Were you taught ‘how to love truly’ in school? No, you weren’t. Can’t you believe it? Although that’s one of the most important domains in our entire lives! Love and being loved are among the most beautiful and intensive experiences one can have. At the same time, a difficult relationship can be the cause of our deepest suffering. Learn about mindfulness in romantic relationships and how living mindfully can bring you a more healthy relationship.
Do we merit true love?
Firstly, do you merit true love? You may say: “Oh yes, of course!”. But are you sure? You might be surprised, but many of us don’t really believe in it. Perhaps not by our speech, but the way we look and behave in our relationships.
Tell me, how many people have been living in an unhealthy relationship and have never had the courage to leave?
My friend had been in a relationship of 10 years. 10 years! She had never felt loved. But she never left. Perhaps she was afraid of feeling lonely, of sentimental insecurity, or she was not confident about herself. But the deepest root was this. She didn’t believe she merited true love. That was why she remained in an unhealthy relationship. So do many of us.
“True love” vs. “In love”
But hang on, what is true love? Many of us are in love, but how many are truly loving? How to know the difference between “in love” and “true love”? Here are the 3 things that help you know when you really love a person, and not just “in love”:
- You want the absolute best for them (instead of wanting them)
In love with someone, we have the tendency to possess him or her. The fact of being with her or him comforts you. You want them. But the day you really love someone, you don’t want them. Instead, you want the absolute best for them. And that’s the difference.
- Your love makes them feel free
True love is composed of respect and trust. “You yourself are part of the universe. You are made by stars. When you see the person you love, you see him or she also made of stars. And they encompass ‘eternity’” (Thich Nhat Hanh). That’s why when you truly love someone, that love is made of trust and respect. And the person you love always feels free, and not possessed by you.
- Your love makes you happy
Are you in love and cry all day long? You can be sure that it’s not true love. True love contains a feeling of profound joy. It may not matter whether the other loves us, or not.
In front of my place, there are several big trees. I love them so much and watch them every day. I feel they have souls, and imagine often that they are my best friends. One day, I asked myself: “Do they love me, and do they know that I love them?” After a second, I had my answer. “It doesn’t matter to them if I love them. They just love me and they are happy”. I was almost sure about this.
Can we love like my trees? Yes, we can. With the freshness of our minds, our love is too. Here are 5 ways to practice mindfulness in romantic relationships.
Practice mindfulness in romantic relationships – 5 simple ways to love mindfully
- Start with self-love
A simple reason why we don’t believe we merit true love? Because we don’t love ourselves truly. “To connect more deeply with others, you must face the one person that you keep on the shortest leash: yourself’ (Mindful). We never attract true love, because we believe we don’t deserve it. “But there’s nothing special you must do to deserve love”(Mindful).
When an adolescent asked him “How do I love myself?”, Thich Nhat Hanh said: “You breathe in, and breathe out mindfully. And you realize that your body is a wonder of the cosmos. It comes from plants, the sun, the rain, and generations of human, plant, and animal ancestors. You are a wonder”.
And that’s a simple way to start with self-love. Start mindful self-compassion.
- Be beautiful, be yourself
At the school of my children, sometimes they put a proverb or a saying at the entrance. One day I read this: “A lion that imitates a lion is a monkey’. I remember asking myself: “What if you were a monkey? Should you imitate a lion, or should you stay as a monkey?”
Have you ever compared yourself to others? Doubted of you doing wrong to be different from other folks? Thought that you need to be fixed, not worthy enough?
The world constantly wants us to fit in. Being human living in society, we face all the challenges of being the persons we truly are. And this challenge is even more paramount when we are faced with failures, or difficulties, either in work or in a relationship.
“If you can accept your body, you have a chance to see it as your true home. You can rest, relax, and feel inner joy and peace. Accept yourself as you are. It’s a very important practice. When you practice building an inner home, you become more and more beautiful” (Thich Nhat Hanh).
And do you know that when you find your “true home”, you’ll attract the relationship as beautiful as your mind?
- Offer your true understanding of other’s suffering
Thich Nhat Hanh once said, “When we don’t understand, we can’t love”. And nothing is more true. Learn to love mindfully and truly, is learn to understand the person we love. How? By practicing deep listening, and compassion. And when we can understand the suffering of the person we love we offer them the most beautiful gift.
- Reverence as a practice of mindfulness in romantic relationships
In Vietnam, we have an old proverb, that says “Wife and husband respect the other as a guest”. Can we do this even when we have been a long time in our relationships? Not easy. But we can remind ourselves that the person we love always merits our profound respect. And that’s the foundation of true love.
- Watering our love
In one of this book, Thich Nhat Hanh mentioned true love as “organic”. It always grows by itself. We don’t need to find it or push it to grow. Because the seeds are always there in us. We just need to water. The day it stops growing, it dies.
Mindful practices help us nourish our love to ourselves, and to all living beings. In the beginning, we may find romantic love between two people. But if we practice, one day we’ll see this love includes more and more living beings. Is that not beautiful?
So you have learned how to recognize true love!
Romantic love is an important domain in our entire lives. Love and being loved are among the most beautiful and intensive experiences one can have. At the same time, a difficult relationship can be the cause of our deepest suffering.
Many of us don’t believe we deserve true love. Because we don’t love ourselves enough, to realize that we are wonders. Practicing mindfulness in romantic relationships is a way to find true love. Start with self-love, learn to return to your inner home, practice deep listening and profound respect to the person we love, and water your love so it grows bigger to all living beings.
Do you believe, like me, that day, you’ll find true love?