In today’s society it’s harder than ever to connect as human beings and allow the space that is needed for us to open up and be vulnerable with each other. This human connection is needed so that we can evolve into our true authentic selves, love unconditionally and live a life uncommon. Today, we are incapacitated with so much technology; social media, video games, dating apps, Uber and Amazon Prime, to name a few, in which we can consume or escape from anything, anytime and at anyplace. What was once thought of as an innovative idea to extend more time for us to spend with our loved ones or on matters important to us we are now using to distract ourselves from facing the uncomfortable thoughts and feelings that we need to learn to express in order to build deep and meaningful relationships.
Now, more than ever before, we can succumb to our natural human tendencies to use people or things for our own personal gain or pleasure. I’m sure you’ve been on both sides of the equation by now. You’ve had a friend ask you to lunch expressing they couldn’t wait to catch up and hear how you’ve been only to find out they were on their phone texting the entire time, taking pictures of their food and posting it to Facebook as you pour your heart out trying to connect. You leave the lunch wondering why you wasted your time, but then excuse it because that’s become more of the norm these days. Maybe you decided to try out that Bumble thing and had an awesome interaction with someone who seemed cool and interesting only to find out they were just saying all of those things for a quick and easy hookup. Again, you felt used and abused. We’ve all felt the affects of our vastly growing technology and it isn’t all bad, though having values and self awareness to guide us and tell us when to put down our phones and listen to our friend can be the beginning to opening ourselves up to true love and connection.
Whether you are a person of faith or disciplined and structured it’s important in today’s society to practice a purpose driven life. People are escaping from their reality because they don’t know how to deal with their feelings and emotions. The more we escape as a society the harder it will become to be vulnerable with each other. It’s this vulnerability that connects us as human beings, it allows a deeper relationship to form and it’s at the core of what we desire and long for. It’s everlasting love. Vulnerability is what separates our relationships from a utilitarian one or a virtuous one.
A utilitarian relationship is when someone uses the other for their self-fullfilling purpose. This type of relationship is unstable, because once that purpose is gone the relationship disintegrates. In romantic relationships women may use men for money, status, stability or to birth children. They also may allow men to use them for sex, so that they in return feel a temporary feeling of being loved. Men may use women for sex, someone to raise their children, or for the same false feeling of being loved knowing that deep down she is with him for an ulterior motive. It only takes one of them to be using the other for it to be a utilitarian relationship. The person being used will sense that something is missing and will suddenly become insecure and anxious. They will get an overwhelming feeling that they can easily be replaced because they can.
A virtuous relationship is one that is built on a strong foundation. It is when two people get to know each other for who they really are. They are vulnerable with each other. They know they are not perfect, but they come to love them for the good and the bad. They know they can depend on each other, put each other first, share the darkest and happiest of times and be loved unconditionally.
The question is how do we ensure we are not being used? How do we build a solid foundation, open the doors to vulnerability and allow love to flourish in our romantic relationships? The first step is learning how to love yourself. No one else can love you if you do not first love yourself. When you love yourself you stand up for what you believe in and set boundaries for others so that you are treated with the respect that you deserve. You accept yourself as you are and work towards personal growth and expansion. You don’t settle and you don’t allow people to take advantage of you. The first step in my journey to loving myself was keeping commitments I had made to myself. If you can’t keep a commitment to yourself then how would you be able to keep a commitment to anyone else. At first, the commitments I’d made to myself like losing weight, getting jaw surgery and saving money where tangible and measurable, but over time as I got stronger and more disciplined I started to make internal commitments like setting boundaries and holding myself accountable to them. I saw that people started to respect me more. The more action I took the more respect I ended up having for myself and self-love began to form. This process is what you have to do for yourself first. Once you have done it for yourself you can apply the same thing to a relationship. During that time I had to give up my distractors. I stopped drinking so much, I paid attention to what I was consuming on social media and unfollowed anything that was negative or uninspiring and I ditched my utilitarian friendships. I was fortunate to be in a relationship at the time that showed me all my skeletons that I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to see. It allowed me to begin to work through what had been holding me back from true authentic selfless love.
When you love yourself you open yourself up to being capable of experiencing selfless love. Selfless love is giving yourself to someone else, doing what is better not for you, but for the whole. In the end doing what is right for the whole will fulfill your deepest longing and desire for unconditional love. Unconditional love is why we are here. We are here to learn the lessons that keep us from experiencing the greatest feeling of all. We desire it in our friendships, relationships, marriages, and families, but it is the hardest thing to find as we have come to believe that it’s outside ourselves. We become the victim claiming that the world can be a dark and lonely place, but until we learn to love selflessly we will never have the chance to endure true love.
A mother has unconditional love for her child because not only is it a part of her, but she gives up her body, her time and anything that stands in the way of that child developing to live a full and healthy life. She learns to be selfless as the child can not give back to her and is fully dependent on her for it’s well-being. We must do the same in romantic relationships in order to experience unconditional love. First we have to build a foundation so that love can grow. To do that we have to give up the distractions. We have to let go of what is holding us back as a couple and keep ourselves accountable to sharing our feelings, being vulnerable, communicating and working through adversity when it arises. Our human tendency is to do the easy thing and distract ourselves by binging on Netflix or downing too many vodka sodas rather than having a crucial conversation with our partner.
The couple must build a strong foundation of love, respect, honesty and communication before they decide to be intimate with each other. Because sex is our strongest desire as human beings it’s the largest deterrent from being able to experience unconditional love. Because of the way men were designed and our nature to procreate, sex can quickly change a relationship that may have otherwise had potential to grow. It can stop the development of the relationship right in its tracks and never cease to grow past where sexual intimacy began. The relationship will quickly begin to turn into a utilitarian one where both man and woman focus on the connection of their sexual desires rather than the emotional intimacy and foundation that will hold them together in the long run. Men are highly driven by their sexual desires where as the women seek strong, emotional connections. If the man hasn’t fully connected with the woman in that emotional way in which she craves she will never feel truly loved and understood. If a man begins to use a woman for sex she will start to feel used and the relationship then becomes complicated. The woman will begin to resent and lose respect for the man, while the man ends up not feeling adequate enough for her. He no longer feels a strong connection with the woman and he begins to look elsewhere. It takes a lot of work and accountability on both the man and the woman to give up their strongest human desire of sexual intimacy to ensure the relationship is strong. They learn to be selfless, giving up instant gratification to hold out for something bigger and better for the whole such as unconditional love.
Unconditional love is there for all of us to experience and attain, but in today’s society most of us are largely unconscious. We allow the world to shape us and tell us who we are or who we should be. We hide from our feelings of guilt and shame that keep us from expressing ourselves as we truly are so that others can express themselves as they are. When we are ready and tired of the emptiness that fills us we will give up what’s easy and convenient. We will learn that anything worth living for is worth the pain we had to bear in order to get there. We can’t feel success until we’ve felt failure. We can’t feel love until we’ve felt heartbreak and we can’t learn how to love unconditionally until we learn how to love selflessly.