I'm not one for dating advice books because it often feels like one gender is blamed and must bend and conform to the whims and ways of another gender in order for a relationship to be built. I've had it with men who make a living from telling women how to be less of a nag and more mysterious, vague ambiguities that sprout from that "Cool Girl" archetype that's been hammered into our minds indicating that it's what men want. I care about men, don't get me wrong. But my sole existence in life has never been to add and subtract aspects of my being to better accommodate them.
My sole existence in life has never been to subtract aspects of my being to better accommodate men.
Suffice to say, dating advice books have never been IT to me. I usually find the most success in the quality of my relationships by working on myself first. I think that's why Don Miguel Ruiz's contribution to the relationship conversation through his book, Mastery of Love, spoke to me so much. Above all, his lesson remained one that was fundamental and that is:
You must find love and happiness in yourself and share that abundance with the other half of the relationship.
Be it your mother, father, sister, brother, cousin, friend, or lover. All relationships benefit from working on yourself, loving yourself, and being happy with you above all else. We are the sum of what has happened to us and that's why fear predominates in most people.
That fear trickles down into your feelings of self-worth and self-esteem, and affects the quality of who you attract in your life as well as the qualities of those independent relationships.
I have been in a funk for the past few months and even though these amazing things have been happening in my life, I was experiencing a lot of unhappiness and that affected how I felt about my relationship overall. I realized that I had a tendency to blame my partner for why I was unhappy, and that it was a recurring pattern in all of my adult relationships. Some were rightfully so, others, not so much. I'm notoriously a runner, afraid for the other shoe to drop, afraid of being hurt, afraid of settling, of not being happy, of giving myself over to someone and having that not be returned or reciprocated – a lot of which came from seeing my parents' deteriorating relationship over the years.
Owning up to my past pain and emotional baggage that I did not realize I had been carrying was the first step to me becoming aware of the space in me I was trying to fill with external distractions. I felt I had been asleep for a long time, believing that love was simply saying, but not realizing the part that I played in relationships requiring my love. I owed it to myself to not ignore memories, but instead embrace them and acknowledge my past hurts as a part of my life journey. It didn't necessarily define me, but it happened to me and it was time for me to be honest with myself about them in order to stop punishing the people around me for things others who came and went had done.
After that came knowing and accepting what made love and fear different from one another.
Love is free of obligations, fear is full of them. Love does not expect. Fear does. Love respects. Fear respects no one, not even themselves. Love doesn't feel sorry for others, but it knows compassion. Fear pities, fear feels sorry for everyone. Love has full responsibility. Fear avoids it. Love is kind, fear is not. Love is generous. Fear is selfish. Fear comes with conditions, while when in love, there are no conditions or reasons at all.
The list could go on for an eternity, encompassing the polar opposites that are fear and love.
It was the beginning of turning over a new leaf for my relationship with my partner, but also myself, and it began with the self. I realized how little I combated my partner over every little thing, how willing I was to let go of control, how acceptance allowed me to let him be who he was, and how much happier he and I were with the quality of our relationship once the demands stopped because I went back to making myself happy again. The book Mastery of Love reminded me that the key to happiness had everything to do with me, and once I remembered me, my relationship began to flourish like the flower it is.
And in case I needed further confirmation from the universe that my lessons were aligned with what I want down the road for myself, actor Will Smith spoke of his 17-year marriage to actress Jada Pinkett Smith at a panel discussion back in 2012:
"When I think about my relationship with Jada, when it comes to love, as soon as you put yourself in a love relationship, you've got to check your insecurities. When you love somebody, and you feel yourself slipping, you will fight, scratch, and claw, to not be in that uncomfortable space. You have traumas that happen with your mother and father, or an old girlfriend, or an old boyfriend, that you've got to address personally if you want to truly be able to love somebody. Our traumas keep us away from being able to truly love someone unconditionally....
"You have to be willing to collide with the weakest parts of yourself. You have to look at the things about you on a higher spiritual plane. You have to look at the things about you that are cowardly, that are angry or mean, resentful. You have to be able to look at those things about yourself that are not spiritually healthy parts. Love truly is when you change yourself for a better love with someone."
Will be knowin'.
What have you been reading lately to help you work on yourself?
Featured image by Sheriden Chanel/xoNecole