Seriously, love is a thing. I didn’t always think so, and now that I do, well… it isn’t always a perfect Barbie Dream World experience, at all, and requires substantially more actual effort than I understood when I only dreamed of love. I’m speaking specifically of romantic sexual love – Eros. Nothing feels quite as ridiculously amazing as being loved, loved well, and adored romantically by an attentive affectionate lover with shared values, good communication skills, and the will to put reciprocal effort and time into the art of love.

Sometimes this is the face of love.

Sometimes this is the face of love.

Now, I’m no expert on love, frankly – I may well make more mistakes in this area than is commonplace – but I have been a devoted student for some time, and I’ve learned one or two things I am happy to share:

1. We are each having our own experience, which may feel very shared in a given moment, but are quite distinctly separate; however much in love, we are individuals.

2. Good treatment begins with treating myself well, by setting explicit boundaries, knowing my limits, communicating clearly and simply and remaining aware of the fundamental humanity of all involved – mistakes will be made, feelings will be hurt, boundaries may be trampled, and promises may be broken. At the end of the day, love is, and people are capable of change and growth.

3.  It’s not truly possible to force change on love; people change with their choices, their circumstances, and by way of their will. See items 1 and 2. If you are finding that love ‘needs’ a lot of change… that may not be love.

4. Criticism is a poor way of expressing a request, but commonplace; taking criticism personally generally prevents hearing the request, and failing to set boundaries about being criticized in lieu of being asked for an action or a change undermines love over time. Use your words wisely; love is listening.

5. Love really enjoys encouragement, kind words, emotional openness that also respects boundaries, consent, gentle frankness, laughter, and touch. Love enjoys being heard.

6. Love is undermined when we take it for granted, treat it as an entitlement or guarantee, speak harshly, violate boundaries, demean or diminish with our words or actions, speak with derision or contempt, disrespect it, or fail to treat it with consideration and importance, or… hey wait – honestly, if you’re doing these things, how is that love at all? Seriously. If you are treating another human being this way, maybe stop calling that love.

7. Emotions are very nuanced, and people have a very personalized experience of their experience (see item 1); making assumptions about someone else’s feelings or understanding of circumstances is a first-rate way to improve one’s rate of learning – the number of times you’ll be wrong will definitely result in plentiful opportunities to learn a lot – but it is a poor way to treat love.

8. Expectations are not ‘real’, and they don’t count as ‘plans’; mismatched expectations are a poor fit for love. Fortunately, this is an easy win with explicit, clear communication – as with assumptions, we can simply choose not to take this path. Trust me that building ‘love’ on expectations and assumptions is like trying to walk the average cat on a leash.

9. However challenging, getting love right is… beyond words, really, which is likely why so very many people write so very many words on the qualities of love; it’s worth communicating, and damned difficult. It’s worth the effort to invest in love every day – and that doesn’t require a partner! We invest in love when we are not in a relationship, too, with good self-care, enjoying what matters most to us as people, taking our own heart for a joy ride, solo, and savoring the small joys of life – when we do, love finds us so much more easily, than when we slog through our experience tragically grieving the lack of love.

10. Calling it love doesn’t change what it is.

...with what matters most. "You Always Have My Heart" 8" x 10" acrylic on canvas with glow.

…with what matters most.
“You Always Have My Heart” 8″ x 10″ acrylic on canvas with glow.

Today is a good day to love.