Ok, I admit it: I am a hopeless romantic. It's Valentine's day and I want to celebrate! Yes, I agree, it's easy for me as I have a partner I'm head over heals in love with but, before you stop reading, let me tell you that it hasn't always been this way. It's taken me quite a while to get here. Hear me out.
In early 2011 I finally decided to take ownership of my life and take action. I dared to do what no sensible 30 year old ought to do: I said "no" to the man who I'd been with for the past 6 plus years who had just proposed to me with an excessively sparkly engagement ring. This is what I'd been waiting for – nagging for – for several years so it didn't really make sense. The thing is, in my heart of hearts I knew that I couldn't. I wasn't really happy and I hadn't been for a long time. I didn't really understand why I couldn't say "yes" at the time, only that it would have been dishonest of me to say so.
When I met John (not his real name) in my early 20s, I was bowled over and wowed by his lovely smile, awesome height, gentleness and inspiring CV. He was a doer and a go-getter. He was intelligent, challenging and charming all at the same time. Having lived through a lot of turmoil, I was needy, insecure and I was very impressed and flattered to have been picked out by him.
I was uncertain about who I was and who I wanted to be. John was very clear as to his life expectations and how I would fit into these. He steered me towards his picture. I bent over backwards to do what was expected of me. I kept failing. We argued a lot. I mean, a LOT! I won't go into the grim details of the relationship as they are irrelevant; the essence is that I allowed myself to be manipulated as I needed love and security and John fulfilled those needs better than anyone had up to that point. Unfortunately, I would never really feel happy trying to be what I wasn't.
When I met Adam (real name) I wasn't looking to fall in love. The reality is that, when I was told I'd meet him and his younger brother on a big family skiing trip, I was reluctant. He was still a student at that time and as I hadn't really enjoyed being a student, I assumed he'd be one of those people I never got on with. The eight year age gap was also unappealing. By this time I had already started my course at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and was nurturing my own needs, becoming the person I wanted to be. I was cultivating a ferocious passion for well-being – you can't do that without taking care of number one first! I was beginning to assert my own needs and create my own vision of my life, which no longer included hiding behind someone else. I was learning to stand on my own two feet and chase my dreams!
I partially blame Adam's grandmother, Zosia (real name). It may seem unfair, but I do. It was Zosia who extolled all of Adam's virtues to me, as any gushing grandmother would, I guess. (Maybe, I should blame myself for listening so politely?) The point is that she made me notice him. Adam had barely spoken to me the first couple of days of our trip and so I had no idea of who he really was. Then I observed him with his family; his kindness, his humility, his helpfullness, his intelligence, his uncomplicatedness, his generosity (with his time and energy), his love for them all. There was a certain point when I realised that, if there were men like this on this planet, I did not need to settle for any less.
The rest is all a bit cheesy; I asked him on a date on Valentine's day. He said yes. He bought a shirt with a collar so that he wouldn't look like a student. I got nervous and tried on at least 5 outfits. We were both late and ended up meeting at the same time. I took him to a raw vegan restaurant and he got a detox reaction as he was used to living on cheese toasties. The conversation was awkward, but it didn't matter as I was already smitten. After the meal I said I was cold so he put his arm around me. (See! Total cheese!) We kissed and, apparently, I was a little over-eager.
Since then we've had an incredibly easy relationship. We bring out the best in each other and support one another in all our endeavours. I feel totally secure and loved. I know that I'm my best self with him. I never need to regret any words exchanged or conversations had. We laugh all the time. Having gone through the heartache of every previous relationship, learning what I didn't want and what I really needed the hard way, was totally worth it to have found so much peace and joy in this one. Today, we celebrate two wonderful years together.
I'm no expert in love, but I recently watched a great video from Tony Robbins, one of the world's preeminent life coaches, about how to create the perfect relationship and his tips reflect exactly what I also advise:
1) Learn from previous relationships and/or observations and be clear about what you don't want. Write a list of every single trait that you can't stand in a partner. Then, highlight all of those that are deal-breakers, that you absolutely cannot compromise on.
2) Next, make a list of everything that you do want in a partner. Highlight all of those that are musts, that are absolute essentials.
3) Then write out who you need to become in order to attract that person. Or if you're already in a relationship with someone who you believe is the right person, who do you need to be to bring out their best and all that you love in them?
4) Read your list every day, be open and be committed to getting it right.
Another useful tool, is to understand what your primary love languages are. Gary Chapman, who wrote The 5 Love Languages, suggests that the number of ways we express love to our partner can be boiled down to five. These are:
- Physical Touch
- Words of Affirmation (e.g. I'm proud of you, I love you)
- Quality Time
- Acts of Service (e.g. putting the bins out, visiting the in-laws)
- Receiving gifts (this includes anything from thoughtful notes to expensive jewellery)
There is a short questionnaire in the book for you to do to help you figure out which one or two are your primary languages, but you may find that you immediately recognise which of the above is most important for you.
The problem arises when you are unaware or unsure of your partner's primary love language which may be completely different to yours, and therefore don't comminicate with them in the way that they need. Adam and I are fortunate in that we both prize Physical Touch as our primary love language so there's never a misunderstanding on that front. He just touches me to make me feel loved and I do the same to him. It's difficult to argue with someone when you feel so loved all the time! Our secondary love language is Acts of Service and we are constantly doing something for one another; Adam will wash up, put the washing on, take out recycling and do whatever I need him to do. This makes me feel really valued. If he ever has a lazy afternoon and does nothing, I can feel rejected and used. He feels really loved when I make him lunch for work the next day, tidy up, invite his friends or family over.
The other love languages may still be important, they're just not as important as the first two. To give you an example, I like gifts, as any girl does, but if Adam brought me gifts every day and never touched me, I would still question his love; I certainly wouldn't feel as secure in our relationship as I do now.
Final love tip: Another resource that I've found useful is David Deida. He is the number one go-to person on masculine and feminine polarity and how to attract the opposite sex (or opposite polarity if you prefer the same sex). His book, The Way of the Superior Man is a must read for all men and really useful for women. He's written a number of other books and there is an abundance of videos online with him working on couples. If you want to fire up the passion in your relationship or find a partner that ignites you, definitely check him out.
So what are you going to do about love, then? What action are you going to take to get it right, and by when? How are you going to make sure that you have the best, most fulfilling relationship ever? Please share below!