I woke to the angry tapping of my window glass against the frame as it sat restlessly in the pane, the once sweet slumber of my bedroom’s sole occupant destroyed by the harmless wind that had no idea how hard it was for me to get to sleep last night. Tossing and turning, I tried to shut out the noise. Of course, I couldn’t. Thoughts churned in my mind, turning over and over on how love is about embracing and accepting things that don’t always rub you the right way. Love has a way of stretching us, of taking us past our comfort zone and teaching us about ourselves through the lessons it gives. I know I have learned the most about myself in my love experiences, from the painful ones to the joyous ones.
Photographer, D. Sharon Pruitt.
Friendships are with people you love. At least, I hope so. I’m going to assume (cringe @ ass-u-me) your friendships are with people you care for and not void fillers. Love has many flavors, many shades and expressions that can look like anything we understand or receive as caring. The love I have for my children is different from that of a lover, another family member, or a friend. Even friends have their different levels of closeness and depth. All are different aspects of love. I have yet to meet a person I could not love or try to love in some way. Some of these people have no idea how much I care, while others second-guess it. That is ok. Love is something you can feel on your own; however, the expression of it/the action bits require some form of mutual participation.
Balance plays a big part in the perception of love and how well a relationship functions. Most people see balance as tit-for-tat, or you give me this and I pay you back (and vice versa). That is a trade relationship, in my opinion. Last time I checked our interpersonal relationships are not business transactions. Our relationships are about connection, and everything I’ve seen involving keeping score brings an element of competition to relationships that degrade the foundation of connection. Viewing love with expectations, which are about your viewpoint rather than what the other person sees, is a sure way to place distance and stress on a relationship. Being in a curious state of mind, seeking to understand instead of to blame goes a long way in keeping connections flowing freely.
Checking judgment is also vital to the love experience. How many times has someone shared something with you that was just as surprising to you as it was for them to actually say? In a space that is safe, where you know retaliation or negative speak will not come, is the space of non-judgment. I am a highly sensitive person, and if I see judgment on someone’s features (or worse out of their mouth) I am not likely to be very vulnerable with that person again. Opening up is a risk, and is an indicator of how safe someone feels with you. Being in a place of non-reception is a disservice to the honor a person gives by handing you a piece of them. Stowing thoughts about what you would do in someone else’s shoes is a great way to begin active listening and bridge the gap of understanding. Which moves you closer to true connection, something we all want.
Curiosity and empathy help to edify communication and freedom. Asking “why” and double checking your reception of statements help your loved one feel understood and heard. What an amazing feeling to experience and hold inside as you move through the world! Empathy is closely associated with compassion and is more than just trying to logically understand where someone is coming from. Empathy means pulling from your own similar experiences to viscerally understand where someone is in their experience of the moment. It means remembering that once you were not as knowledgeable as you are now, and that we all learn as we go. We take in our experiences and grow from them, or we keep experiencing them until we do.
How we communicate our level of caring, the words we choose, the space we give them to be themselves, how well we listen to understand, and how often we reach out creates an environment of trust and acceptance for others. Hopefully, we are creating a similar environment that we would also like to feel at home in. Love, trust, and communication is a doorway that swings both ways. Working together with an attitude of flexibility and empathy brings us closer to having the best experience of love each relationship brings to our mutual table.