Before I married my wonderful husband, Idated a lot of men. For most of my 20s (and even my early 30s) I had a perfect fairy-ideal of what romantic love was, probably because I was an actress and loved drama back then.
It took years for me to realize a relationship is not a romance movie.
At some point in our lives, we may believe that love should be like the kind of romance we see portrayed in films, television, and novels.
For some reason, I always thought my romantic relationships were less if I did not experience this kind of fairy-tale relationship. Maybe this is why I kept meeting frogs.
At times, I bought into the belief that if I had a relationship with the perfect prince, then all would be well in my life. I thought, Now, I will be safe forever.
In truth, I did marry a prince—but a prince who is also human, who has faults and issues just like every person, no matter how wonderful he is.
At some point I grew up and learned to let go of the crazy metaphor of romantic love in order to find true happiness. Yes, I was disappointed to realize that the knight riding through the night to save the damsel in distress is a fallacy. It’s a bummer.
But, let’s look at it in this light: We all saw Romeo and Juliet and Titanic. Why stories like these make our hearts sing is that the love is unrequited. Unavailability fuels the romantic expression.
This kind of romantic story can only work when there is an absence of the lover. Sometimes, they have to die in the end in order for their love to fit into this romantic view. Or, we eat handfuls of popcorn, waiting to see if they live happily ever after, and we rarely find out if they really do.
The romantic love fantasy is really a substitute for intimacy—real, connected, vulnerable intimacy.
So then, how do we make relationships work and stay happy?
We begin with the understanding of what pure love is, and then redefine and update the romantic fairytale into a healthier type of love.
Here are 10 ways to create true intimacy, find pure love, and be truly happy in your relationship:
1. Use relationships to teach you how to be whole within.
Relationships aren’t about having another person complete you, but coming to the relationship whole and sharing your life interdependently. By letting go of the romantic ideal of merging and becoming “one,” you learn as Rainer Maria Rilke says, to love the distances in relationship as much as the togetherness.
2. See your partner for who he or she really is.
The romantic tragedy occurs when you view the person you are in love with as a symbol of what they have come to represent, the idea of them. When you realize that more often than not you don’t really know your partner, you begin to discover who they are and how they change and evolve.
3. Be willing to learn from each other.
The key is to see the other as a mirror and learn from the reflection how you can be a better person. When you feel upset, rather than blame your partner and point fingers, remain awake to what has yet to be healed in yourself.
4. Get comfortable being alone.
In order to accept that love can’t rescue you from being alone, learn to spend time being with yourself. By feeling safe and secure to be on your own within the framework of relationship, you will feel more complete, happy, and whole.
5. Look closely at why a fight may begin.
Some couples create separateness by fighting and then making up over and over again. This allows you to continue the romantic trance, creating drama and avoiding real intimacy. If you become aware of what you fear about intimacy, you’ll have a better sense of why you’re fighting—and likely will fight far less.
6. Own who you are.
We generally grasp at romantic love because we’re yearning for something that is out of reach, something in another person that we don’t think we possess in ourselves. Unfortunately, when we finally get love, we discover that we didn’t get what we were looking for.
True love only exists by loving yourself first. You can only get from another person what you’re willing to give yourself.
7. Embrace ordinariness.
After the fairy-dust start of a relationship ends, we discover ordinariness, and we often do everything we can to avoid it. The trick is to see that ordinariness can become the real “juice” of intimacy. The day-to-day loveliness of sharing life with a partner can, and does, become extraordinary.
8. Expand your heart.
One thing that unites us is that we all long to be happy. This happiness usually includes the desire to be close to someone in a loving way. To create real intimacy, get in touch with the spaciousness of your heart and bring awareness to what is good within you.
It’s easier to recognize the good in your partner when you’re connected to the good in yourself.
9. Focus on giving love.
Genuine happiness is not about feeling good about ourselves because other people love us; it’s more about how well we have loved ourselves and others. The unintentional outcome of loving others more deeply is that we are loved more deeply.
10. Let go of expectations.
You may look to things such as romance and constant togetherness to fill a void in yourself. This will immediately cause suffering. If you unconsciously expect to receive love in certain ways to avoid giving that love to yourself, you will put your sense of security in someone else.
Draw upon your own inner-resources to offer love, attention, and nurturance to yourself when you need it. Then you can let love come to you instead of putting expectations on what it needs to look like.
These are only a few ways to explore real intimacy. How do you create a loving connection in your relationship?