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“These are for you,” he said, handing me a dozen red roses and a teddy bear before leaning in
to kiss me.

My first boyfriend, Danny, was standing in the doorway in full army fatigues.

He was picking me up on a warm Friday evening in July to take me out to dinner and a movie. We drove a half hour
to the Columbia Mall in the suburbs of Baltimore and ate at P. F. Chang’s.

It was the first time a man had properly taken me out on a date. And the first time I’d ever
eaten at P. F. Chang’s, too.

After the movie, we went back to his suite at the barracks on Fort Meade and cuddled until we
fell asleep. I was in a state of complete and utter bliss.

But that bliss didn’t last much longer. Danny and I broke up unexpectedly a couple of months
later.

I was beginning my senior year of high school and, considering that I was just 17 years old
and he was 19 at the time, the two years that separated us seemed to be the force that was
driving us apart.

It took me several months, a lot of searching for perspective and multiple care packages from
my mom before my first heartbreak began to subside.

I’ve had a handful of great loves in my life. Danny was certainly one of them. We spent many
nights talking on the phone until the sun came up. He comforted me in the wake of my father’s
stroke.

He was the first person I ever thought I loved.

Love is such an interesting specimen: It pervades our culture and yet it can be elusive to nail
down—and get right.

Over the years, I’ve learned so many wonderful lessons about what it
means to truly love someone. Danny and the men who followed in his footsteps have helped
me learn and grow and develop into the man I am today. In that sense, I think love only helps
cultivate more love, both for the self and for others.

Below, I share 14 lessons I’ve learned about love.

I hope they help you avoid the same mistakes and pitfalls I encountered. I hope they encourage you to open your heart and your mind to the possibilities that await you. I hope they help you find—and keep—the love you deserve.

1. No one else can complete you. Only you can do that.

Leasing out your self-worth to other people is a sure-fire way to end up emotionally bankrupt.
It’s called self-worth for a reason.

It’s imperative that you dig deep within yourself and believe in your own worthiness before you involve anyone else in the picture.

You can’t expect anyone else to fill a void inside of you. You can’t build a house on top of a foundation that’s borrowed from someone else. If they aren’t there, then you’re left with nothing. That’s what creates codependence and an unhealthy balance in a relationship.

Secure your own foundation first. Build a life that supports your happiness and it will attract the
person who complements that in a healthy way. Then, the two of you can build a home for
each other in your hearts.

And maybe one in real life, too.

2. Attachment is not love.

Attachment and love can feel similar at times, but there are some distinct differences to note:
Attachment latches on to a partner out of fear that he may leave.

Love opens the door for the partner to leave if that’s what makes him happy.Attachment is based upon the core belief that love is scarce, and therefore you likely won’t find
it again.

Love is based upon the core belief that love is abundant, and therefore it can be found again.
Attachment is based upon the extremes of “not enough” and “too much.”

Love is based upon an equilibrium of “enough-ness”—of being “just right” as it is.
Attachment feels like a cage.

Love feels like freedom.

Learn to differentiate between the two. Your heart and sanity will thank you.

3. It takes two to tango. It only takes one to forgive.

You are bound to get bumped and bruised and maybe even a little battered in this life. But it’s
up to you how long you choose to carry that baggage with you.

Forgiveness is the only way to wipe the proverbial slate clean.

No matter what happened to you in your past—no matter how rough you may have had
it—you must find the strength within you to forgive.

You only do yourself an injustice by bearing the burden of what someone else has done. You do not get to go back and rewrite the past, but you can rewrite the future. And that starts by releasing the negative energy of the
past through forgiveness.

You do not need an apology. You do not need an “I’m sorry.”

You do not need anything other than the desire to not be held captive to the negativity any longer. When you’re at that point, you’re ready to forgive.

When you finally forgive, you’re ready to welcome love into your heart.

4. Your relationship is a reflection of you.

The world mirrors you back at yourself. And nowhere is that more apparent than in your
romantic relationships.

Those faults you see in your partner are just disowned parts of you.

Those qualities you adore in your mate are qualities you admire because of your background.

The things you look for in another are based on the things you either admire or abhor most
about yourself based on your conditioning.

Your perception shapes your reality. Try to remember that what you see isn’t necessarily things
as they are but rather things as you perceive them.

This shift in perspective will help you open up to your partner’s point of view. And admit where you may need to heal as well.

(Here’s a hint: Just follow your emotional triggers.)

5. Vulnerability is the key to deep connection.

If you really want to welcome love into your life, you need to open up your heart.

And that means talking about your biggest setbacks, mistakes and heartbreaks. Truth is, we all have
them—and revealing yours is a brave show of strength, not a sign of weakness.

When you lay bare your soul in this way, you will attract profound and meaningful relationships
because you will transcend small talk and surface level connections.

Love can’t survive in the darkness that shields lies and secrets. But it thrives in the light of your
truth.

All you have to do is have the courage to share it with those you can trust. Then, watch as
your relationship flourishes.

 

6. You are your own person before you are a partner.

If you can’t take care of yourself, how do you expect to take care of someone else? In order to
be fully present in your relationship, you need to be fully present for yourself first.

Taking care of Numero Uno is essential so that you do not look for your relationship to serve you in ways
that you are meant to serve you.

Maintain a hobby. Invest in your core group of friends. Take care of your health. Being a good
partner starts with being good to you.

In short, put your own oxygen mask on first before assisting others with theirs. You can’t be
there for someone if you can’t breathe.

7. Boundaries help enhance love. Walls lock love inside.

Boundaries are incredibly important for nurturing yourself and all your wonderful gifts. But
don’t confuse them with walls.

Here’s how they’re different:

Boundaries are transparent.
Walls are opaque.

Boundaries are healthy.
Walls are based in fear.

Boundaries are dynamic and compassionate .
Walls are immovable and stubborn.

Boundaries represent possibilities.
Walls represent limitations.

Boundaries welcome the right people inside.
Walls lock everyone out.

Don’t build walls. Embrace boundaries instead.

Click here for 7 more lessons in love I wish I’d learned sooner.

Guest Post by: Chris Rackliffe, or @crackliffe, as he is fondly known by friends and colleagues, is an award-winning storyteller, motivator and speaker who has driven over one billion clicks and over six billion interactions as head of social media for some of the biggest magazines in the world, including Entertainment Weekly, Men’s Health, PEOPLE and more. With a B.S. in Advertising and Psychology from the University of Miami—and a Ph.D. in the School of Life—Chris tells first-person stories that cut straight to the heart. Chris has made it his sole purpose to empower and uplift others and help them find peace, perspective and power through what they’ve endured. You can read his work as published or featured in BuzzFeed, The Huffington Post, Thrive Gobal, TIME, Women’s Health and many more.

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