Healthy, loving relationships are about how well you are treated, not just how you are made to feel.—Alfred Edmond Jr.
This is one of the guiding principles of our book, Loving In The Grown Zone: A No-Nonsense Guide to Making Healthy Decisions in the Quest for Loving, Romantic Relationships of Honor, Esteem and Respect (Balboa Press). Authentic love is about the quality of treatment between relationship partners. However, too often, we disregard that standard in favor of the thrill of “catching feelings”—treating love as if it were some kind of random natural occurrence (like a lightning bolt), or worse, a disease.
And no wonder, when movies, books, television shows and “love” songs constantly present “that special feeling” as the ultimate proof of love, with hardly a mention of standards or a commitment to a consistent and loving quality of treatment in a relationship. For example, a close listen to the lyrics of many so-called “love” songs have nothing to do with healthy love at all. In the Grown Zone, we urge you to differentiate between fickle, temporary and often manipulative feelings, and the kind of lasting, affirming, reliable behaviors that are a reflection of authentic, healthy love.
Let’s look at just a few of the “romantic” promises that cause the less than Grown to prematurely open their legs, checkbooks, homes and hearts, and compare them to the more dependable behaviors that are characteristic of healthy, sustainable, truly loving relationships.
The Feelings Promise: We can keep our love a secret; no one has to know. The Treatment Commitment: I honor, esteem and respect you, treasuring our love in the light as much as I may enjoy it in the dark. I will never ask you to do anything that diminishes your love of self.
If a relationship can only be maintained in secrecy (no matter how sexy, erotic or “romantic” the setting), it cannot be healthy, and therefore is not love. It is not authentic love if the relationship is characterized by shame, deception or betrayal, or acts that bring about these feelings. Healthy love thrives in the light, not the dark.
Feelings: When I am with you, I make you feel better than you’ve ever felt before; and like no one else can. Treatment: I will treat you lovingly when I am not with you; always honoring our relationship and my words of commitment to you with my actions, choices and habits.
Healthy love is not only about how a person touches you. It’s about how a person treats you when he or she is not touching you, and especially when you are not in that person’s presence.
Feelings: I can’t live without you. You can’t be without me. I will never let you go. Treatment: I care for and am committed to you, but I do not own you.
In healthy, loving relationships, we are gifts to one another, not property. Loving one another is not tantamount to surrendering ownership of self. Your job is to set and enforce high standards for your treatment, so that you can identify potential partners qualified to care for and worthy of the gift of you—before you commit your body, money, home or heart.
If a relationship is rooted in possessiveness and control, it’s not love; it’s a hostage situation, with one or both parties held captive—and in too many cases, risking injury (financial and emotional, as well as physical) and even death if they attempt to leave the relationship. In a healthy relationship, commitment is generous and willing, not purchased or coerced. Love allows.
Feelings: I’m going to love you all night long. Treatment: I’m ready, willing and able to love you all life long.
Stop being impressed by a person’s desire to lay with you. Stop confusing being wanted and desired with being valued and loved. Instead, watch and wait for a person to demonstrate a commitment to stand with you—for example, through a battle with cancer or a difficult pregnancy, when passionate sex may not be part of the equation. (The Tyler New Media film Still Standing provides a wonderful illustration of this kind of healthy, resilient love.) The latter can only be determined over time and with vigilant observation and clear-eyed investigation. Absent the ability to meet that standard, promises to “love you up and down” are meaningless if authentic, healthy love is your goal.
In the quest for healthy, loving relationships, always choose good for you over good to you. Chasing feelings (or a “love high”), instead of establishing and enforcing a standard of healthy treatment, is a chief reason behind unhealthy, self-destructive relationship choices. If you pursue feelings in the absence of a standard for quality treatment, you’ll end up screwed, abandoned, unfulfilled, unhappy or worse, more often than not. However, when we treat each other well—that is with honor, esteem and respect—good, truly loving feelings are an inevitable result. Grown people don’t “catch” feelings. They choose the kind of treatment that not only feels good to them, but is good for them.
Stop chasing and losing. Start ATTRACTING and CHOOSING! Learn proven guidelines and principles GUARANTEED to make you happy and fulfilled REGARDLESS OF YOUR CURRENT RELATIONSHIP STATUS. Use the power of self love to become an irresistible MAGNET for the lasting, drama-free, AUTHENTIC LOVE created specifically for you and ONLY you! Order your copy of Loving In The Grown Zone TODAY at LovingInTheGrownZone.com!