I've dedicated the last several years of my life to helping people better understand what love is and how to create amazing relationships in their lives.
This year I turned 31. The morning of my birthday I woke up and felt compelled to write this piece. It's a collection of the most important lessons I've learned about love. I hope it can make a difference in your life.
1. Love is a choice you make every day
Consciously making the same choice to love your partner every single day is incredibly powerful. Nothing has the ability take away your power to choose love.
Choose whom you love. Love whom you choose.
2. Don't be afraid to be the one who loves the most
Most people never get to experience the love they dream of because they are scared to take the risk of being the one who loves the most. It's easy to play it safe and wait for the other person to make the first move. It's safe to let the other person do all the work, to be a critic, or to play down your true feelings. It's not difficult to avoid having the hard conversations that could save your relationship because you might be putting your relationship on the line.
The truly great lovers are not afraid to put their heart on the line.
3. Love isn't fair... and that's what makes it so beautiful
Sometimes we are just lucky enough to find a person who will stick by our side and love us even when we think we don't deserve it. If you find someone like that, hold on to them.
4. Love is not happiness
If you're looking for an unlimited, constant supply of happiness, love is not for you. Love is, however, purifying, inspiring, motivating and an incredible source for personal growth and improvement. The greatest happiness in love comes as a result of the progress and growth we experience as individuals and together as a couple.
5. Love does not keep score
When you keep score in a relationship, it takes the joy out of loving and being loved. Suddenly something beautiful and selfless becomes a source of resentment, guilt and frustration.
6. Love is learned
Just like a language or a musical instrument, we learn love from our families, cultures, teachers and our role models. Many people have mediocre love because they had mediocre teachers (who, more often than not, didn't even realize they were the teachers - or that they were mediocre).
If you want to master love, you must train and practice like a master.
7. The most simple act of love is making and keeping a promise
Promises are the gateway to everything beautiful about love. They are the foundation for trust and commitment. Make promises regularly! Keep the small promises you make and you'll never have to worry about the big ones being broken.
8. You have an unlimited supply of love
Love doesn't have a quota or a cap. What determines how much you give or receive is your willingness to give and receive it.
9. To love others, you must first love yourself
Allowing your self-worth and value as a human to be determined by how other people feel about you is selfish, and a short road to disappointment, sadness and never reaching your full potential.
10. Loneliness is never a good reason to be in a relationship
11. It's not what you fight about that kills your relationship - it's how you fight about it. Some couples divorce over the correct way to squeeze the toothpaste tube. Some couples grow closer together after working through infidelity. Relationship failure has more to do with how you handle the conflict than what causes the conflict.
12. You can turn any moment into a romantic moment
Romance is more often a choice than an effect of chemistry or serendipity.
13. Love is not a feeling
Love inspires action. Love is a verb. Love doesn't wait. Love doesn't think. Love doesn't feel. As Bob Goff says, "Love does."
14. When you love someone - truly love them - you don't seek to change them
You love all of them. You wouldn't buy a cat and then ask it to fetch and bark and wag its tail like a dog. Don't choose a person and ask them to be something other than what they are. That is not love.
15. Love is more about being complimentary than it is about being compatible
If you wanted to marry yourself, you'd be happy being single. It's ok to look for someone different than you. Celebrate the differences. They will make you a better version of yourself.
16. The best relationships require boundaries
Just like football, without rules of conduct, goals, out-of-bounds, and referees people get hurt and the game descends into chaos. It wouldn't be fun to play. It's important to set rules and create agreements in your relationship that make you feel safe and encourage fair play. More often than not, these rules even make the more enjoyable.
17. Love requires vulnerability
Sometimes the hardest thing to say is, "You hurt me." or "I screwed up and I need your forgiveness." Nobody will ever be able to fully accept and love you (faults and all) unless you first accept yourself enough to share your entire self with them. They can't accept and love a side of you they don't even know exists.
18. There is no magic recipe or formula for true love
There are as many recipes for true love as there are people who claim to have it. You get to make up your own rules. Don't hinder yourself by playing by someone else's.
19. Never hold back a compliment, and always think twice before criticizing
Appreciation and gratitude are rocket fuel for a relationship. Criticism is a cancer to love. Studies have shown that the most successful marriages have a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative interactions. Next time you feel the need to say something negative, ask yourself if you've said 5 positive things since the last negative comment you made.
20. Forgive people quickly and often
(unless you're in an abusive relationship). Forgiveness doesn't mean the hurt goes away. It doesn't mean you forget what happened. It just means you stop punishing the other person for what she did. Let go. Move on. Give others the space and freedom to change.
21. Hard times often make the best memories and create the deepest, longest-lasting bonds. If you're suffering, suffer together. One day, the suffering will end, and you'll be glad you fought for each other instead of against.
22. There are few shortcuts to happiness... dancing is one of them
Rough day? Throw a dance party in the kitchen. Have a disagreement? Work it out while slow dancing in each other's arms. Don't know how to dance? Learning something new together is one of the best ways to bond.
23. Love knows no race, gender, age or religion
Love is the thing that unites us. We all want it. It is our common bond as human beings. Always remember, the person you hate has someone in his life that loves him dearly.
24. Sex is not love
Sex alone will not provide you lasting happiness. But sex is an incredible compliment to a loving, romantic relationship. The earlier sex is introduced into a relationship, the less likely they are to endure the test of time. Passion does not typically make for a very stable and enduring foundation for a long-term relationship.
25. Finding love is more about being the right person than finding the right person
Ask yourself what kind of person the person you want to be with is looking for. If you're not prepared to create the love you want, it's unlikely you'll be prepared to recognize the person who can help create it with you.
26. Love has nothing to do with wealth, beauty, affluence or prestige
There are plenty of rich, beautiful and powerful people in the world who are lonely, sad and loveless. And there are plenty of poor, unattractive, humble people who have a love greater than you could imagine.
27. One of love's greatest enemies is busyness
Show me what a man spends his time doing, and I'll show you what he loves. If the way you spend your time doesn't reflect what you say you value, it's time to either change the way you spend your time or change what you claim to value.
28. One of the best ways to have an incredible relationship is to surround yourself with other couples whose relationships you admire. Having a good mentor, coach or example will keep you in check, and give you something to aspire to. Just like you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with, your relationship is the average of the 5 couples you spend the most time with.
29. Always have something to look forward to
It will keep you looking into the future and not wishing for, or analyzing the past. Whether it's a vacation, a date, or a class you want to take together, always have something positive on your radar in the not-too-distant future.
30. True love requires a generous helping of empathetic, judgement-free listening
If your partner has something difficult to tell you, and you react poorly (with anger or hostility), they will avoid telling you the hard truth in the future and opt instead for an easy lie. Lies undermine trust... which obliterates commitment... which destroys love. The way you listen and respond to the truth will reflect the long-term health and quality of your relationship.
31. Love is the absolute greatest thing we get to experience in this life
It's better than money or travel or pizza. It's more powerful than wars and hatred. It's more exhilarating than any roller coaster, and will teach you more about yourself than any university. Love will stretch you and break you and put you back together as the most beautiful version of yourself. Love is what gives life meaning and gives us purpose.
Please choose to love more.
This article originally appeared on The Loveumentary, but has been republished here with permission.