order to be empathetic you must be willing to put yourself in the other person’s shoes.

Real love has no superficial conditions but knows limits.- It’s normal not to like everything about our partner.   Sometimes differences make love more interesting and beautiful.  If we limit ourselves to loving only the things which we like about the other person, we will have an incomplete relationship.  We all try to find someone like ourselves because it is familiar; reality is nobody will be exactly like us. I know is hard to understand this simple concept; I know it from experience; but understanding it and integrating it, can help you grow in ways you can not even begin to imagine.  On the other hand if we focus on idealizing our partner, we will live in a lie.  I am not saying there is anything wrong with focusing on the best in your partner or with expressing it out loud if that is your preference; it certainly is mine; however it doesn’t mean delude yourself into believing the other person is perfect.  Either one of those loves can not be sustained for long. 

It is important then to open our eyes and accept the other person with all light and darkness.  Accepting someone without superficial conditions doesn’t mean you have to accept neglect or be put down or blamed for everything that is wrong within the relationship.  I know from experience that whenever I come across people who blame only one person for the breakup of the relationship, I am most likely looking at the party with the most responsibility.  One cannot fix what one doesn’t acknowledge.  So don’t buy or confuse the old saying “love has no conditions”.  Love has no “superficial” conditions but it has limits.  If you are being neglected, hurt or degraded, then you have every right to end a relationship.  Love shouldn’t feel like a chore or punishment; real love will have its ups and downs; but all along you’ll have a certainty that you are loved. 

Love has emotional limits.- To love fully you must stablish emotional limits.  A healthy relationship isn’t based on games or fighting to be in control simply for the sake of feeding a need to command someone.  Real love is a give and take.  Real love is understanding that sometimes you will have to give up control but you won’t feel controlled; it is about having a healthy, balanced purpose.  If I am going to give control of something away, it has to be my choice. I can choose to do so if I feel the benefits to my relationship outweigh the other side of the scale; it is important then to get rid of the ignorant and obsolete paradigm that love is sacrifice.  If I give something up of my own free will without feeling manipulated into it, I am not going to play victim and call it sacrifice.  If I choose to give something up which won’t hinder my growth, I do so out of love not out of a false sense of sacrificial duty.  At its roots the word “sacrifice”  means to give up something we want or value in exchange for something we don’t.  It is only later that it was mistranslated/ falsely taught that sacrifice meant to give up something we value in exchange for something more valuable.  How horrible to still have the word “sacrifice” linked to the word “love”.  We have tainted a word which was full of positive energy and free of any negative connotation.  An act of love exalts you; sacrifice on the other hand leaves you depleted.  Can you start to see how important it is to see past the modern use of our words?…  Words are powerful; consciously and subconsciously they can build or destroy, it is important then to actually strive to know their roots and original meaning before employing them.

There are certain things we should not ever tolerate in any type of relationship such as abuse, deception, emotional manipulation or the violation of our principles.  To accept such things show a lack of respect and self love, on the other hand to reject those things is to stablish healthy emotional limits.  There is one thing I will have to clarify on all of this because I have seen how words and events can be twisted.  If you or your partner no longer want to be in the relationship and have openly expressed so but the other chooses not to accept it, then you should understand you are being manipulated.  If you or your partner then choose to move on with life despite of the threats, then that action in my opinion shouldn’t be treated in the same way one would react to someone deceiving someone else after proclaiming love and acting like nothing was wrong with no signs of wanting out.  No one has the right to negate someone else their freedom, much less to hold back the truth of how things unfolded in order to manipulate a crowd.

Real love is not known for its demands but for what benefits it brings to your life.- This point in some ways is connected to the previous one.  Love is not control or demand, there is no master and slave.  Despite this, emotional slavery is much more common than we would like to acknowledge.  As a matter of fact, it is more than usual to find ourselves with wrong ideas regarding commitment and what a being a couple really implies.
It is necessary to eliminate victimizations and reproaches that claim to justify neglect, bad actions or bad words. This type of behavior keeps us trapped in a negative spiral which only serves to nourish our relationship with the very things we mean to transcend, builds distrust and false expectations.  If by being next to someone you have to sacrifice part of your light, your growth, then that love is diminishing. Love is based on expansion and growth from both sides. 

Sharing real love doesn’t mean not having problems.- The perfect couple is not the one which has no problems.  The perfect couple is the one that knows or has the “mutual” desire to discover how to solve them.  “True” love is not without problems, harmony isn’t always constant and perfect.  Real love is not immune to its difficulties.  Sometimes we fall victim to the erroneous teachings brought to us by Walt Disney, that in order for a real relationship to share love it cannot have arguments, discussions, differences and challenges to overcome.  The couple who shares real emotions and who are building a real relationship based on “real” love is the couple who understands perfect doesn’t exist; that is what gives their relationship its uniqueness.  It is the couple who is mutually willing to give and take. The couple who mutually agrees to work on it, to seek the tools necessary to continue growing as individuals and as a couple. 

A couple who shares real love faces having to agree to disagree, to confront one another’s shadow all the while without losing the desire to continue being committed to the relationship; not out of duty but out of love.  It is that love that propels them to keep working towards the stability of their union.  A couple who shares real love doesn’t have it all figure out.  They don’t agree on everything but they do agree on what matters most; their goals, values.  They work together accepting their differences, walking through the hard times such differences will bring.  They work towards the expansion of their love and their personal self growth. A couple who shares “real” love feel loved.

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By Sofia Falcone

I passionately believe one person can make a difference. I write from my own experiences and interests. It is my greatest hope that by writing about my own challenges, victories, hopes and learnings, others may feel inspired to believe more in their inner power and to fully embrace themselves!

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