On Loving Better: An Expert’s Guide to More Caring Relationships

Photography by BONNINSTUDIO.
We hope this guide serves as a first step to evaluating the love and relationships in our lives, to become better at loving.
Words by Lia World Traveler. Photos by BONNINSTUDIO.

A lot of this year, if not most of the past two years, have been about introspection, especially pertaining to love—how we love and want to be loved. We’re looking more closely at the relationships in our lives—with friends, family, community, romantic partners, and ourselves. From that introspective process, we can gain insights into the ways we love best, where we fall short, and how we can learn to love better. To help guide us on the path to being better at loving in the broadest sense, we spoke to two relationship experts, Dr. Loree Johnson, and Resource Specialist, Atiya Goldsmith.

Loving yourself is a revolutionary act.

Dr. Loree Johnson

Self-Love

The most important love and as the late, great Whitney Houston put it the “greatest love of all” is self-love. “Loving yourself is a revolutionary act,” says Johnson. “When we live in a space where we receive constant messaging about what we need to do/be/look different or better, learning to love oneself ‘as is’ can be challenging. The first action-oriented step toward loving yourself is recognizing that you deserve love,” Johnson adds.

Goldsmith recommends taking the following steps to improve self-love: “Speak kind words to yourself, set boundaries with others, seek professional help if you notice that past experiences and trauma are hindering you from connecting with others or completing everyday tasks, be vulnerable with yourself and others, so you can open yourself up to receive and experience love, and have standing appointments for yourself to pamper yourself, read a book, visit a museum, rest, etc.” 

Friends & Family

The first teachers of love in our lives are friends and family members and those relationships remain incredibly important throughout our lifetimes. Goldsmith recommends considering the following actions when it comes to loving friends and family more fully, “be intentional about reaching out. You can choose one day a week or month to reach out via text or phone. When you reach out to your family and friends, it lets them know that they were on your mind and that you love and care for them. Set up a minimum of one date outside the home to connect. It could be brunch, happy hour, or a walk in the park. Be a listening ear when needed. Be willing to forgive past hurt and disappointment with the understanding that everyone make mistakes.” Johnson reminds us to, “think about how you can fully see them (friends and family) and celebrate them for who they are.’

Be willing to forgive past hurt and disappointment with the understanding that everyone make mistakes.

Dr. Loree Johnson

Community

We are not living on this planet alone. Increasingly, in real life and virtually, we are connected with one another in ways we could not have imagined interacting even a decade ago. We are in this life together, whether we like it or not, so it is important to learn how to love the community as well. Johnson suggests we, “try leading from a place of love, not only accepting but honoring people for who they are but also for the unique contributions they bring to the community.”  Goldsmith shares some questions and thoughts for us to consider when thinking about loving the community, “Have you ever noticed that if you or someone on your block or neighborhood cleaned in front of their home or made a noticeable improvement to their home, within days, weeks, or a few months that other neighbors followed suit? The love, habits, and gratitude that you show in your home has the potential to spread throughout your community. Be the example that you wish to see in the world through your love for yourself and how you treat the people and communities around you. What we want for ourselves, we should want for our neighbors.”

The love tank must constantly be replenished, so that we can continue to love ourselves and be open to receiving and giving love.

Atiya Goldsmith

We’ve all heard the saying, “you can’t pour from an empty cup” and Johnson believes, “it’s hard to give of yourself when you’re perpetually depleted. Love is part of the fabric of self-care, part of how we relate to others. It is the foundation for our individual and collective growth. Focusing on loving oneself and feeling loved in connection with others is part of the blueprint for healthy interactions that sustain us.”  Goldsmith advises that, “nothing stays the same without some form of improvement or maintenance. The same goes for the level of love that we have for ourselves and others. The love tank must constantly be replenished, so that we can continue to love ourselves and be open to receiving and giving love.” 

When you show up for yourself and your loved ones, you are saying that you matter, they matter, you and they are important enough to create time for.

Dr. Loree Johnson

We are all busier than ever these days, so how is it possible to prioritize being better at love when life is so busy? “In the age of “busy-ness,” recognizing that you need to slow down isn’t enough. We must be intentional about it. Pencil in time for yourself, your partner, your family before your time gets away from you. The act of showing up is part of the foundation for loving oneself and others. When you show up for yourself and your loved ones, you are saying that you matter, they matter, you [and] they are important enough to create time for. We also prioritize loving ourselves when we set boundaries by saying “no” to things, people that drain us and “yes” to things that leave us feeling full.  “Showing up for yourself first, can help you be better at expressing and sharing your love to others,” adds Goldsmith.

At the end of the day, there are very few things that matter more in life than love and contentment and happiness that flow from loving relationships. We hope this guide serves as a first step to evaluating the love and relationships in your life, so that you can become better at loving. Enjoy the journey.

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