The Love in Relationships
By Jessica Manuel and Rev. Anthony Tarasca
We are creatures of habit and no matter how much money we have, belongings or friends, there is nothing like the love from a significant other.
Not all loving relationships are healthy and leave us a better person; they can leave us broken-hearted, emotionally empty and sometimes unsure if we are worthy of anything better. Unknowingly, we can look to relationships to fix a part of ourselves that we neglected, risk becoming co-dependant or worse, allowing the other person to dictate and define our identity.
There are many layers to love that need to be nurtured and addressed in order to have a healthy relationship. If your family is broken but you’re still angry about it, it will leak into your relationship; if you grew up in a physically or emotionally abusive household and have yet to talk about it, receive healing and forgiving the ones that hurt you, it will inevitably affect the way you view yourself or the measure of love that’s available to you. Finally, if you don’t have others you trust, to talk to (people that have your best interest at heart) we can find ourselves living through one person’s opinion.
Loving someone else is a choice to make just like marriage is a choice; it is a constant, conscious commitment for the rest of your life. Relationships are to be taken seriously; and as such compromise, patience, humility and vulnerability are all ingredients to a healthy, sustainable relationship.
A Story from Jessica…
“They tell me I’m loved, so I need to give them everything!”
I’m pretty sure I never said it out loud but my actions said otherwise, I always wanted others to be happy, even if it compromised what I believed and valued.
Having a voice, sharing my opinion or addressing conflict; that was not an option at one point in my life. I’d rather run from them instead of dealing with rejection. At the end of the day we all want to be loved and accepted.
A relationship never started in the way it should have because I was lacking self-worth. I never understood that I was worthy of unconditional love, and a ‘significant other’ was only deserving of having (all of) me when they earned my trust and respect. This included understanding the depth of my experiences, along with past pain and disappointments, so they could be educated on what hurts me. I needed someone to understand “how” to love me properly, and that takes time. Understanding one’s values, desires and dreams are also mandatory components to loving another.
Without earning my confidence in the areas expressed above, no safety and security would ever be found in that relationship. I had my own choice to make: In order to find the right person, I would not continue to appease a male for temporary “acceptance”. I needed to become a better partner to myself, first.
I became a Christian a few years ago, and my perspective on love and relationships shifted for me. I needed to be accountable to the things I could change and in order to be a great partner, I needed to be single and understand myself in order to build a life that included independence, confidence and security apart from another man.
I bought my first condo in Toronto, grew deeper in my faith and understood what made me happy. Most importantly I began to understand that I was WORTHY of love. I also learned something else; no matter how much you have it together, guys can still make the choice to treat you like “poo” if you allow them to.
Respect, communication and vulnerability are keys to keeping a relationship healthy. Being kind to one another, using gentle words, taking time to think and reflect on our needs so we can communicate to your partner, serving one another… these are all great ways to sustain a relationship. I learned this the hard way, but in turn I came to understand that we are all worthy of giving and receiving this.
However, some will not relate to one another if their past is not dealt with or if they are unwilling to trust a partner with any pain and THATS OKAY — just like the kitten and dog, we are all different and have the capacity to love, but only the right person. Whether it causes insecurities or tears, you need to share everything with that person. If one is not feeling secure in the love of their partner or what they have to offer, then unfortunately it’s a lost battle. Dating is a valuable experience and one that I never take for granted, I learn more about myself and what I want.
I don’t waste my time anymore neglecting myself. I know that I’m worth a lot because I have a lot to offer. End of story.
Guess what, you are too.
A Story from Anthony…
When it comes to relationships there are no experts.
What I mean is; we cannot put every relationship that exists into a “one size fits all” package as each any everyone of us are different and therefore unique in our own way.
Trust me when I say that I am no expert in relationships, nor will I ever claim to be. All I can do here in Part 4 is share my own personal experiences in my past and present relationships in order to come together with others in trying to build strong relationships, whether among our family, our friends or that special someone of the opposite sex. But if one thing is of a certainty in regards to building strong relationships, it is open and honest communication. Without this key element, any relationship will only fail as it is through communication that we express our feelings.
In truth, there can never be any benefit in keeping secrets, as it is in sharing of one’s self with another that the Love in Relationships is allowed to grow and prosper. So whatever it is that you carry from your past; do not hide it, but rather use it as a means to show just how much you trust the one in which you are striving to build a relationship with. Yes, this requires the risk of being vulnerable, but the reward is well worth the risk. Believe me; I know this personally as my past resulted in my having to endure a number of failed relationships due to my inability and unwillingness to be vulnerable in how to communicate.
I cannot stress enough how unfortunate it is to choose to be alone in order to avoid the risk of being hurt. Trust me when I say; that is not living, it is merely existing.
My Epiphany finally came (an Epiphany I will discuss in greater detail in Part 5; The Love Of Spirituality) when I reached the lowest point in my life, realizing that loneliness and solitude were not great companions to have. Now, I will not dwell on my past here as this was already covered to some extent in Parts 1 (Love of Family) & 2 (Love for Yourself), what I will do however is share what I learned from that past in how important the Love in Relationships truly is.
In familial relationships I came to understand that while I suffered immensely from dysfunction at home, I realized that I was not the only one on that treadmill of despair. My family members and I were able to use the emotional pain we faced as a bridge builder towards loving each other and learning how to depend on one another in that through our blood ties we were able to bond and move forward. In all honesty, not every family member was willing to move forward. What was important to me is that in my effort to build a familial relationship, that effort was reciprocated by some members.
In friendships, I was finally able to break down the “Walls of Jericho” and let those whom I grew to love into my imperfect world, while coming to accept their imperfections as well. By being transparent about myself, and holding nothing back, I was blessed to have gained people into my life who do not judge me for who I was, but rather accepting me for who I am.
Now when it came to personal relationships of romance, I have no shame in now admitting that I failed miserably. This was in no way indicative of my inability to treat a woman properly; on the contrary, I was very respectful and devoted towards women, treating them far better than I was treating myself. The reason for my failure was that I had not yet learned how to love myself at that time due to my lack of a loving family which led to a lack of identity. This of course led to one failed relationship after another as I was looking for love in all the wrong places when in fact I needed to start within myself. I cannot go back and change what was never able to start, but from my own growth I now know that any chance of building a successful romantic relationship takes root in my now being able to love and respect myself, which in turn will show me as a stable and functional potential mate to the opposite sex. And this outlook will only serve to augment my holding women in high esteem, along with my willingness to treat them with the utmost of love, respect and devotion.
So yes, the Love in Relationships takes honest work and effort at every level, but the rewards are well worth that effort. And while, like me, not every person was born into a stable family, ultimately the choices we make in how we interact with others are just that; our choices. We can let our adverse circumstances destroy us until there is nothing left, or we can rise above our adverse circumstances and show the world just how wonderful we can be in spite of the challenges we faced.
This is true strength which can only come from true courage, and I thank God every day that He granted me the wisdom to finally see this.
If I can do this, you can too.
There are many people who suffer in failed relationships, most of which are a result of poor choices, learned behaviours or a lack of identity and sense of self-worth. Again you will notice that the struggle in relationships does not discriminate by age, gender or any other differences between us.
We all have a choice to make and relationships are no different. As the Parts 1 to 4 have fully outlined; loving family, yourself and others are just the beginning to learning how to love or receive love.
Consider a relationship like icing on a cake; not only on top but between each layer. If one layer is rotten (ie: family, yourself or others), you will not enjoy the cake no matter how good the icing is.
See you for Part 5, The Love for Spirituality