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Of all the emotions, love is the pinnacle. It’s the one emotion we all desire for a lifetime, but it’s also the emotion that many people feel unequipped to sustain and grow within themselves and others. Former monk, host of the #1 health podcast in the world, On Purpose, and New York Times best-selling author, Jay Shetty debuted his second book, 8 Rules of Love: How to Find it, Keep it, & Let it Go, in February 2023.
There are tons of books on the shelves about love, but something I’ve been extremely intentional about investing in within the last few years is reading books about healthy and nourishing love. So many of us know the love that was introduced to us as a child, but that love is only what our parents knew, and it may not always be what we needed. So as an adult, it’s your turn to fill in all the gaps of what they missed in love and what new habits you want to cultivate to experience healthier love that sustains itself and gracefully lets go of love when needed.
Here are 8 rules of love Jay Shetty taught me during the informative read of his book. I hope each rule can meet you where needed most, with compassion first, accountability second, and love last.
1st Rule of Love: Let Yourself Be Alone
Allowing yourself to be alone for blocks of time in your life is one of the most rewarding things you could ever gift yourself. It was just a few years ago that I recognized the detrimental cycle I was looping myself into, going from dating one person to the next to fill void after void. As Shetty writes in his book, “Researchers at the University of Toronto found through a series of studies that when we’re afraid of being single, we’re more likely to settle for less satisfying relationships. Specifically, we’re more likely to become dependent on our partners and less likely to break up with them, even when the relationship doesn’t meet our needs.”
After my last relationship ended, I promised myself I would sit in the void, pick it apart, and understand how to heal it. And in a year of exploring solitude to every extent possible, I developed my voice and stood unapologetically on my values. As Shetty states, “In solitude, we practice giving ourselves what we need before we expect it from someone else. Are you kind to yourself? Are you honest with yourself? Are you emotionally available to yourself? Are you supportive of your own efforts?”
It was in that season of my life that I truly found comfort in solitude and not seeing it as lonely and missing something.
2nd Rule of Love: Understanding Parental Gifts and Gaps
We must be very conscious of our parental gifts and gaps because it can put unnecessary pressure on our relationships if we can’t fill that gap by ourselves. “If there is a gap in how our parents raised us, we look to others to fill it. And if there is a gift in how our parents raised us, we look to others to give us the same.” We can acknowledge ‘xyz’ happened to us, but we must change the narrative, not fall victim to life’s circumstances, and always expect our partner to solve our issues.
“So often in relationships, we reject or repeat what our parents did. If they argued, you may avoid conflict. If they had a certain power dynamic, you may expect the same in your relationship or avoid it at all costs.” The domino effect doesn’t have to continue once you’re aware of it and are willing to change the narrative for your life. If you grew up around defensive and unhealthy conflict resolution styles, you can change it if you commit to doing the work to heal from it.
3rd Rule of Love: What You Want From Someone Else First Give to Yourself
Your happiness is your responsibility. It was your responsibility when you were single, and it still is your responsibility when you’re in a relationship. Shetty writes that «that’s why it’s so deeply important that we heal ourselves, taking charge of that process instead of shifting blame and responsibility to a partner.” Your partner’s role in the relationship is that of a supporter, not a fixer; no one can tend to what you need better than you.
Any request you want from a partner, make sure you can provide the same support so that you can support each other in times of need. “A partner can’t fill every gap. They can’t unpack our emotional baggage for us. Once we fulfill our own needs, we’re in a better place to see what a relationship can give us.”
4th Rule of Love: Know Your Partner’s Learning Style
To be in a relationship of any form means to be open to growing together. It’s essential to know how your partner learns best so that when they are working on anything personally or professionally, you can send them things in that context to support them. However, “wanting to help our partner should not be confused with wanting to control our partner. One of the most common ways we try to control our partner(s) is to impose our timeline on them.”
Lead by matching their learning style. If it is hearing, send a podcast. If it is visual, send a YouTube video or master class, and so on and so forth. Most importantly though, allow them the space to learn or not learn at their own pace.
5th Rule of Love: Don’t Criticize, Judge, or Abuse
Just think about it, when you ask your partner for their opinion on something, you’re hoping to feel supported and met with compassion; now, that needs to be returned in every area of feedback you give them. “Gurus don’t use anger, harsh words, or fear to inspire their students. They realize that fear is a good motivator in the short term, but over the long term, it erodes trust. Criticism is lazy communication. It’s not constructive, compassionate, or collaborative. ”
Constructive feedback leads with love; instead of saying, “You never do x; you’re so bad at y,” say, “I appreciate it when you do x.” Or instead of saying, “If you ever do that again, I’m leaving you,” replace it with, “This is how it makes me feel when you do that.” Speak to the matter based on the present situation, don’t make generalized comments because it will make your partner feel like they do nothing right; we know that’s not true.
6th Rule of Love: Take Turns Prioritizing Your Purposes
As you grow in your relationship, your goals change, and so do your partners. Implementing conversations around these changes paired with an action plan in heavy transitional seasons is essential for both of you to grow as a team and feel supported. “While some couples do have this ‘tit for tat’ mindset, successful couples have a mindset that is, rather than thinking about it as ‘me vs. you,’ […] about a conceptualization of ‘we’ as the most important piece of the puzzle,» Shetty writes.
And as time goes revisit the plan and ask how your partner is feeling based on how things are going, be open to making adjustments that work for both parties, and lastly, be open to returning that support when it’s your turn to pitch in extra for your partner’s transitional seasons in life.
7th Rule of Love: Every Time One of You Loses, You Both Lose
We’ve all been in those times with our partners when we are on opposite sides of a situation, and we casually see them as an opponent. However, wanting to win every argument or be right about everything is more harmful than helpful to your partnership. “Every time one of you loses, you both lose. Every time the problem loses, you both win,» Shetty explains in his book simply. Sometimes it’s best to take a break from the conversation when you feel like you’re going in laps of who’s right or wrong because that’s not solving the issue; it’s just amplifying it.
“If we deal with disagreements as they arise, then we have a better chance to resolve issues before we say things we don’t mean and end up feeling worse without having resolved anything.”
8th Rule of Love: Give Yourself Closure
When things go entirely left, and you feel like there is no more room for the relationship to be repaired, it’s time to let that love go. In that process, Shetty writes, “Let yourself feel every emotion. You can’t heal until you feel. Walking away from something doesn’t reduce it. If you don’t give an emotion the attention it deserves, it amplifies. In order to truly recognize these emotions, you must articulate them, look for patterns, and explain them to yourself.”
And to find peace at the end of that experience is by you creating your closure. Reflect on what you gained, lost, and learned about yourself in that relationship. “Every ex gives you a gift you may miss out on if you don’t take this step. It could be a piece of advice. It could be a connection they made for you. Maybe they supported you through a tough time. Maybe you learned that you really need to be with someone who makes healthy choices. Maybe you discovered that picking someone who checked off every box on your list wasn’t a good way to see who was standing in front of you. Honor your ex for the gifts they gave you.”
Create the closure because it was a gift to love them and a gift to let them go and be open to love once again. To truly love starts with making space for understanding and loving yourself to your core so you can be open to extending that love to others.
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