How to love and be loved | Billy Ward | TEDxFoggyBottom
How to Learn to Love
Loving another person can seem like a daunting or even scary thing. Whether that person is your friend, a family member, or boyfriend/girlfriend, love means each of you are vulnerable to each other, and you may be wondering how you can do that. Start with working on trusting people. Try working on trusting other people. You also need to be able to express your thoughts and feelings to the other person through honest communication and affectionate behavior.
Let your trust develop slowly over time.You don't have to completely trust someone the instant you meet them or tell them your secrets all at once. Get to know them over time. Share the parts of yourself you feel comfortable with, and let them share parts of themselves with you.
- You can build trust by putting out a little bit of yourself at a time, called a "relationship bid." When you put out something, wait to see how they respond. If they respond in kind, the trust can grow. Both partners should be putting out "relationship bids."
- If you find things are going a little fast, let the other person know. Communicating with them will help both of you feel more comfortable. You could say, "I really like you, and I want to get to know you better. But it takes me a little while to trust people, so I hope you don't mind if we take things a little more slowly."
Absolve yourself for any past negative experiences you may have had.You may blame yourself for any past trauma you've had, and while that's fairly common, try letting go of that. Remind yourself that you were the victim in the situation. If someone betrayed you, you didn't deserve the way they treated you.
- If you were hurt, that means you made yourself vulnerable enough to trust someone in the past. That kind of openness and vulnerability is hard, and it's brave. Though people can use it against you, it's not a weakness. It's the foundation of any kind of loving, trusting relationship.
- Remind yourself that one negative experience does not mean that everyone will treat you that way. Don't cheat yourself out of a good relationship just because someone has hurt you in the past.
Forgive others who may have hurt you in the past.This forgiveness isn't about them. It's about the anger you hold on to when you don't forgive. Try to find it in your heart to let go of the anger and betrayal you feel, while still acknowledging that you were hurt.
- Keep in mind that forgiveness doesn't make you a weak person. You're letting go of the anger and the hurt, not giving the other person permission to do it again.
- If you need to, try writing letters to the people who've hurt you in the past. You don't need to send them. It's just a way to get out your emotion. Lay out how they hurt you and try to let them know you forgive them.
Being Open and Vulnerable
Discuss your past with the person.Once you feel comfortable, try talking about any past issues you've had that may be affecting your current relationship. For instance, if you've had past trauma or you've been hurt, try being open with the person about it. Trusting the person with your past creates an intimacy that can lead to a loving relationship in a variety of forms.
Trust yourself to survive being hurt again.Often, if you've been hurt in the past, you don't want to trust someone new because you feel like the pain will break you. Truthfully, you could be hurt again, but you have to trust yourself enough to know that you can survive. You're stronger because of what you survived in the past, and you can survive it again if it happens.
- If you're having a hard time believing in your own strength, think about what you've been through before. Write in a journal about some of your hard times and the ways you coped in the past. Let yourself believe not everyone will hurt you, and if they do, you will be able to cope again. You are deserving of love.
Be honest with the other person.Being honest makes you vulnerable, especially if you're being honest about your feelings. However, when you're working on loving another person, you have to build that love on being truthful with one another.
See a therapist if necessary.Not everyone is able to work through their trust issues on their own, and that's perfectly fine. You may need a little help talking through that, and a professional can listen and guide you without judgment.
- If you can't afford a counselor, try talking with a friend who listens well or even a religious leader. Many communities also offer free or sliding-scale counseling services, so check in your area.
Listen to the other person's needs and wants.A big part of communicating love is being able to listen to the other person. They need to feel like what they say is being heard by you, and more than that, understood and felt. They need to know you are actually seeing them as a whole person who has their own thoughts, ideas, and feelings.
- When you're listening to the other person, be in the moment. Turn off distractions like your phone or the television, and just pay attention to what the person is saying.
- Don't be thinking about what you want to say next. Take the time to really hear what the other person is saying.
- One way to show you're listening is to summarize what the other person is saying to make sure you're getting it. You might say, "So what I'm hearing is that you'd like me to be more affectionate towards you."
Go to the person about problems in your relationship.Talking to the person about issues you're having with them is a sign of respect and love. If you talk about your relationship problems to a handful of other people instead of the person you're in a relationship with, you're saying you don't trust them enough to deal with the situation with them. You'll likely end up hurting them and making the problem worse.
- That doesn't mean you can't talk out a relationship problem with another person you're close to every now and then. But mostly, you should take up the problem with the person you're having it with, and try to resolve it. You'll both be happier, and you'll be working towards a more loving relationship.
- As an example, you could say, "I feel like we're having a problem communicating lately. I feel like I'm not being heard when we're having a serious conversation."
- Similarly, when they trust you with sensitive information, don't spread it around. Keep it to yourself, like you'd want them to do for you.
Build the person up instead of tearing them down.While you do need to be honest with the other person, you don't need to tear them down unnecessarily. Pay attention when they do well, and tell them about it. People need to hear that, especially from their loved ones.
- For example, maybe the person cooked a fantastic dinner but left a mess in the kitchen. Don't say, "What an awful mess!" Instead, say, "You cooked a really amazing dinner! Thank you. Would you like me to help clean up?" You could even clean up without asking.
Develop affectionate, physical behavior.Affectionate behavior is going to vary from relationship to relationship, but almost every kind of relationship will have it in some form. Usually, it takes the form of physical behavior, such as hugging or kissing. Physical behaviors create intimacy, which is a part of love.
- With a boyfriend, girlfriend, partner, or spouse, you might kiss, hold hands, cuddle, touch knees under the table, and/or hug.
- With a friend, you might shake hands, give high fives, wave, smile, hug, and/or pat each other on the back.
- For family members, you might hug, kiss, high five, and/or cuddle.
- Keep in mind not everyone is comfortable with the same kind of affection. It's always best to ask first.
Treat the person in ways that make them feel loved.Think about what makes you feel loved. Maybe it's someone saying a kind word or giving you a hug. Now, think about what seems to make the other person feel loved. Maybe you get a huge smile from them when you give them a compliment, or maybe you notice they light up when you bring them a cup of coffee. These small acts of kindness help create and show love between people.
- You can even ask the person what makes them feel loved. They'll likely feel flattered that you want to know.
- Make sure you are practicing these with the person. You may need to make a conscious decision to do them at first, but once you do, they'll start to become habit. Habit doesn't sound a lot like love, but when it comes to these actions, it can be a form of love.
Respond in a timely manner.When the person wants to know something or they want you to do something, give them the courtesy of responding to them as soon as you can. Leaving someone hanging is a way of showing you're in control.
- Love, though, isn't about seeing who's in control. It's about giving of yourself to another person.
Give the person the space they need.Everyone needs alone time every once and awhile. When the person wants to take some time apart, let them have it. This comes back to trust. You need to trust them enough to come back.
Put the other person's needs first.Love is often about sacrifice. That doesn't mean you need to give up everything you want or need. However, it does mean that you must be selfless sometimes. In a relationship, sometimes you have to give up what you want to make the other person happy.
- For instance, maybe you really want to go out and party, but the other person has had a hard week. They want to stay in and have a quiet evening at home with you. This time, stay in. Try cooking the person dinner and putting on their favorite movie. You can go out and party another time.
- Keep in mind that there are several types of love. You can experience romantic love, friendship love, love of a family member, and love of a pet. Don't limit your conception of love!
- If you have trouble with people, start with an animal. Adopt a cat or dog you can care for and love.
Video: How To Love Someone
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