It is possible that, after reading the title of the article, you automatically got the answer to this question in your mind. When I ask people around me how many loves do we get in a lifetime, answers are always so different. Some people claim that we love only once in a lifetime. Others believe that we love as many times as we allow ourselves to love, while on the other side there’s a belief that we love three times in life.
I believe that love runs the world and that it is and always will be the most precious thing ever given to humanity. It’s also interesting that there isn’t a universal definition of love, but everyone has its own. But, when love happens to us, we feel it in every inch of our body.
Over the years, our perception of love changes. We understand and we feel it differently. My association to the word ‘love’ has always been enormous, a universal vastness that consists of all feelings, emotions, fears and freedom that exists in the world. Love that moves you doesn’t necessarily have to be love towards the partner. It should be the love we feel towards ourselves, to begin with. Some people are moved by the love they have for their family or friends, while others are moved by the love they have for their jobs, hobbies and interests.
Learning to love ourselves is a never ending process. Like every other relationship, the one we have with ourselves has its ups and downs. That love should be the most natural, unconditioned, woven in every cell of our being, but still – the biggest challenge for most people is how to love themselves. The reasoning behind that isn’t because people don’t know how to love themselves. We don’t know how to love a partner for the first time we are in an emotional relationship, but still, things are happening naturally between people. The reason is that people often aren’t aware that what they’re missing is self love. And the lack of self love is always manifested in other relationships we build, in our lifestyle and way we perceive the world around us.
Because of the “ignorance” or “impossibility” to learn to love themselves, people are often finding and falling in love with partners who, they believe, will fulfill their expectations. They hope that partners will fulfill their life, make them happy and awaken the best emotions in them. The beauty and power of transformation that love can provoke is healing for every person. But if we talk about an emotional relationship with the partner, where one or both of partners don’t have developed self love, they are left with expectations other than emotions, with fears instead of desire for a change and instead of the emotional relationship, we have two individuals who face problems constantly, while having zero understanding where and why the problem occurred.
There’s no love like the first.. Or is there?
Self love is the topic that can (and should!) be talked and written about frequently. And it is very important, as a basis, for understanding the relationships we are entering into, especially when it comes to partnership. When we look back on the period from when we first entered into an emotional relationship with the partner until today, the striking fact from which we can start is that we were completely different people at that moment in life. It is certain that we had significantly less experience, we had a lower level of awareness, understanding, setting up healthy boundaries and for sure we weren’t aware of the importance of communication.
Is it because of the influence of the media to which we have been exposed for generations or because we have a collectively instilled pattern in ourselves – I’m not sure, but until that first partnership happens to us, our ability to idealize a partner reaches its maximum. Whether we are talking about teenage years or late adolescence, that first love is always WOW – in the beginning. We feel emotions so strongly for the first time ever that we often don’t know how to channel them. When we are in love, we exist in some other reality, where everything is beautiful and where negative influences are minimized. We allow our imagination to take the helm and it seems to us that the ship of love we’re sailing on will never stop. For the first time, we get in touch with our emotions that we feel towards our partner and the feeling is so good, that the end is never an option in our mind.
However, we somehow ignore the fact and we do not understand that we change every day, both individually and in relation with others. There are couples whose individual changes are harmonized and they go through similar or same things at the same time, but that itself isn’t enough to maintain a relationship.
In those first loves, when we explore and discover the depth of emotions, we’re getting to know ourselves too. We love to the level of developed self love and how we behave, react and express love depends on the way love has been expressed towards us up until then. It depends on the way we understand love, which is usually passed on to us from our parents, close environment and the way we grow up.
To love for the first time is crazy, honest, uncalculated, strong, harmless but serious, without thinking and guided by the heart with minimal use of the mind. When the break up happens and everyone goes their own way, we are convinced that we will never experience such love again. And the reality is that we were right. We won’t have the same experience. But different, more serious and one that shows us even greater depths of our emotions – we will have for sure. In times when a relationship breaks down, there is no advice good enough to help us feel better. The last thing we want to hear then is that we will love again and that we will love someone else. In those moments we want everything but to love someone else.
The other side of reality is that we remember that first love for the rest of our lives and that the pain caused by the termination of the relationship disappears over time. Then, for the first time, we get in touch with the concept of time and understand the sentence that time heals all wounds. We also get in touch with indulging in emotions that we do not want to feel. That is the other side of the coin, which is as important as the first one, but – who will understand that at such a young age? We do not allow ourselves to feel sadness and all those emotions that make us feel like we are falling apart from within. We feel pain not only on the emotional, but also on the physical level, and that is a whole new feeling to us then. As we’re experiencing new and first emotional pain, we are afraid to give in to it, because we are afraid of what might happen. After all, who really can and wants to consciously indulge in pain and feel it at that age?
Serious and non-serious love(s)
After we go through a phase called first love, our perception of emotions becomes completely different from the original. To some extent, we know what we don’t want, but we will find out what we want only after a certain time and after numerous relations and experiences. What about those loves that happen between the first and the next long-term, stable relationship? Weren’t they real too? By what criteria do we measure the “importance” of a relationship?
There are those relationships and partners that we remember for a long time, although they, according to the “categorization” of serious relationships, cannot be classified as serious ones. Those are the loves that did not last for years, but left a big mark on us. Those are the complicated connections, like ones we kept secret and their unfolding took place far from the public eye. Those relationships, in which we were in a triangle and fought for our place, fought to prove that we are more valuable than “that other person”. Fortunately or unfortunately, there are more of such connections than long-term ones. And they can be more serious than long-term ones, giving us more minor lessons, but equally important.
Why do I say “fortunately or unfortunately” – long-term relationships in which we are fully involved and in which we indulge, change us radically. If we are ready to learn from them, it takes a lot of time to process the events, the changes that have occurred, to “digest” everything that was served to us, apply what we learned and finally, start living our new reality. Whether we will perceive it as happiness or unhappiness, depends on the way we experience the end of the relationship. Some of us have only long-term relationships through life, and the process of maturing through them is different from those who enter into relationships more often, no matter how they are being categorized.
We’ve all heard of or been in ”repetitive” relationships. We did not characterize such relationships as “true love”, but their repetitiveness indicated that something needed to change, that we had not yet learned some lessons, that we had not yet released the old patterns and that we had been given another opportunity to overcome them. Theoretically, this sounds easy, doesn’t it? Once we burn ourselves to the flames, we will no longer push our hand into the fire. However, practice is far from theory, because there is hope in us that next time will be different. There is a desire to be the relationship we have always wanted and we often end such relationships disappointed, wondering why it ended again in the same way.
Since every being on the planet is completely different, even if we experience the same situation as another person, that experience will be completely unique. We can identify to some extent with other people’s experiences, but every experience is our own and the way we experience it is a personal thing. That is why it is important to understand who is talking about love and what love represents for each individual. I have not yet met two different people who have given the same definition of love.
Who talks about love?
I think I was in my early twenties when my grandmother told me: “Remember, you only love twice in your life, be careful not to miss your chance.” It was also the first time I heard there are a number of chances to love in life. I didn’t get involved with her words too much, because I was aware everyone has their own beliefs. Although I did not agree with that statement, one part of me was still suspicious and thinking: “Wait, what if she’s right? What if we really love twice in life, and I’ve already had one chance?”
This sentence has been developing in my subconscious for years, and it has unconsciously shaped my new beliefs that haven’t always served me. According to these beliefs, my expectations of a partnership have also grown. Although I try not to be guided by any categorization of relationships, after a few years since the end of my first real partnership and some “non-serious” loves, I found myself in the next relationship that lasted a couple of years. I say “I found myself” because that is the period of life in which I was the most unconscious and the most absent in my own mind and body.
When we’re unconscious and as such enter into relationships, we will always be attracted to what is shown to us from the outside. It is a surface that, combined with expectations and the desire to feel loved, shines like gold. In such relationships, we finally get to understand the old saying that all that glitters is not gold.
In such relationships, we come to terms with what should change in ourselves and what we should heal. If we completely give in to such relationships, we come into contact with our inner child. We realize that the injuries we are going through, and which come from the partner we are in an emotional relationship with are actually the repetition of painful emotions and opening of those wounds that have not healed properly. Whether we like it or not, we break old beliefs and patterns, we recognize in our partner the relationships from our close surroundings, we recognize our parents, their relationships, we feel what and to what extent we can endure and what is the limit we cannot cross.
That recognition, learning, understanding and other experiences are only the first step of the road. To see the problem, we must first open our eyes, together with our heart and mind. What kind of experience we will have after we move from the unconscious to conscious living and whether we will take some actions towards clearing up the mess is a strictly individual matter. I feel sorry that most people are afraid of pain; I also feel sorry most people never feel the ease of living after embracing their pain. And I feel sorry the most that people are not aware that by solving their own challenges, they become truly strong and provide themselves with long-term joy.
After, and often during such relationships, we completely lose ourselves. In fact, we lose what we thought we were. We live for moments of happiness and the feeling that we are loved, thinking love is a reward and that happiness will come after we endure all the situations that hurt us every day. We cling to the illusion of love, because by admitting that there is no love, we admit to ourselves that we have lived in delusion. Admitting that we have lived in delusion is painful because it destroys our illusion of a relationship, but it also opens our eyes to other delusions that we have appropriated as our realities. We all want to be happy, so who with such desires would lose itself in feelings that don’t cause happiness? Unfortunately, at those moments we aren’t aware that this is the only way to true happiness.
Every relationship is different and to the authenticity of the people who enter it contributes its uniqueness. People experience different cognitions through relationships and not every emotional connection ends with numerous consequences for us. But through relationships, we are always given what we need to master, what we need to learn, what we need to accept and what we need to feel. So, before you identify with anyone’s emotional story or wonder how many times you have loved, first consider who is talking about love. Even if you are the main narrator of the story, be aware that you are not the same person you were just a minute ago.
Repetition is the mother of learning
Repetition is the best way to master a lesson. Sometimes it’s necessary to repeat it once, sometimes several times, however, that does not speak about our limited capacities, but about the readiness to move to the next level. We all know that even while learning lessons at school, some were easier to master, while others we couldn’t learn for a long time, even with more effort, time and focus. Same applies to relationships.
How many times have we been a third person in a relationship? And how many times have we repeated that, hoping that next time will be different, that someone will understand our value, that in the end we will still be in a happy relationship, in love and loved the way we want? How many times have we found ourselves in a relationship which we couldn’t say anything about to anybody? And how many times have we met people with whom there were all (at least in our minds) predispositions to have a wonderful, emotional relationship, but they lived far away? The flow and strengths of those relations are changing, but the essence is the same – it is a lesson waiting to be learned. Such connections happen and repeat to us until we learn not to get involved in them. But when do we learn that?
We learn and understand that only when we understand our value. When we realize that we are good enough and that we deserve someone else’s love and attention. When we learn to value and love ourselves to the point that we no longer want to hurt ourselves in the same way. Only when the love for ourselves grows to the level that we will do everything to protect ourselves, we stop involving ourselves in such relationships, moreover, we stop meeting partners who are not the ones we truly want.
It’s the same situation with relationships in which everything is shrouded in secrecy. Love is there to always be present, visible, felt, shared, enjoyed and it is by no means something to be hidden, on the contrary. And yet, whether because of the way love is served and shown to us or because we have an unhealed part of ourselves that is always attracted to certain types of people, we agree to hide it. We agree to hide emotions and relationships, and we decide to believe such relationships are real. We convince ourselves that it is a true love, and as such it should be a secret, because that’s the only way to preserve it. But, the more we are “enslaved” in such relationships, the more we want to come out of secrecy and enjoy all the beauties of relationships. Then we realize that such relationships are not what our being wants and we decide to abandon the old patterns, in order to set ourselves out in search of what we truly want.
Some people learn this way – by repeating old experiences, until they become aware of what their soul wants and more importantly, until they learn to love themselves. Without wanting to repeat what has already been written, it is important we understand that we’re entering into relationships with partners who will love us, respect us, understand us to the extent that we love, respect and understand ourselves. In fact, this sentence should be read and repeated every day, because we apparently ignore the basic “rule” of love.
I don’t want butterflies in my stomach, I want peace
From an early age, falling in love was explained to us as the feeling of having butterflies in our stomachs. Over time, we learn to recognize that feeling faster when it happens to us. Sometimes, when we can’t rationally explain what it is that we feel for someone, we rely on that “feeling in the stomach” or the reaction of our body to that person. I believe that until we truly know ourselves, that feeling can deceive us because we associate it with love, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be love.
The beauty of the relationships that happen to us during our lives is that we come from understanding what we don’t want to know what we really want from a relationship. Theory without practice remains only theory, and as such has limited value for people. You will agree, it is a long way from teenage desires like “I want him/her to be a tall, black-hair person, with a beautiful smile and shaped body” to “I want to be a stable, conscious person, who is self-aware and able to communicate”. This does not mean that teenage desires should be neglected, on the contrary, but such desires are no longer a priority for us. It is the same with butterflies in the stomach, except that we no longer have butterflies in the stomach, but an (intuitive) feeling that causes peace and tranquility in us. We learn that “blows of passion” often remain just that, and for those stubborn people who equate passion with love, waking up from delusions feels like a cold shower.
Whether it’s a third or a fifth love, you’ve figured out by now, doesn’t matter that much. The love we strive for is different from the one from movies, because it is realistic – to begin with. Such love comes after accepting oneself as a physical, emotional, spiritual, experiential being. As such, we are aware of our partner and accept him/her as he/she is. We are not afraid to show all our sides, and on the other hand, we are not afraid of what we will discover about our partner. Because, after all, we are all the consequences of the situations we have gone through in life. What is normal or crazy depends on who is talking about it; what is acceptable or unacceptable also depends on who is talking about it.
Thanks to all our previous loves, we know how to appreciate one mentioned above, when we find it. Then, more than ever before, we are ready to expose ourselves and show our wounds, imperfections and fears, because if we tear down our own walls, no one will have anything to tear down in us. When we hide nothing from ourselves and the person we are in an emotional relationship with, we can love without the obstructions of the past. As such, we find ourselves in a relationship that heals us every day, that awakens creativity in us, the strength to move mountains, that teaches us to love ourselves more and more every day. Such relationships allow us to explore ourselves and more importantly, to change without fear of being rejected because of that, as both sides are aware that change is an integral part of life. Then we learn that communication is the most important part of every relationship and that there is no situation that cannot be resolved through conversation.
Then we really enjoy true love, because we are aware of the present moment. We live in it.
Then we appreciate every moment of the relationship, without fear that we will get bored or that relationship will become a habit – there is no room for habit, because every moment is different.
Then we find ourselves on a life journey together, but yet, we travel for ourselves.
Then we say “I love you” both verbally and non-verbally.
Then we don’t say “forever”, because we know that even “forever” is a limitation.
And such love has no limits.