Our fairy tale world has told us since infancy that love means putting others before ourselves, waiting to be rescued from our own suffering, and living “happily ever after”. Even though most of us are solidly attached to this perception, we have an epidemic of broken relationships and failed marriages. Why? Perhaps this belief is not serving us.
Something that has always puzzled me is the inconsistency in the belief that love is unconditional, yet we often end up hating the very people we claimed to love at one time. Obviously, that love had conditions and requirements that were not met. If love is unconditional, then something else has hijacked that word.
In order to love unconditionally, we must have one important ingredient – you guessed it – self-love! We cannot love anyone more than we love ourselves. Period. This means if you aren’t consciously aware of your own needs and taking care of them, you are incapable of giving away something you do not have.
The danger of practicing “fairytale love” is we naturally develop an unspoken contract. This manifests in the form of expectations as we do our best to meet others’ needs and assume they will be able to meet ours. The truth is, we are incapable of meeting anyone’s needs but our own. This explains why resentments form on both sides of the relationship; each person feels like the other person isn’t trying hard enough or loving them “correctly”. Both sides fail to get their own needs met meanwhile feeling like they are giving everything they’ve got to their partner.
So what IS love if it isn’t the fairytale love we have been taught to expect? It is the natural overflow of your own self-love. When you take responsibility for your own needs, magic happens. When you realize the only thing you owe anyone is your own happiness, you actually empower others to create their own happiness. Taking ownership of your happiness means first of all identifying what your needs are. Do you have a strong need for communication and feeling heard? Do you need time to adventure? Do you need space for creativity? Your partner may meet a few of your needs well, but no one person was ever created to meet them all. We run into trouble when we try to force a person to do something that is not a talent they were given. It’s like running to an auto shop expecting to buy a loaf of bread. You will undoubtedly walk away disappointed and may even be tempted to be angry at that auto shop; yet, that auto shop is incapable of meeting your need for bread! Auto shops serve a great purpose; it’s just not baking bread. Many times, our loved ones are like the auto shop. They are still great people with wonderful skills, but not the skills needed to address our needs. There is an abundance of love, support, validation, and EVERYTHING YOU NEED all around you. It is your responsibility to reach out to the resources that fill you up. Only then, can you show up to your relationships happy, fulfilled, and over-flowing with true love. This is the unconditional love, which has no expectations or needs attached. So, love yourself first; then you will have so much to give.
Jillian Landis is a Self-Care and Empowerment Coach at Evolve Personal Coaching, blogger, and writer for Nourish + Bloom. Jillian's passion is encouraging individuals to love and care for themselves deeply, so they may serve this world at their greatest potential. Prior to coaching, Jillian served in the mental health profession for 10 years and has a vast knowledge of human behavior, which she utilizes to create effective change in the lives of her clients.