So many people are confused about love and relationship.
If you want to take inventory on what you are already doing well, and what you might need to work on to enjoy a long-lasting and fulfilling relationship, check out the following three steps.
Step One. Begin with Self-Love - In self-love, you take responsibility for your own sense of balance and well-being.
Let's use a plant metaphor. To thrive, a plant needs a certain amount of sunlight and water, and certain soil conditions. You are like that plant, and need to know who you are so that you can make sure you are putting yourself in the conditions you need to thrive. Only you can know what type of soil, water and sunlight you need to be happy.
That means that physically, you require certain nutritious foods, sufficient quantities of water and enough activity and movement in your body daily. Your activities need to be balanced between work, relaxation, sleep and play. If you aren't doing what brings health and joy into your life, you won't be much fun in relationship. Instead, others will more likely find you frustrated, irritable, and needy.
Emotionally, take a look within and honestly assess what emotions you carry around with you daily. Your partner can usually feel, at least to some degree, what emotions you ooze. Are you filled with anxiety and dread? Sadness and depression? Continuous grief or regret? Shame and guilt? Or worse, anger and aggression? On the other hand, how often are you relaxed, or even happy?
Mentally, consider what stimulates you. Whatever topics interest you, match you at some level. For instance, when you walk into a bookstore or search online for books, recordings or films, what subject headings grab your attention? If you are drawn toward, let's say, photography, then that is one clue as to what resonates with either your superficial or deepest self. (Your superficial self is the personality you have created to interact more confidently with others. Your deepest self is your inherent core energies and essence, that is, your most authentic sense of self.)
Spiritually, what moves you? Literally. Are there certain practices that help lift you into a higher, more unconditionally loving state of consciousness? For some, it is going to church and hearing a sermon. For others, it might be engaging in yoga, meditation, or qigong. Are there certain activities you feel called to do, but don't because of too much fear, self-doubt, and hesitation? Once you have allowed yourself to live within the conditions that help you to thrive, then you are likely ready for step two.
Step Two. Find a "Healthy-Enough" Partner - A "healthy-enough" partner is one who has taken significant steps toward self-love, and is generally a happy person, more often than not. This is a mate who has something to share in relationship, who is fulfilled enough to be able to give to a significant other, and who is capable of loving another unselfishly over a lifetime, not just the couple of years that lust tends to last.
When you are a loving person, it is easy to fall into love. Love everyone you can, with generosity, respect, cooperation, collaboration, creativity, kindness and other actions of love. But when it comes to choosing a life partner, be more selective. Choose a partner who has some insight as to what they want to do with their life, and is taking some action toward fulfilling their own dreams. A partner who naturally loves you the way you choose to feel loved and supported, whether through a loving energy you can tangibly feel, encouragement, helpfulness or thoughtful quality time together.
Too often we select a spouse based on need. Either we need them, they need us, or we need each other. The problem with that is as soon as the need goes away, we fall out of love. Or over time, we come to resent the other for the neediness.
When we pick needy partners, who rely on us to complete them, fill them up and make them happy, it doesn't work. We can never truly make another person happy. Only they can make themselves happy. And they do so by living an authentic life that reflects their inner spirit.
"Needy" married to "rescuer" isn't usually sustainable. "Needy" is never satisfied. "Rescuer" tends to burn out, and out of resentment, begins nagging the other to change.
So when you are on track toward feeling self-fulfilled, and you have found someone to love who is healthy enough for a lasting intimate relationship, then you are ready for step three.
Step Three. Mutual Support - You are feeling balanced and whole. You are assertively expressing your core self in your life. And now you are ready to share your wholeness with another. He or she is also feeling happy and fulfilled in their life, and is ready to commit to a lifetime of marriage or partnership. Each of you feels whole enough to truly love another, to freely support one another's dreams for life, without conditions or unloving expectations.
Many people do carry problematic expectations into their marriage, such as the role each gender "should" play, like who should take out the trash, who should clean, who should raise the children, or who should make a certain amount of money. They start thinking they're supposed to look and act a certain way at a certain age. Parenting styles even begin to clash, as one partner was raised with strict and harsh discipline, and the other was brought up by parents who never raised their voices or imposed too many rules. Soon they have become their ideal mother or father in their marital relationship, treating their spouse like their parents interacted with one another, and with their children. But your spouse didn't marry you to be your parents. Your spouse married you, the one that seemed happy and fulfilled on your wedding day.
So once you have committed to your relationship, remember that your first job is to "be you", to keep yourself growing and thriving. In that way, you can share life with your partner from a place of wholeness. From that place of wholeness, you will have much to give in the way of support to your partner. When I say support in this context, what I mean is, you support them in being who they really are in their life. They support you being your core self.
Mutual support, love for one another. This is love that lasts, that feels free and has room to grow with time.