Love is a wonderful thing…when you’re experiencing it. I believed that I’d loved several times prior to this relationship and it’s only through introspection and looking at a relationship with mutual love, care, trust, and respect versus a relationship with drama, pain, ambiguity, all my old love habits and low self-esteem that I realise that I hadn’t really experienced love before.

One of the biggest lessons learned is that love doesn’t hurt. Being in a shady relationship hurts, doing things that bust up your boundaries hurts, as does engaging in stuff that goes against values you profess to have or that has you feeling embarrassed and humiliated.

But genuine, healthy love itself doesn’t hurt you – it’s the stuff you (or they) do that does.

I used to believe that if I truly loved somebody worthy of being loved in a healthy relationship that I would be hurt, hence why it was easier to back three-legged horses as I knew it wasn’t going to work out so it was ‘safe hurt’.

Love requires vulnerability. Within a relationship, if you’re both putting yourselves into it and aren’t throwing up walls that impede intimacy, that vulnerability that so many of us fear, is a shared experience.

Love really isn’t all that dramatic. Being raised in a drama filled household means I used to be a real drama seeker and thought that the highs and lows signalled passion, excitement and chemistry. Actually, it signified pain and unhealthy relationships.

Love doesn’t make you do crazy stuff – drama does.

Love is steady and growing. I take as much pleasure in the normal, run of the mill days where we’re bumbling through life, as I do some of the days where there is a heady rush, or an extra sense of intimacy. There’s as much intimacy in sharing your life with someone and being able to co-exist and share your deepest thoughts, to laugh about something and nothing, to sit quietly side by side immersed in your own stuff but still connected, to go to sleep listening to them breathing (or snoring), and to partake in some of the rituals of your life, you know those many little habits that gradually form over time that are particular to your relationship.

Life isn’t a fairy tale. We’re not Vivian in Pretty Woman or a princess/prince in one of our childhood stories. This is real life, not a Mills and Boon novel or romantic comedy. Love isn’t about busting up a load of obstacles and finally getting together in the last couple of chapters or the last ten minutes of the film.

Love is not about getting someone to make you the exception to the norm, especially if the norm is not such a healthy way of conducting themselves for a relationship.

Don’t take love for granted. To love and be loved isn’t to be dismissed. I receive thousands of emails and comments each year from people who really want this and yeah, they might have been looking for love in the wrong places, but they do in essence want love. I equally receive thousands of mails each year from people who are actually in a loving relationship or have a wealth of wonderful things going on in their lives, but they’re killing it with their own stuff and not appreciating themselves or what they have.

If you have met someone and you love them and they love you, stop killing it with second guessing and looking for drama – embrace it! Enjoy it! Don’t suck the life out of it by being distrusting and waiting for the bad shoe to drop.

Equally, don’t disregard those around you and devalue yourself or them because you are not currently in the relationship you would like to be.

Love starts with you first and foremost, and genuine, fulfilling, happy love doesn’t exist when you don’t like and love yourself. I’m not saying you can’t experience any love without your self-esteem but you’ll be like a balloon with a tiny hole with the air slowly going out of it – deflated. They’ll try to blow more air into it (love), but you won’t be able to get it before some more slips out through the hole.

I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that there’s no way in hell I would have embraced my relationship if I hadn’t learned to love myself and actually believe in love and more importantly my worthiness for a relationship.

Love yourself unconditionally before you start loving others unconditionally and without limits – boundaries. When you truly like and love you, period, nothing and nobody can come along and change how you feel about you. You can live your life being personally secure.

Love is supposed to enrich your soul and your life – a life that should already have people and things that you can derive pleasure and love from. Don’t make one person, one thing even, the sole source of your happiness and love.

‘Love’ can be a very easy word to bandy about but it takes thoughts connected with actions connected with words, consistently for true meaning.

Love needs commitment, at the very least being able to commit to feeling out your feelings. If you shut it down before it can really blossom, you’re limiting yourself which creates limited, often painful relationships.

Sometimes I think we’ve stopped believing in love in a healthy guise. Believe it. Embrace it. The moment that you stop believing that love is out there for you, is the moment you give up on yourself. Love doesn’t just happen – even if you bump into The Most Perfect Person On Earth, you still need to work at it.

Happy Valentine’s day. Exhale, embrace, enjoy and if you’re finding it tough today, remember this day shall pass and don’t get hijacked by your feelings.

Love Natalie/NML x

Your thoughts?

Check out my ebooks the No Contact Rule and Mr Unavailable & The Fallback Girl and more in my bookshop.

Image via SXC

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