Many of us who aren’t in a relationship, and many of us who are, need to learn relationship skills. The bottom line is that we must learn “how to love”, as cliche as it sounds. Another cliche that is often quoted goes something like this — “You’ll never learn another until you can love yourself”.
All these cliches sound pretty and are probably solid advice, but how can we put them into practice and devolop relationship skills? If we want to develop a strong relationship with a partner, what can we do to learn to love? In other words, how do you cultivate good relationship skills?
5 Steps To The True Meaning Of Love
I believe there are 5 steps that you can take now to teach yourself the true meaning of love — and practicing these steps can only improve the quality of your life and your relationship skills — as a bonus, you will learn to appreciate your friends and loved ones along the way.
1. Slow down
The first step in understanding love and cultivating good relationship skill is putting on the brakes. In the age of Google and instant gratification, it can be easy to overlook the simple pleasures of life simply because we’re moving to fast to appreciate them. There will be many times in your relationship when things are not moving at a break neck pace — and this is for the best. “Slowing down” can be applied to your sexual pursuits, your intellectual interests, and even the way you appreciate art, food, drink, and just about everything else in life. Rushing into and through a relationship makes about as much sense as a thirty minute tour of the Louvre museum. It has been said that you could spend a week at the Louvre and still not take in all that famous museum has to offer, and a similar statement can be made about people and things in your life. Take a moment to appreciate the view out your window — really look at the trees, the clouds, even the shapes of your neighbor’s house for thirty minutes. Notice how different your opinion of the outside world is just after half an hour of really looking. If this is true of a window view, won’t it be true of a person? Slowing down will enrich your life, lower your blood pressure, and improve your enjoyment of everyday things, big and small.
2. Practice not judging others
3. Learn to pay attention
A combination of the first two cultivation techniques would be to simply pay attention. Slowing down and avoiding judgement will focus your attention on what is important in your life. Paying attention is an important relationship skill, for sure, but also a vital communication & relationship skill. How many times have you had a conversation with someone that seemed one sided, and how did it make you feel to be ignored? The old cliche says that “Listen” and “Silent” are made up of the same letters — and you may groan at the saccharine nature of this adage, but it is so very true. The next time you have a conversation, be it with a stranger or an old friend, take the time to really listen to what they have to say. Avoid assumin you know what they’re going to say next — this is not only disrespectful but can limit your experience of others — and instead take in every word. Wisdom can come from the strangest and simplest of dialogues, and by learning to pay attention now, you build up a great deal of patience which your next romantic partner will truly appreciate.
4. Start putting others before yourself
St. Francis of Assisi was a 13th century friar who became the patron saint of animals, among other things. His wisdom can be boiled down to a simple phrase — it is better to comfort than to be comforted. There is nothing that warms the soul more than offering assistance to others, be it a friendly ear, a hug, a charitable donation, a meal cooked and served to friends, or any kind of service work. When you put someone else before yourself, in reality you’re doing yourself a bigger favor than you’re doing them. Substance abuse recovery programs focus on this as a means of true recovery, and refer to it as “service work”. If a hardcore alcoholic can put down the bottle simply by serving others and putting other people’s needs before their own, surely your problems can be dealt with in a similar manner. If you learn now to consider your own needs and interests a little less than the needs and interests of others, you will be building up a real treasure — a stockpile of joy that you can depend on in your own time of need.
5. Teach yourself to say “No”
We all have let people walk all over us. No one wants to be a doormat, or be involved in a relationship with a pushover. Learning to love, and cultivating good relationship skills, means understanding your own place in your life. While our last lesson in cultivation taught us to put others first, we must learn that there is a limit to our giving. Some people hunt out those of us that give freely in order to take advantage of our charity, and forming a relationship with an emotional poacher will only lead to unhappiness. Setting limits in our relationships means learning to love and trust ourselves — and often, we will be unable to ask for the help we need if we are constantly thinking of someone before ourself. There is a delicate balance between giving freely and thinking of our own needs. This is the trickiest relationship skill to master, but perhaps the most rewarding. A partner who recognizes that we respect ourselves will likewise be more likely to respect us.
Cultivating good relationship skills is a daily task, and one that should last our entire lives. Remember that you’re learning these skills not just for yourself but for your future partner. The word “love” can seem vague, and vague emotions are weak ones. If you practice these 5 relationship skills, your definition of love will be concrete and recognizable, and your relationships will blossom as a result.