Sometimes, I fancy my own human experience as one which must be distinct from most others; I mean, we all tend to think we’re so unlike the others around us. The reason I mention this idea is that it often drives me away from wanting to share pieces of advice that I have found to be practical. My self-opposition when writing pieces like this comes from the desire to not come across as though I, by some miracle, have vast and profound knowledge of how to best live a life, and also to provide information that will be useful to those reading. So, if that makes any sense, on to my point: I think we’ve been societally taught to love improperly.

It seems like we engage in romantic love selfishly. We expect material items, affection, attention; we expect people we love dearly to proclaim their returned love for us. It seems natural, because that’s how it has been taught to us (not that I have found anyone has consciously tried to pass their understanding of love to me). Love, until my recent (bizarre – I’m not really sure how it happened) epiphany, seemed kind of ambiguous, kind of elusive. They always say ‘you’ll know it when you’ve found it’. Okay, maybe. I knew, before I gained my new understanding, that I had and have serious love for my boyfriend. But just because you know you’ve got it doesn’t mean you know how to manage it. Love is a gift. It is a strong bond between (at least in the scenario I am discussing) two people. If you’ve got it, does it really make sense to put pressure on it? To ruin (and maybe dissolve) it with rules and requirements? That isn’t how it grew. That’s how it’s killed. Your options are, as I see it: A) Do your own thing completely: pay for everything, clean everything, endure everything, have no one to share your experience with. B) Do mostly your own thing: pay for most, but not all, things, clean some, but not all, things, have someone to share trials with, have someone to discuss life with. C) Be expectant (heck, it might even be unspoken expectation): expect the one you love to carry much of the total load concerning money, chores, emotional issues, and push them so that they have no desire to share their life with you (your harbored resentment is sure to guarantee that you won’t want to share your life with them, either). Option A leaves you to yourself. Option B leaves you in a partnership where you don’t keep tabs on expected returns on your investment, but instead keep tabs on happinesses and memories you’re collecting with someone you love enough that you live with and see them constantly without (ideally – and in my case) being annoyed. Option C leaves you feeling slighted: like you invested in a stock that is not dependably increasing in value (although it probably is increasing more than you think if you remember to look). Option C makes you combative and unhappy and will likely leave you estranged from someone you were once able to see for hours each day, every day, for months and years on end without becoming so sick of them you never wanted to see their face again. Take a moment to realize how impressive and special that bond is: in my experience, when I had a friend spend the night in my youth, after about day four – despite the fact that they had done nothing wrong – I was ready for them to be out of my line of sight immediately. That doesn’t happen when you love someone romantically. We forget to make this comparison when we are loving with expectation.

True love conquers all. Love that is forgiving, generous, honest, and expects nothing is a gift with true magnanimity, and that is the only love that has a place in a serious relationship. That’s the only way to make it work; if you choose this path, you keep yourself, your partner, and your family’s happiness at its highest. It’s a difficult concept to master, definitely. We have been taught to practice self-preservation, and with that comes some selfishness. Self-preservation is fine, but it has no place in a relationship where your objective is to become one with your partner. Self-preserve together against the world, but not against one another. It’s taken me a long time to learn this, as I’ve mentioned, and I’ve acted completely out of congruence with what I am preaching today in the past. All that we can do is manage the present; I am striving daily to make the changes within myself that are necessary to reach this achievable level of perfect love that I’ve recently come to understand exists. It is a journey that I expect will never be complete: I will always strive to become more of what I need to be to make my current love a perfect love. I am grateful that I have this opportunity and pray I’ll keep it.