"Having someone feel safe enough with you to remove their “public mask” and expose their flaws and insecurities is a privilege. When you then validate and cherish their authentic self, that’s where love lives." ~Janine Rudder
February evokes many feelings and images. The chill from frigid temperatures, the honor of celebrating black history, the relief of a three day weekend, and the horror or delight (sometimes both simultaneously) of Valentine’s Day.
I personally don’t find Valentine’s Day particularly meaningful, so I don’t have the impassioned reaction to it that many others do. However, that doesn’t mean that I’ve never felt angst about not having plans, or picking the ‘right’ card, or dinner venue for date night or girls’ night. I certainly haven’t been totally immune to the pressure. Now I see that my indifference to Valentine’s Day was primarily about the celebration of love being overshadowed by the performance aspect (i.e. the things normally associated with Valentine’s Day - gifts, dinner, flowers, etc).
In the last five years, I’ve gotten clearer about how I want to experience life (and celebrate love). During that same time, I met and married my life partner. This period of introspection coupled with the transformative experience of finding true love (the kind that is utterly satisfying and requires intention and work) has changed my outlook on how I perceive love.
I used to define love primarily in terms of the being aspects of it. By being, I mean the feelings that are so visceral especially in new relationships. The warmth you feel in your heart when you’re with the person; the hollowness that appears in your chest when you can’t be with them; the rush of adrenaline when you see their number flash across your screen. The way another person affects you biologically is powerful and so gratifying, but that phase of a relationship can also be fleeting.
I’ve come to learn that the doing aspects of love can be equally as impactful whether you are the giver or receiver. For example, giving your partner a five-minute foot rub after a long day can be pleasurable, without expecting anything in return. I see this as embodying love as opposed to feeling it. Ideally, we do both, however; purposeful doing outlives instinctual feeling. What I mean by that is acts of love done consistently and on purpose are more likely to preserve a healthy relationship than the feelings of love, which can be erratic and transitory.
Below I outline what I believe are the critical ways to do love. They each begin with the letter ‘I’, so I call them the three I’s of lasting romantic love.
The first ‘I’ of love is intention. It’s first because it is fundamental. The act of loving is something you consciously decide to do on purpose. You may fall in love haphazardly, but staying in love is an act of intention. This is best illustrated by one thing that love requires us to do frequently and wholeheartedly, which is forgive. People in deep, lasting, thriving relationships consistently extend grace to each other. Understanding that you have chosen to be in partnership with another flawed human being involves trust, vulnerability, and a willingness to look past mistakes. Love in the face of faults.
“The only thing missing in any situation is that in which you are not giving.” ~ Marianne Williamson
You may be thinking what in the world does this next ‘I’ have to do with love; but investment is one of the key elements of doing love. The spirit of investing is making smaller, incremental deposits overtime in order to grow your assets. Think of your loving words, affectionate gestures, attentive listening, support, and encouragement as the incremental deposits that over time increase and multiply to grow into a loving, flourishing union. Love is expending your time, effort, and energy on your partner in honor of the relationship.
love between us is
speech and breath. loving you is
a long river running
The third ‘I’ of lasting romantic love is intimacy. I once heard Iyanla Vanzant define intimacy as “into me see.” This perspective resonates because I believe vulnerability is a non-negotiable in true love. Trust and vulnerability are inextricably linked; without one the other cannot be. This may look like revealing your shortcomings, and the areas in your life that you are developing. Asking for help is another way of showing your trust.
Having someone feel safe enough with you to remove their “public mask” and expose their flaws and insecurities is a privilege. When you then validate and cherish their authentic self, that’s where love lives.
“And so at last, you sleep, in the circle of my arms that push back the shadows so that you can rest.” ~ Pablo Neruda
Janine Rudder is a coach and Co-Owner at Manifestara LLC - https://manifestara.com/