If you’re looking for love or would like to improve the romantic relationship you’re already in, Valentine’s Day can be the best time of year…or the worst! It seems like everyone is talking (and frequently giving advice) about love and romance. And while much of this is wonderful — a celebration of love — a lot of it is negative, self-defeating, and untrue (or at least not necessarily true).
Everyone’s experience of love (and everything else) is different, so I’d never want to dismiss or downplay what someone else has been through. But over the last 16 years of being in a loving relationship with my amazing wife, Jodi, I’ve learned a few things that I think are universal. While I could go on for hours about this topic, for now I’ll focus on just 1 DO and 1 DON’T of romantic relationships.
The 1 DO of Romantic Relationships
I’ve said it before, but it certainly bears repeating. If I had only one piece of advice to give to anyone interested in a healthy, loving, long-lasting romantic relationship, it would be this:
Be deeply in love, and be on the same team.
(OK, that’s a bit of a cheat because it’s a two-part compound sentence, but the first part — be deeply in love — is more of a prerequisite. After all, if you’re not deeply in love with someone, why would you want to be in a relationship with them in the first place?)
So, assuming you are deeply in love and you do want to be in a loving, romantic relationship, the key really is to be on the same team. This means that, as with teammates in sports, you don’t try to sabotage or tear each other down — you try to support and bring out the best in each other. And, just like sports teammates, it’s impossible for one of you to win while the other loses. (I always find it bizarre to hear couples talk about who “won” an argument. The very notion of a “winner” and a “loser” stems from a zero-sum-game mindset of opposition rather than cooperation and LOVE!)
Being on the same team doesn’t mean you’ll never disagree, hurt one another (unintentionally!), or face hardship and adversity. But if you always nurture, support, and root for each other (and for your two-person “team”), you’ll be able to make it through hard times together and celebrate mutual victories!
The 1 DON’T of Romantic Relationships
But to be on the same team, you’ve got to have a willing teammate. So, what prevents many people from finding a loving partner (or feeling a healthy love from their current partner)? I believe it comes down to this one “DON’T” of romantic relationships:
Don’t harbor self-defeating beliefs about love and relationships.
To say that your experiences reflect your beliefs would be a major understatement. To a very large extent, your beliefs are self-fulfilling prophecies that determine the quality of your life! And in no area is this more evident than in romantic relationships.
Lately I’ve felt inundated by limiting beliefs about relationships, often spouted like self-evident truths by well-meaning people who are, nonetheless, preventing themselves and others from experiencing the love we all deserve. One recent example came from a woman (on the wonderful TV show This Time Next Year) who set the intention to attract a loving partner within a year. When they followed up a year later, she hadn’t found love, which she justified with one of the most self-defeating beliefs out there:
Men don’t want to commit.
As Amy Poehler and Seth Meyers used to say: Really!?! Tell that to the millions (perhaps billions) of men in committed relationships (including me)! Clearly, this woman’s belief reflects her experiences — and, therefore, her experiences reflect this belief!
Another self-defeating (or at least self-hindering) belief about relationships that often gets bandied about like a romantic axiom is:
Relationships are hard work.
Statements like this always make me respond (usually just in my mind but sometimes out loud) with two of the most powerful words in the English language: Says you! No doubt they’re true for the person saying them (and for many other people), but the real question is: Do they HAVE to be? (Or, more to the point: Do you WANT them to be?)
What if someone told you that friendships are hard work? What if they said, “To have a true friendship is really tough — you have to struggle to make it work.” Would you believe them? Aren’t most of your best friendships ones where you enjoy being together, sharing common interests and activities? Where you look forward to seeing them, and the connection just flows naturally? Where you can lean on them in hard times and celebrate the good times together?
So why does it have to be different with a “friend with benefits” — with someone who’s your best friend in the world? In my opinion — and experience — it doesn’t! Relationships don’t have to be hard work! They can flow just as easily as the most natural and loving friendships!
You may have heard the saying “If you argue for your limiting beliefs, you get to keep them.” Well, this is certainly true for limiting beliefs about love and relationships. And the more deeply ingrained these beliefs become, the less likely it is that you’ll experience anything contrary to what you believe (at least not without overcoming some serious cognitive dissonance). But if you loosen the reins on your limiting beliefs — even just a bit, opening yourself to even consider an alternative — you’ll find that you can have the best of both worlds.
Do You Want to Be Right, or Do You Want Love (or BOTH)?
Again, my point here is not to dismiss anyone’s beliefs or experiences (or to say that mine are better…or even “right”). I just hate to see people depriving themselves of the love they desire, especially when that love might be just a slight shift in perception away!
And, time and again, I’ve seen that once you get locked into a self-defeating habit (such as seeing your partner as an opponent rather than a teammate) or a limiting belief (such as “relationships are hard”), your experiences will most likely reinforce these attitudes, making it feel like you’re right. Remember, though, that the important question isn’t Am I right? — it’s Am I experiencing the loving romantic relationship that I desire and deserve?
If you’re experiencing anything less, maybe the time has come to ask yourself another set of questions:
- Are my beliefs and actions serving me?
- Are they leading me closer to my ideal romantic relationship or away from it?
- Are they opening or shutting the door to more love?
- Are they self-fulfilling prophecies that I WANT to fulfill?
(Note: As you may have noticed, these questions are just as relevant in other areas of your life as they are in love and romance. But for now, we’ll stay on the topic of the month.)
Keep in mind that while your beliefs may be true for you, they probably don’t HAVE to be true. You could just as easily adopt positive beliefs and actions that DO serve you and lead you closer to the love you want.
So if you find yourself thinking something like “I’m too old for love,” “No one wants to marry a single mother,” or “Marriage is hard work and struggle,” your experiences will most likely bear out these beliefs. But the same goes for positive beliefs such as “Marriage is a joyous flow of loving energy” or “My partner always has my back…just like a good teammate.” And when you adopt beliefs like this — and the actions that support them — you’ll find that you can be right AND find love!
P.S. If you’d like to watch an interview where I elaborate on these ideas and many other thoughts/experiences about love, you can do so by signing up for the FREE Soulful Love Summit! You’ll get access to access to 20 interviews (+ many free gifts, including a 4-week “Soulful Love” ecourse from me and Jodi) to help you experience a loving romantic relationship. Click here to see the details and sign up.