There’s a powerful saying that goes like this…
“You attract people by the qualities you display. You keep them by the qualities you possess.”
This saying means two things.
- You should strive to put your best foot forward, but you must never forget to cultivate true depth in the qualities that make you valuable as a friend or partner.
- If you develop the right qualities, the right people will be attracted to you.
It’s the second part that poses a problem. It takes a lot of faith to believe that.
It takes faith to believe other people will ever discover the qualities you have worked your entire life to embody.
But now consider the wisdom captured in this next saying:
“Let your faith be bigger than your fear.”
This is internal chemistry. I’m talking about mixing two powerful ideas…ideas that change you when you dwell on them.
Here are the complementary ideas stated in a slightly different way. Notice how powerful they are when combined together.
One of the scariest things in a relationship is “the talk” about where things are going.
It’s my opinion that the best time to have this kind of discussion is before a serious relationship develops.
Here’s how you do it.
- Find excuses to bring up a conversation about fun things you hope to experience in your life.
- Encourage him to talk about fun and enjoyable things he wants to experience in his future. Get him talking about his dreams (both work and play).
- Ask him one or two simple questions about the kind of relationship circumstances that would be ideal for him to be able to live life to the fullest.
- Keeping the same “wouldn’t it be cool if…” tone of conversation, bring up a few of the standards for any relationship that would make you happy. Phrase it that way to avoid introducing negativity into the conversation.
- End this conversation by turning to him and saying, “you’re interesting to talk to. I want to keep this open kind of dialogue between the two of us. Whatever happens between the two of us, I want to be supportive of you. Let’s openly discuss what we hope for and what we need.”
When you first start dating someone, everything is new and exciting. When he does something romantic, it feels special. But the longer you are with a partner, the more trapped you both become by the assumptions and expectations you both develop for what “should” happen.
I might have certain expectations about the relationship I’m in. For example, I might think my partner:
- Should understand where I’m coming from when I talk.
- Should greet me enthusiastically every time we meet.
- Should understand why it’s important not to leave wrappers or other trash in my car.
What happens when my partner violates one of these expectations I unconsciously hold? I feel irritated. I feel like she has not acted like a good partner. Of course, these are just my idiosyncratic expectations. My expectations create the potential for hurt feelings, especially when my partner does not know about them.
It’s easy to fail someone who has a lot of expectations. The solution is to become aware of my expectations and not allow them to define the quality of my relationship.
Even positive expectations can become a trap over time. I’ll give you an example so you can see the problem with it.
I chose this title to remind you of something important. Love is something we make. It’s not something we find.
It’s completely understandable that you would want to find someone who wants to cherish you and love you for who you are. I am 100% on board with that mission.
However, I also want to offer this caution. Do not make the mistake of searching for love the way some people search for meaning. You can search for meaning your whole life, and never find it, unless you get your hands dirty trying to help someone.
When you stop searching for meaning, and instead sink your teeth into trying to make a difference in someone’s life, meaning reveals itself to you. It reveals itself in that moment because you created it. The meaning was created by your choice, the choice you made when you decided to care.
You can spend your whole life reading philosophical books about meaning, endlessly debating the true purpose of your life. Yet a feeling of meaning and connection can only be found in your decisions to care about something. If you want a meaningful life, you have to stop looking for it and start creating it instead.
It’s the same way with love. Erich Fromm said, “Love is an act of faith, and whoever is of little faith is also of little love.” Just as the physical act of lovemaking is something you do, something creative, so the act of finding love is something you do. You choose to create it by choosing to love a person.