Do You Even Know What Love Means?

As we wrap up the ‘month of love’, I feel inspired to ask you, do you even know what love means? That may sound like a silly question, but it’s an important one.

Why? Because just like Paulo Coelho (author of The Alchemist) said, “Love is just a word until someone comes along and gives it meaning.

And when it comes to your romantic relationship, how you and your partner define love is a HUGE part of whether or not your relationship is successful.

So, if you’re unhappy with the current state of your relationship, and you’d like to change it for the better, let’s explore this a bit and see how it can help you.

As Long as We Both Shall Love
If you and your partner are married, you probably remember your wedding vows including “as long as we both shall live”.

Even if you’re not married, when you and your partner made a commitment to each other, it was most likely with the hope and intention that it would last forever.

In either case, since most couples commit to love in their relationship, I’d like to replace the notion of “as long as we both shall live” with “as long as we both shall love”. Just that slight variation in wording changes the meaning of a committed relationship significantly, doesn’t it?

In my opinion, for the purpose of a romantic relationship, it makes far more sense to make a commitment based on love, not on a physical lifetime.

And that’s why it’s essential to know how you and your partner define love, and whether or not you agree on its meaning. This may sound rudimentary, but did you and your partner ever talk about this? And if not, why not?

You wouldn’t commit to accepting a job if you didn’t know what your employer expected of you and what you expected of them, would you?

So when committing to a relationship, why not be clear on what that means and whether or not you’re able and willing to accept that role?

What’s Love Got to Do With It?
Let’s just get to the point then….what does love mean to you? Does it include:

  • honesty?
  • respect?
  • a mutual feeling of connection?

Or maybe you define it in the same way as traditional wedding vows do:

  • for better, for worse
  • for richer, for poorer
  • in sickness and in health

In my experience, in order for a relationship to be successful and fulfilling, the definition of love needs to include (at the very least) honesty, respect and a mutual feeling of connection.

And that means, if I commit to expressing these traits of love to my partner, I absolutely need to be honest, respectful and connected to myself first. I admit that it took me many lessons, some of which were very painful, before I finally learned this!

If you don’t know how to be honest with yourself, how can you be honest with your partner?

If you don’t know how to respect your own feelings, how can you expect your partner to respect them?

And if you don’t know how to feel connected to yourself – and need others to validate how amazing you are – you will always be looking to others to help you feel loved.

That’s why self-love is so important and makes a world of difference in the quality of ALL your relationships.

Going back to your definition of love, if it includes the traditional vows mentioned above, what do those words mean to you?

‘For better’ is simple enough. But what about ‘for worse’? Does that mean you and your partner can treat each other unkindly until death do you part, and that would be acceptable?

‘For richer’ is certainly easy. But what about ‘for poorer’? Does that mean you or your partner can deplete your savings accounts or rack up huge credit card bills while the other stands by with no say?

And finally, ‘in health’ is ideal. But what about ‘in sickness’? If you or your partner developed a psychological disorder or some type of disease that triggered abusive behavior, does that mean the other would just have to deal with it?

These are simple examples for illustrative purposes, but do you see what I’m getting at here? Words in a commitment don’t mean anything until you can clearly define what those words mean to you, not to whoever made up those traditional vows in the first place.

And when your commitment is to a healthy and loving relationship with another, the other person needs to agree to those definitions as well.

So, if you and your partner are going through a rough time and feel disconnected from one another – and you want to work through it in a loving and healthy way – start with talking about your original commitment to love and what that means to each of you.

We Teach Others How to Treat Us
If your partner isn’t treating you the way you’d like to be treated, it’s also helpful to remember that we teach others how to treat us based on how we treat ourselves.

As simple as this truth is, teaching others how to treat you well isn’t easy when you haven’t yet learned how to treat yourself well.

I hear a lot of women say things like, “he never listens to me”. To which I ask, “are you listening to yourself?” Meaning, are you tuning in to your thoughts and feelings and what they’re trying to tell you? Or are you dismissing the thoughts and feelings you don’t want to deal with?

Another common thing I hear women say is, “I don’t feel like I’m a priority in his life. He doesn’t make time for me.” To which I ask, “are you making yourself a priority and making time for yourself?

Our relationships reflect back to us what we believe about ourselves. And that’s why self-love is so important! Although the concept of self-love is far more accepted than it used to be, there is still some hesitancy around this subject because of the outdated belief that loving yourself is somehow selfish.

If you really think about this, it doesn’t make any sense. It’s okay for you to love your partner, your kids, your friends, your family, your pets, etc. –and it’s okay for all of them to love you – but it’s not okay to love yourself?!?!

There was a time when I bought into the belief that loving yourself is selfish. And during that time, my romantic relationship was extremely unhealthy. Not only did I disrespect my own feelings and needs, I allowed my partner (and others) to disrespect me as well.

When I finally had the courage to leave that unhealthy relationship, and I learned how to love myself, I was then able to attract a much healthier and more loving relationship into my life.

The journey of learning how to love myself hasn’t always been easy, and I’ve hit some bumps along the way, but it is so worth it. And I want this for you! I want you to love yourself so much that you’re no longer willing to settle for less than what you truly desire in your relationship.

Romantic relationships are supposed to be fulfilling! They’re not designed to be something that we just settle for and then always wonder if it could be better.

Doing Your Best to Make it Better
Instead of wondering if your romantic relationship could be better, do your best to make it better. Does this mean that changes will need to be made? Yes.

Does this mean that you might need to have some difficult conversations with your partner? Probably.

Does this mean that you might discover that you’re no longer with the right partner for you? Possibly.

But consider this…if you’re not happy with your relationship, and you continue to accept it as it is, you’re choosing (yes, this is a choice) to ignore the desire within you to have a better relationship, which is an direct act of disrespect against yourself. It might not be intentional, but it’s still disrespectful.

When you ignore your longing for a better life out of fear of change or the unknown, you are creating unnecessary stress and internal conflict. In fact, dismissing what you truly desire is what creates the stress and internal conflict in the first place.

But if you choose to respect your wishes and do your part to bring them about, you’re accepting responsibility for the quality of your life, and only you can do that.

Your partner is not responsible for making you happy, and you are not responsible for making them happy.

When you depend on them to make you happy or to feel loved, you are giving your power to someone outside of you. You are handing your quality of life over to someone else. The power to change your relationship for the better begins with self-love and respect.

If you want to stay in integrity with your commitment to love, you must choose to operate from a place of love, even when there’s pain involved.

Here’s an empowering question to ask yourself: “What can I do that’s within my power to shift this relationship into a better state of health? Not back to the way it was, but to a place in which I can work on the relationship with honesty, respect and love, and trust that the right course of action will unfold…no matter the outcome.

The answer to this question gives you the ability to feel empowered instead of powerless. And helping you feel empowered instead of powerless is the whole purpose of why I created and built A Healthy Path to Love, and why I’m so passionate about being a source of guidance and support for women who are struggling in their relationships.

I believe in the power of a healthy romantic relationship, and I believe that each and every one of us deserves to have the relationship we desire and deserve.

I believe that showing women how to be true to their hearts, and teaching them how to speak their truth even in – and especially in – the midst of relationship conflict, helps all of us show up for ourselves in a bigger and more loving way than we ever have before.

And I believe that accepting responsibility for our quality of life is what life is all about and gives us the power to be and to do anything we want.

So again, as we wrap up this ‘month of love’, ask yourself what love means. And if you’re not feeling that love in your life, ask yourself what you can do to change it. You have the power!

Stay tuned for more mindful messages and other valuable resources – giving you helpful tips and exercises to improve the quality of your life and relationships!

With love and support,

Catherine Dietz
Healthy Relationship Coach
Licensed Heal Your Life® Coach

P.S. If you’d like to explore the resources I offer to help you get started on an effective plan of action toward healthy changes in your relationship, please contact me here, and/or check out the free resources on my home page.  I’d love to connect with you and support you however I can. ❤