Experts share tips on how to be your best self in relationships to achieve full, lasting love.
Words by Lia Miller
As human beings, most of us are looking for some form of love and companionship. Anyone who is looking for love knows that it’s a journey that can lead to different outcomes. Sometimes you think you have found love, and later you realize you haven’t. Other times, you end up settling. But, through it all, you (hopefully) end up loving yourself until you are fortunate enough to find the love of your life.
When that happens, the question then becomes: How do you hold on to it? How do you ensure that you don’t misplace your love by taking your partner for granted or alienating that love with ugly behaviors? What can you do to love fully?
Usually, loving fully is achieved through actions, not words. Ugly behaviors can look like being inflexible, not listening, having a short fuse or little patience, being ungrateful, and more. Minimizing the amount of ugly that we exhibit to our partners is a good first step in achieving a full and lasting love. But, that is of course easier said than done.
“People often take those closest to them for granted,” Dr. Laura Louis, founder of the After I Do Academy explains, “feeling like they will always be there. It is easier to be nice to strangers because you are not sharing a life and mortgage with strangers. Couples often experience the stress of life together and as a result, their mates take the brunt of that stress.”
The closer we are to someone, the greater our expectations are of them and the easier it is for us to become annoyed, frustrated, or angry with them because they are not meeting our expectations.Koren Norton
Koren Norton, Counselor and Consultant echoes that statement, saying, “Most of us are raised to be polite, so when we first encounter someone, it is easy to be nice and kind to them.
In other words, when you encounter someone new or a stranger, they are only meeting your “representative,” which means that most people are only interacting with us on a surface level. “We assume the people closest to us are supposed to know us, love us, and accept us and when they don’t, we feel it deeply,” Norton adds. “We are not as emotionally invested in people we don’t know as well unless they trigger something in us by their words and actions. The closer we are to someone, the greater our expectations are of them and the easier it is for us to become annoyed, frustrated, or angry with them because they are not meeting our expectations.”
We must work hard at recognizing who we are and stand in our truth and not allow ourselves to be so reactive. We also have to stop taking everything personally and allow people the freedom to be themselves.Koren Norton
In love, in order to check your ugly, you’ll need to develop a level of emotional intelligence and self-awareness that tells you when you are being triggered. Norton says, “We must work hard at recognizing who we are and stand in our truth and not allow ourselves to be so reactive. We also have to stop taking everything personally and allow people the freedom to be themselves. We must take responsibility for our own stuff, because people will always say and do what suits them, and our reactions are often based on our perception of the situation or our history.”
One tactic we can utilize to avoid this is to, “develop a 5-second rule” Norton suggests, “where we pause to ask ourselves, ‘am I being fair’, ‘did I tell the person that this bothers me’, ‘am I feeling this way because of my mood’, etc.? We can also ask for forgiveness if we feel we have been a bit rough or rude, so that we make amends and release the emotional baggage.”
Listen to one another. Pay attention to each other’s body language, as 80 percent of communication is non-verbal. It’s the tone, how we roll our eyes, heavy sighs, etc. In other words, don’t ignore body language.Dr. Laura Louis
Like most things in life, how we respond to the people and situations we face is a choice. This includes how we choose to interact with friends and loved ones outside of the romantic space too. When it comes to being intentional about our actions and reactions, rather than defaulting to ugly behavior, Louis believes “the goal should always be civil communication,” but admits that “that isn’t always realistic, especially when you are in a disagreement or frustrated with one another. That said, when you get it wrong or are being needlessly ugly, apologize,” she urges. “Acknowledge what you have done to hurt or offend your partner. Do this quickly so distance doesn’t pop up and grow in your relationship. Listen to one another. Pay attention to each other’s body language, as 80 percent of communication is non-verbal. It’s the tone, how we roll our eyes, heavy sighs, etc. In other words, don’t ignore body language”.
We should always strive to see the good in our friends and loved ones and be patient with their faults. Listen to your partner’s perspective and understand that you are not always right, keeping the Golden rule always in the forefront of our minds.Koren Norton
Finally, Norton shares, “we should acknowledge that we are all imperfect human beings trying to make it in this world and that some days will be better than others. We should always strive to see the good in our friends and loved ones and be patient with their faults. Listen to your partner’s perspective and understand that you are not always right, keeping the Golden rule always in the forefront of our minds. When it comes to love, we can teach our partners who we are and understand who they are. We can love in the true meaning of the word and we can forgive. We can communicate our needs, preferences, and wishes and not expect our partners to read our minds.”
When you choose to love, love fully. Love honestly and abundantly. Love through your actions and not just your words. When your ugly behaviors are triggered, check them, and try a different approach. Show up as your best self in your relationship, knowing that is the version of you your partner deserves and expect the same from them. Love without fear of misplacing your love by pushing them away with ugly behavior. Love generously and you will love fully.