They say love is blind. And young love is the most blind of all, isn’t it? I’ve learned a lot about love over the past 20 years. Most of what I’ve learned is common sense, but I’m going to repeat these common-sense love lessons here because it’s pretty clear that the world needs them, common-sense or no.
1. Never Settle for Ambivalence: Your time on this earth is far too valuable to waste on a partner who isn’t certain he or she wants to be with you. You deserve to be wanted. You deserve someone whose dedication never falters. Never settle for less.
2. Relationships Should Fit Comfortably: By and large, relationships should feel comfortable. Safe. Warm. Loving. Mutually beneficial. Peaceful. New relationships in particular should be easy, fun, and rewarding. If they’re not, why are you there to begin with? If you find yourself having to “work” on a relatively new relationship, chances are you’ve hooked up with someone who is a bad fit for you. 50% of relationship success comes from choosing the right partner – don’t hamstring yourself by settling for a poor fit.
3. Sex is not Love: Any fool can stick it in and pull it out. To love someone is where the task lies. Many people often confuse sex with love, maybe because of the overwhelming emotions stirred up by close physical contact. But a bad relationship is still a bad relationship, sex or no. It’s wise to ask yourself what you would love about your partner if the physical attraction faded. After all, beauty and youth are fleeting, while the heart and mind endure.
4. Emotional Need is not Love: Real love – the sort of love worth saving – is more than just an emotional mish-mash of wants and desires, which brings me to my next point…
5. Love is a Verb: The warm, fuzzy feeling that poets and songwriters have struggled for centuries to define is only one small component of love. Real love is based upon action, not merely emotion. The feelings associated with love are fantastic, but love does its best work as a verb, where each partner constantly works in the best interest of the other.
6. Worthwhile Relationships Inspire Happiness: Successful partnerships produce happiness. If you don’t enjoy being around your partner, you have a problem. I only wish this bit of sense were as common as it sounds.
7. Changing Someone is a Bad Goal: If making your relationship work requires you to change your partner’s personality or behavior, consider finding someone who is a more natural fit. Conversely, if you sense that your partner’s aim is to change your personality or behavior, kindly point him or her toward someone who doesn’t require such ministrations.
Listen, I know that some of the items in this list are oversimplifications. For example, any long-term relationship will involve change – both requested and inspired – and there will undoubtedly be tough times that require work. The key word in the previous sentence is “long-term,” meaning relationships that have proven their worth over time.
New relationships, on the other hand, have not proven their worth. Many of the warning signs of a potentially disastrous relationship appear within the first six months. During these early stages of a new relationship, a little common sense can go a long way.