The last page of my first love story has been written. I can say that now without a quivering voice or shaking hands or a pounding heart. Not because I don’t care or because I don’t grieve the loss of a forever dream, but because I’ve had a lot of time to process this change in my life. Just because my heart is no longer in the hands of a man who I thought would hold on to it with gentleness and grace forever, my heart still beats strongly and with purpose.
I will continue growing and evolving. This love, and its many lessons, are all part of that growth. I stayed in this space of stagnant unhappiness because I feared growing pains. I feared traveling down an unmarked road to get somewhere new. I opted to stay on the road well-traveled even if it was bumpy, full of cracks and holes. But a heart can’t beat properly if it has too many holes. Sometimes a heart breaks so that its shattered pieces can be rearranged to make room for more.
Instead of focusing on why this first love of mine ended, I’m choosing to focus on what the sacred experience of loving another person taught me. Let me share just a few pearls of wisdom with you.
I learned the hardest way possible that you will never be a bigger priority to anyone else but yourself.
It is up to you to make sure that all your wants and needs are being met. If you’re hungry, you eat. If you’re sick, you take medicine and rest. If you need a place of refuge, you seek space to harvest peace and contentment.
The same goes for every human’s biologically-grounded need for love and belonging. The hardest thing to learn and train your brain to understand is that those feelings of happiness and fulfillment never come from the validation of another person.
The feelings of wholeness are planted deep within your soul and grow within you. It is up to you to surround yourself with people who help nourish that growth, but who never take ownership of your needs and wants. That’s on you.
Please never forget that love is not created and nurtured from the commitment of one person. Love is not about pouring yourself into another person, giving all of your energy to their happiness and contentment. That’s their job, remember? Love is not about filling someone else’s cup and forgetting to ask for a refill for yourself.
Love is not about being quiet. Don’t be afraid to say anything, to lay out exactly what you need and how you need it. Don’t be afraid to share your beliefs and your values. Don’t ever diminish and shrink who you are and what you deserve. Don’t put off nurturing your own happiness to help grow someone else’s.
Love is more than a dizzying, all-consuming, breath-stealing feeling. It’s not that at all, actually. Lust and desire, that’s the heart-pounding before the heart-giving. Lust and longing is not superfluous, in fact, it’s super necessary. Fiery passion is a fun and exciting part of relationships that makes us feel completely alive.
But, the soul-shifting, life-changing love that hopeful dreamers wait for and pray about at night is the kind of love that is rooted in intentional action. Love is the purposeful ways in which you show up for another person or that person shows up for you.
It’s not enough to say you love someone without showing them how you do it.
Think about the many ways you love and care and show up for yourself. If you profess to love yourself and value your life and your space in this world, then you take care of yourself. You tend to your needs. You prioritize yourself and treat yourself with respect. You set intentions to maintain, strengthen and nourish your body and mind with food and fitness, spiritually, emotionally and physically. You capture and cultivate joy and peace; you do the things that make you smile wider and laugh a little harder.
It may look a little different in some spots, but if we commit to loving ourselves, we also create an action plan for how we will gain and grow our self-love. The same goes for loving another person within a relationship, parameters up to you.
It is not enough to speak love without showing it; love, like precious flowers, will not grow unless watered and showered with plenty of warm sunlight. So, whomever you love – pay attention to them. Show up for them. Take care of them. If you don’t love your partner the way you love yourself, (or maybe you do, think about that for second) then your connection will fade and flint away.
It is monumentally important to remember that some love stories are life’s lessons.
Usually teachings in how we choose to love ourselves. The kind of relationship we permit for ourselves is a direct reflection of our perception of who we are. In other words, the way we allow someone to love us is the way that we love ourselves. Conversely, a lack of love and respect for ourselves will make it almost impossible to authentically and unconditionally love another person.
If we place greater values on ourselves, we will seek out the kind of treasured treatment and actionable love that we deserve. If we love ourselves the way we should, we will accept only the most intentional, purposeful and thoughtful expressions of love.
Remember, the greatest love relationship is the one that you have with yourself. If any of your current relationships do not reflect the love you have for yourself, I pray you find strength and courage to do a tough thing or to make a scary change or to say a painful goodbye, in order to make yourself a priority. I promise you, if you don’t, no one else will.