Falling in love shouldn't be something that happens all the time, and yet we often rush to see someone we're dating as "the one"... or try to make them into someone who's "right".
Why don't we love slowly? Why don't we fall in love with ourselves first?
In a world where many of us saw our parents' relationships fall apart and celebrity breakups are everywhere, you might even ask why we bother falling in love at all.
In a perfect world, lovers would not fall into love but rise up with it.
Take it from me: a woman who has been gluttonous with her time; a woman who has thought her way into love more than she has felt her way in; a woman whose heart has dropped to her feet and immobilized her; a woman, not unlike you or your fears, who realizes the power of love and yet has had to learn and understand that for love to remain powerful, we must slow down.
We must fall less. We must ask ourselves these five questions before we go free falling into just another love.
1. What kind of relationship are you ready to have?
Most of us talk about the relationship we want to have.
Only, what we want is irrelevant to how much of ourselves we can actually give someone today.
This is why we so often feel misled in our dating life. We're the recipients of promises and a vision that, however genuine, is far too far in the future. To protect each other from disappointment, realism and clarity must become two of your greatest assets.
Tip: When you're talking to someone you're interested in, don't talk about what you want. Talk about what you're ready for.
2. Can you initiate a conversation? A date? Heck, are you willing to text first?
The days of men jumpstarting every square inch of a romance are long over. That's not a bad thing either.
It means you don't have to wait to hear from someone. It means you get to use that beautiful voice of yours.
It also means you get to be a woman who isn't walking on eggshells. You get to be a woman who creates her reality rather than waiting for it to be handed down to you.
That said, if you can't reach out first, or if you think about how long you should wait before texting back, then you aren't interested in a relationship. You're interested in being pursued. Know the difference.
Tip: If you're interested in a committed relationship, initiate an experience. Men will appreciate you for it and you will feel responsible for the quality of love you are letting into your life.
3. What are you more likely to invest in: Who someone is, or who someone can be?
It's human nature to think toward the future.
Especially when it comes to love, our mind likes to fantasize about how life will be as we grow old together.
I'm not saying that you can't dream a little, but if your dreams are focused on him rather than the two of you together, then this is a problem.
It means you aren't comfortable and satisfied with who your partner already is. It means you are waiting for more before you feel loved, cared for, or wanted in your relationship.
You can't fall in love this way.
In the words of Walter Benjamin, “The only way of knowing a person is to love them without hope.”
Tip: Remember your partner isn't getting into a relationship with you so you can improve them. If they wanted that, they would hire a coach. Love and respect the person you're with, as they are today.
4. What are you hoping a relationship might solve for you?
If something—anything—comes immediately to mind, then you should not be in a relationship yet.
Relationships cannot solve our problems or save us. They can only support us through our own journey of solving and saving ourselves.
To expect anything more is to set yourself up for a relationship that will fail you.
When we look to our partner to relieve us of our anxieties and insecurities, or even just the lulls in our life, we are creating a relationship of codependency. We are asking a person to come in and do the work for us.
For example, if you are feeling lonely and uninspired to get out there and meet people, you might dream of having a boyfriend who can relieve you of nights spent alone. But all that boyfriend is really doing is distracting you from your own reality.
The magnitude of this problem might go unnoticed up until the day he walks out, or even just goes on vacation. You will be alone again and the question will become, what do you have? More aloneness.
What you want in a partner is someone who inspires you on a fundamental level. In the case of loneliness, you want someone who encourages you to show up in life and come out of your shell. You want someone who scales the mountain with you and doesn't let you just tread water.
Tip: Look for a partner who doesn't cover up your weaknesses but rather inspires you to overcome them.
5. When and how do you come alive?
We are all different.
Some of us crave adventure. Some of us experience joy and feel most present when we're talking to someone. Some of us feel the most connected to ourselves on a Sunday at church.
You don't need to find someone who comes alive in the same way as you but you do need to be with someone who lets you go there and, if you are fortunate, invites you into that space.
Otherwise, you may have a loving partner, but you'll never really have you.
The reason partners stray is because they are missing their own sense of direction. The reason couples cling to each other is because they have lost touch with their own purpose.
To know yourself, you must realize what lights you up. And to have a thriving relationship, you must never let that light go dim.
Tip: Close your eyes and rewind your life. Stop when you get to a moment where you can see yourself shining: a moment you can honestly say, “I was proud to be her.” The person you invest your heart in should be able to look at that moment and recognize you in it. He should be able to say, “That's exactly who I love and that's exactly why I love her.”