I’ll Say it Again. Love is an Action.

I think we tend to get hung up on the idea of a fairy tale romance. I know I did, for a greater portion of my life than I care to admit. I feel like the media greatly skews our perspective of love. As a child I watched a movie where a mermaid traded in her voice for a pair of legs after locking eyes with a prince, obviously falling in love at first sight, and decided to risk life (and dare I say limb) to pursue a relationship with him. Spoiler alert — despite obvious attempts to thwart her pursuits and no way of communicating with him whatsoever, he falls deeply in “love” with her and (skipping a few plot lines here) they get married a few days later with the implied “happily ever after” ending.

{Insert at least a dozen other Disney movie plotlines as further evidence of early childhood influences on an unrealistic view of love.}

What’s the problem with this idealized view of love, you might ask? It sets the stage for a lifetime of disappointment. I somehow got it in my head early on that when I met the right man, we would instantly fall in love, he’d whisk me away, and we’d live happily ever after. Of course, life broke down these idealized views a little at a time.

Without getting into detail about how I personally learned these lessons, let me share some of the lessons I learned along the way in my search for love:

Passion and love are easily misconstrued.

Back to the Disney movies as an example. None of these characters were actually in “love.” They were experiencing the chemicals of attraction and passion, which are too often confused as love. Just because you get all starry-eyed when you look at someone doesn’t mean you love them. Too often we confuse lesser emotions such as passion, lust, or infatuation for love. In these situations, when the chemicals die down, we often end up going our separate ways.

Sometimes love isn’t enough.

No matter how much you love someone, sometimes love will not be enough to bridge the gap between you. In the search for a life partner, it’s important to find someone whose future plans work with yours. You don’t necessarily have to agree on everything along the way, but you do have to have a similar vision of what you want for your lives.

Love does not account for character.

Loving someone does not ensure that they will treat you the way you deserve to be treated. On that note, I find it relevant to add the quote “We accept the love we think we deserve.” In order to get into the right space to accept the love of your dreams, you first have to love yourself. Which brings me to my next point.

You can only love another person in so much as you love yourself.

I already know some people are going to fundamentally disagree with me on this point. I know a lot of people who value other people’s happiness far more than they value their own — people who focus their energy on helping others and pay themselves little mind.

You may feel strong emotions for other people regardless of your feelings for yourself, but in order to fully appreciate another person, you have to appreciate yourself first. You may feel admiration for another person, you may feel indebted to them; you may feel protective of them, attached to them, or simply drawn to them. These emotions can be very powerful, but once again, I would argue that this doesn’t exactly count as “love.”

If you haven’t put enough time and energy into coming to terms with who you are and how you operate, you’re not going to function well in a relationship. Love isn’t just about giving someone the life you feel they deserve — it’s about being the person they deserve and being willing to put your best foot forward for them. Not only are you shorting yourself if you fail to work on self-improvement, but you’re shorting your loved ones of the best version of you.

And here’s where I get into the point of this article.

Love is an action.

Again, I feel like we tend to get hung up on the idea of love being this big, overpowering feeling that we’re powerless to resist. Any number of feelings can mask themselves as “love.” At the end of the day, if you’re not willing to put forth the effort necessary to create an environment for those feelings to thrive, you don’t truly love them. Excuses be damned. Love doesn’t sit idly by. Love is about taking time out of your day to show someone you care. Love is about putting forth effort into understanding where another person is coming from. Love is about commitment to personal betterment and growth, both for the good of the relationship and in order to show a person how much you truly care. Love is about working through things together, and seeking to understand before seeking to be understood.

I’d like to challenge people to think about love differently. In a world where we often feel like we don’t have the time or energy to commit to growth, it can be difficult to give a relationship the attention it needs in order to thrive. On top of that, I do believe it’s fully necessary to think of our own needs first and foremost and commit to loving ourselves, as cheesy as that may sound. Self-love and respect are important components of a healthy relationship.

My advice? Love yourself, love others, and do it with intent. The way I see it, love is a choice you make every day — kind of like exercise. It’s not necessarily easy, but the pay-off is well worth it.

A stroke of inspiration (pun intended) based on personal experience, helping lift people up by understanding they’re not alone and their experience is valid.

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