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I wish you were a little more...I wish you didn't act so...Interesting isn't it, common phrases we hear every single day. We spend most of our lives listening to the ways in which other people wish we were. Authenticity seems a lot like a buzz word these days, but to be honest it might be the only word. I think life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness may be a little misquoted. I think if we spent less time focusing on what we should be doing and more on what makes us feel alive, the happiness and successful relationships would be at our fingertips. Without vulnerability, can we ever be truly in a trusting, honest relationship? Without our partner knowing who we are, can we be happy? Love, unconditional love, what does that even mean and does it even matter?
So what does this have to do with our relationships? It's pretty simple and obvious on the surface layer. Be oneself. When you enter a partnership with someone it's no longer just me, myself and I. "I really don't like to go hiking, but it makes her happy so I do it." I'm sure we have all said something like this at one time or another. The hardest part is to delineate between love and compromise. When do the scales tip and it becomes selfish? On the other hand, when does a compromise suddenly breed resentment?
I believe, it comes down to this. Love the person for who THEY are, and in return they must love you for who you are. Again, simple in theory, harder in practice. Loving unconditionally is accepting the person for who they are, their flaws, big and small.
Loving someone because they make us happy is not love. Or maybe more accurately loving someone because they make us happy is conditional love. A friend told me a story about conditional love. It goes something like this:
"A wise old man approaches a young fisherman and asks him why he fishes. The young man responds "I love fish." The older man asks him why he loves fish. The young man responds, "I love fishing, I love catching fish, I love the way they taste and how they fill me up." Now the old man stops for a second and thinks. He says, "Then you don't love the fish. You love yourself. If you truly loved fish, you wouldn't take it from its home/family, kill it and eat it. You would let it live it's life."
Often I believe we mistake love for things that make us feel good. Me must love ourselves, we must surround ourselves with things that make us happy. Yet, we must not confuse these things with any other kind of love than self love. If we see our partners in this self love lens, problems begin to arise when they no longer make us feel good, or make us feel happy. I look at love this way, on a snowy Saturday night: Imagine your partner is sick. Full blown flu, coughing, sneezing, can't get out of bed. Now while this person is sick they are no less them. They can't do anything for you, they have absolutely nothing to offer you. How do your feelings or opinions change? Or do they? Take it a step further, they're sick and lost all of their money. They have even less to offer. What emotions does this invoke inside of you?
Now I'm not saying you should stay in a relationship that makes you unhappy. Just understand that love does not equal happiness. You can love someone dearly and be phenomenally unhappy, and vice versa.
The next time you are with your partner, or meet someone, ask yourself: "Do I love this person? Or do they make me happy?" Now the two aren't mutually exclusive. The answer could be yes, no, both or neither. There is no right or wrong, no perfect way of experiencing life and love. I think introspection and an honest examination of the world is always a healthy exercise. Now while you may come up with some less than pleasant answers, I believe knowledge is the foundation for everything.
I also believe that authenticity is part of that foundation of any healthy long lasting relationship. Its importance paramount. I will answer why in my next article. I hope you enjoyed my thoughts on this, my opinion, because in the end, it is just an opinion.