For years now, I have been curious about the answer to this golden question: What is love? What exactly does it mean to love? And after all those years of research, exploration, and discovery, what I have determined so far is this: there is no concise answer. Everyone will have their own answer, and every situation will have its own possibilities.
As a lawyer, I work with women in a very specific and yet broad array of life circumstances. There are 4 key traits I see in people who radiate a sense of love during their journey through the drama into the lives of their dreams. Let me share them with you.
They Focus on Themselves
Let’s start with the biggest one right away. People who exhibit love know that it means focusing on themselves. They take care of themselves, they understand their needs, and they make sure those needs are met before they give anything to anyone else. Does this mean that they have it all together all the time? Absolutely not. Their awareness and abilities evolve over time, so what they do constantly changes. What stays consistent is their focus on recognizing what they need and fulfilling those needs.
We have all heard it said before: You cannot love someone else if you do not first love yourself. Focusing on your needs and how to meet those needs is a reflection of loving yourself.
They Take Responsibility but Not Blame
Where you are in your life, regardless of the exact details or circumstances, is your total and complete responsibility.
(I just lost some of you right there, and that’s okay.)
Taking responsibility is not the same as accepting blame. This can be a difficult concept to understand, because we have been taught by discipline over the years that they are the same. Let’s illustrate this with an example.
I have frequently come across women in abusive relationships. They come to me after a life of isolation. Many times, they have no job, no marketable skills, and no income or money in savings. They are tied to their abuser in several possible ways – through assets and debts, children, and complicated emotions. They want to be out of that life situation, but there are so many hurdles for them to cross to be truly free.
Blame focuses on the past, and asks who made that situation happen.
Responsibility is acknowledging her reality, recognizing that she has a lot to overcome, and making a commitment to a better life.
People who love themselves do not focus on blame. Instead, they take responsibility for articulating their goals and taking the steps to get there.
They Put Their Kids First
Women in family court who are dealing with child custody and child support disputes have a real opportunity to show love. They do this by putting their kids needs ahead of their feelings.
Notice, I did not say that they put their kids needs ahead of their own. They do not sacrifice their own well-being for the sake of their kids. Look back at my first point and see why that does not actually work.
The most intense and emotional drama in family court comes out when discussing the best interests of a child. Too often, parents confuse what a child needs for what the parent wants. Mothers who show love can tell the difference between their feelings (i.e.: what they feel like doing out of anger, pain, or revenge) and what their child actually needs (i.e.: relationship with both parents and financial support).
They Focus on Their Future
Family court makes it really easy to pull you back into your painful past. It brings up a lot of truths, reveals secrets, and materializes things you once thought were priceless. Even people going through an uncontested divorce find some dark feelings when listing and monetizing assets and writing out specific visitation schedules.
Coming from a place of love means that while you may feel all the feelings associated with this ugliness, you stay focused on your future potential.
An asset may be undervalued, or you may not be getting what you think is a fair share. Once you reach an agreement, you focus on how you will use the money to jumpstart your new phase in life.
Your coparent may get the kids for a holiday you were looking forward to spending with them. Instead of sulking over it, you help them pack extra feel-good items and make special plans for yourself.
Whatever the situation, you focus on the opportunity to maximize your potential, rather than finding something to keep you down.
Is that all there is to it? Of course not. Love is beautifully complex, and it will be nuanced for every single one of you. Take some time to reflect and ask yourself, “what is love?” There are no wrong answers.
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