“Love lifted me, Love Lifted me, when nothing else could help, Love lifted me”. This chorus is part of a hymn that I learned as a little girl. I use to sing the chorus loudly and passionately, even though I did not know what love was or what it meant to be lifted. I just sang the song and enjoyed the enthusiastic response from the adults. But a few months ago, I heard the song again and the words made me consider the meaning of love, and the ability of love to lift people. What I know for sure is that love can lift -elevate, excite, empower and encourage- only if love contains the right elements.
Love can L.I.F.T. if the love that is offered and received is Liberating, and not Limiting. Why? Because liberating love allows you to be, to grow and to experience all of who you are and all that you can be. It removes the shackles of labels, expectations, roles and assumptions that deprive all of us of our individuality and creativity. Liberating love energizes you and exposes you to new ways of being, doing and loving. It allows you and your relationship to breathe without demanding that you conform to a relationship model that does not support, serve or satisfy you. Liberating love provides freedom – freedom to transform, reform, and the opportunity to create your own norm. It is about potential, possibilities and promise. Like the song says, “free your mind, the rest will follow”.
If liberating love is so amazing, why do we cling to love that is limiting? The answer is simple – FEAR. Many of us fear the unknown, the unexpected, the unpredictable and the untried. Many times we reject anything out of the ordinary or anything outside of experience. Sometimes we are so controlled by fear that we let our relationships decline, dissolve and disintegrate into habits, formalities and routines that rob us of joy, happiness, and/or stimulation. But the good news is that we change; we can make decisions that unlock new passions, perspectives and promise. We can liberate ourselves and others.
So the question is -how can you ensure that your love is liberating? Here are few steps you can take:
1) Be open to new, new everything – experiences, events, people, philosophies, countries, contexts, etc. Allow yourself to experience anything and everything (legally that is) that strikes your fancy. That way you gather additional data to determine what you do like and what you don’t like.
2) Be adventurous and take risks, calculated risks that offer opportunities to broaden your perspectives. Keep in mind that the broader you go, that more you will know.
3) Be willing to be uncomfortable and always remember that discomfort is a part of learning, living and growing.
The second critical element for Love to be lifting is for love to be Illuminating and not Intimidating. Illuminating love is a love that embraces on-going learning. It is a love that welcomes new information, diverse perspectives and thrives on self-revelation. It is a love that offers help, hope and healing to you and to your partner. It is a love that we generally all want, but have difficulty accepting and giving.
If illuminating love is so critical, why don’t more couples have it, give it or embrace it? Because illuminating love demands honesty and self-reflection, and both of those require intention and effort. To have an illuminating love, you have to be engaged and committed to doing “self” work .Without self-analysis, you won’t have the self-understanding and the self-awareness needed to illuminate your relationship. Just think about it ---you can’t have any light in your life/relationship, if you don’t know where the light switches are and/or if you don’t know how to turn the lights on. So find the light switches in your life and in your relationship. Finding the light and turning on your lights will make you stronger and will make your relationship stronger too.
So, how do you illuminate your relationship/life, how do you turn on the lights?
1) Listen to your spirit and listen to your partner. Be open to learning, and remember the learning is progressive and continuous.
2) Work on intimacy and remember that true revelation only happens in the midst of trust.
3) Encourage yourself and your partner to grow; stagnation eventually results in decay. The good news is that Illuminating love is possible for all us. Let’s turn on the lights because the best is yet to come.
Illumination provides the light for you and your love to flourish. However, illumination can be intimidating, especially if you have decided to honor and celebrate yourself in ways that are new to your partner. In fact, some partners intentionally and unintentionally intimidate their partners when one of them tries to change and grow. Some manipulate by using words, withdrawing their affection, using guilt or/and pouting. Some partners apply undue pressure by issuing ultimatums and issuing decrees. I have even witnessed some partners bully their less assertive partners into postponing and abandoning their growth and dreams.
But remember this….. Anything gained by intimidation ALWAYS results in feelings of resentment, retaliation, and sometimes revenge. Also keep in mind that intimidation does not prevent or discourage illumination. In fact, using intimidation actually sheds more light on who you are and who you are not; it reveals who you are at your core. So, take a step back and ask yourself the following: Am I a being helpful or hurtful, open or opinionated, controlling or contributing? Am I asking my partner to shrink or am I creating space for her to shine? Your honest answers will help you discern how you are “showing up”. If you don’t like what you see, you can make a different choice. You can make the changes needed to CREATE love.
Love can also L.I.F.T. if the love is grounded in Faith and not Fault-finding. Just think about your own life for a minute. When someone believes in you, has confidence in you, trusts you, prays with/for you and is dedicated to you, what impact does that have on you? When you know that someone supports your dreams, trusts your vision, devotes themselves to your mission, and gives of herself freely, how does that affect you? If you are honest, you will say that having a partner who believes in you is one of the most wonderful feelings in the world. And not only it is a good feeling, having faith in your partner is one the foundations of a healthy relationship.
Having faith is critical, but I am sad to say that many couples are usually better at fault-finding. Most couples are extremely good at giving each other criticism, rebukes, attacks, and unsolicited advice. Some give so much negative feedback that I sometimes ask them, “why are you together?” But this what I know for sure – people who easily find fault in others are usually dissatisfied with their own life, threatened by things that they don’t understand, jealous of your ability to move upward and forward, mad at the world, have unresolved issues, or have not done their own emotional work required for emotional health. But most importantly, a partner who routinely finds fault in you can be hazardous to your emotional and spiritual health. Never forget that you deserve to be cherished, encouraged and supported. If you are not receiving love that makes you feel appreciated, you have a right to make a different choice.
If you are fault-finder, here are some suggestions that will hopefully help you curb your need to criticize
1) Spend time with yourself. Analyze why you constantly “pick” people apart. Be honest with yourself. Effective analysis is always required to take effective action.
2) Identify how fault-finding serves and benefits you. Does it give you a false sense of importance? Does it give you power? Does it even up the score? Does it eliminate fear? Does it make you feel less threatened?
When you are able to answer some of the questions, you are on your way to making different choices to curtail your fault-finding ways. If you need an extra incentive to do less fault-finding, remember that it generally takes five or more positive comments to compensate for every negative comment. So try your best not to make withdrawals from the emotional bank account, make an investment instead.
Finally, love can L.I.F.T. if the love given is Tender, and not Tough. What is tender love? Tender love is gentle, compassionate and kind. It is love that is warm and affectionate. It is a type of love that we all desire. If tender love is so desired, why do we practice tough love with our partners? Why do you believe that treating our partners in threatening and unpleasant ways draws them closer to us? The truth is that when you are exceptionally tough with your partner, you risk losing her respect, eroding her trust and jeopardizing her commitment to you. Nothing good results from being unreasonably rough and tough. And keep in mind that stern and harsh treatment breaks, not builds, relationship and intimacy.
However, there are three instances when tough love is warranted: when there is any type of abuse, in the face of addiction and in the midst of infidelity. Tough love in those situations are necessary because setting boundaries to protect yourself physically, emotionally, spiritually and financially are important. Remember it is never loving to stand by and watch someone walk a destructive path, and it is also not loving to allow yourself to get caught up in another person’s emotional tsunami either. In those 3 instances, tough love is defensible. But if there is no abuse, no infidelity or no addiction, tough love may not be justified. Being tough when you give love will not help you CREATE love that is safe, satisfying, and sustaining. To CREATE love and a relationship that is gratifying and safe, being tender always wins.
The song is true; love can L.I.F.T. It can elevate you, boost you, revitalize you, encourage you, excite you and raise you. The right love can make you soar. So are you giving and receiving “L.I.F.T.ing” Love? I hope you are. But, if not, you can make another choice. Make the choice to be lifted by first loving yourself and then by loving your partner. You deserve it!
I look forward to continuing this discussion at the CREATE Love Conference. Imani and I hope to see you on February 16.
Co-Founder of CREATE LOVE
Author of I Can Depend On Me
(Click on the link above for your copy)
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