23 Oct How We Love Our Partners
I’ve been thinking a bit lately about what it means to truly love the ones we’re with.
In the past, I used to think my partner had to be a specific type of person. One day I’d meet him, he’d be exactly what I wanted, and we’d live happily ever after. Anyone who was cute but not exactly what I wanted was coerced to change if he wanted to be with me, or he didn’t get a chance. By holding to this high standard, I thought I was dignified.
I laugh today (and maybe I should cry), as I realize how I wanted to be with a person who was willing to be a reflection of me, which is not love at all. I’m not fully recovered, but I’m aware, to say the the least.
Thomas Merton writes, “The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them: we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them.”
As I learn more about different personality types, it’s amazing how I’ve looked down upon certain personality types because they weren’t me. The thing is, everything that’s good about my personality carries a corresponding dark side that makes me just as unpleasant as any of the personality types I choose not to prefer. And it’s humbling. Opening my understanding to accept that each of us carry our dark sides and our light has made me all the more accepting.
Buddhist teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, says “When our hearts are small, our understanding and compassion are limited, and we suffer. We can’t accept or tolerate others and their shortcomings, and we demand that they change. But when our hearts expand, these same things don’t make us suffer anymore. We have a lot of understanding and compassion and can embrace others. We accept others as they are, and then they have the chance to transform.”
I wonder if what’s most important about who we’re with is not that they’re like us but whether they are awake to what their dark sides and light are. We don’t want to recklessly love anyone and end up hurting ourselves in the end. But if our partners know themselves and are interested in learning about us, we can become each other’s helpers, growing in love and compassion as we accept each other’s natural disposition for how we show up in the world.
Do you struggle to love your partner for who she/he is? What has opened you up to more acceptance? I’d love to hear your thoughts as I continue to work on this myself. xoxoxo!