Any way you slice it, relationships are a lot of work. Whether it’s romantic or platonic, your BFF or spouse-to-be, there’s always an ebb and flow of give and receive. Every relationship has a reason and a purpose, lasting for a moment, or a lifetime, but what makes a strong, powerful relationship? Why do we connect with other human beings, and at what level do we do this?
For years, the world’s most influential thought leaders told us every decision we make comes from love or fear. How does one define love, and what is considered fear? In an interview with Marianne Williamson, spiritual author and lecturer, she compares love and fear to light and dark. Fear is the absence of love, and “love is the intuitive knowledge of our hearts.” Metaphysically speaking, love is what causes a well-ordered universe, and fear causes chaos.
When our intention has a love-based foundation, growth happens on so many levels – mental, spiritual, and emotional. "I lived in fear for many years of my life,” says Joanna Cheng, a Toronto-based Psychotherapist. “Things started to transform when I realized I could make healthier decisions that stemmed from love.” It’s this awareness that will help us determine exactly what type of connection we’re making.
Fear-based relationships generally come from a “what’s in it for me” attitude, whether it’s not wanting to be alone, or getting something material out of a relationship or situation. “In a fear-based relationship, you’re afraid of being alone, making the wrong choices, being judged, or worried about what your partner will think of you,” says online dating and matchmaking expert, Carmelia Ray. “You may experience feelings of insecurity, jealousy, and unworthiness.”
On the other hand, if your relationship is rooted in love, there’s a sense of peace and overall calmness in your relationship and your whole life. Ray says, “love-based relationships encourage open communication, support challenging discussions, and acknowledges there will be conflict. Nothing is perfect, and that is the beauty of it.”
Four years ago I found myself at a place where I was re-evaluating my life. My goal: to bring more truthfulness into my life. The relationship I was in at the time was, in my eyes, far from truthful. Everything Ray described as fear-based was where I found the relationship to be. While transitioning out of the relationship, I asked myself these qualifying questions, which have now become the key questions I ask all my life and wellness coaching clients.
Do I expect my partner to give me something I’m not willing to give myself?
- As RuPaul, drag queen and host of RuPaul’s Drag Race, always says, “if you don’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?” And where there’s an absence of love, there is fear.
Do my partner’s actions determine my emotions?
- No matter what they are, if you answer yes to this question, you need to evaluate why you’re in this relationship, especially if you’re constantly upset, angry, hurt, or sad. This is also indication of an unhealthy attachment to another human, which is extremely fear-based.
What do I give in this relationship? / What do I receive from this relationship?
- If the relationship isn’t equal, fear most likely is in control. Do you both satisfy each other’s needs and wants with an open heart? Looking to take it to the next level? Ask yourself and your partner if your relationship helps to meet the needs of others as well.âÂÂ
Do I vocalize my needs to my partner? / Do I listen lovingly to my partner’s needs?
- If you’re not willing to communicate with an open heart and mind, what are you doing here?
“Loving someone fully and openly also means that you accept exactly as they are,” explains Ray. “Whenever negative feelings or circumstances enter your relationship, view it with love and make choices from there.” Choices made from a loving space will always bring more order into your life, whereas fear reaps turmoil.
As RuPaul said, it all begins with us. Discovering the depths of happiness takes practice, but requires deep honesty and awareness. Here’s what Cheng suggests to do to make love-based decision-making easier:
- Build Awareness
Awareness of thought, feeling and action are fundamental in building the capacity to act from love.
- Know You Have a Choice
We must constantly challenge our fears and assert power over our decisions to act from love. Master your right to have a choice.
- Keep Practicing!
As we foster self-awareness and our ability to make ‘love-based’ choices, confidence and healthy habits start to form. Find ways, like journaling, to help keep track of your practice.
Now the real question becomes, are you willing to put in the work to have an abundant life of loving and fulfilling relationships? It’s all up to you.