So often in life, people speak of “finding” love. While that’s all good in the beginning, they soon discover that love disappears if they don’t do anything to nurture it. Sadly, most of them say it was just the wrong person, then go and do the same thing over and over again.

I’m reminded of a very funny movie, How To Lose A Guy in 10 Days, and the ridiculous “love fern” which Andie brings to Ben’s apartment as a symbol of their love. Well, Ben doesn’t bother feeding, watering the fern or giving it any sunlight, so within a very short time, it’s dead.

One does not find love; love finds you. It is not something to be captured, but something to surrender to.

While this is very true, we must nurture that love once we surrender it, or we greatly increase the risk of having it die. In addition, we must ask it(and each other) what is required in order to thrive.

Love can be much like that silly fern. When you find love, then bring it indoors to keep for yourself (relationship), but don’t give it light or water, odds are that love isn’t going to fare too well over the course of time. In fact, it’s pretty safe to say that love is going to die quickly.

So, when it comes to the common concept of finding love – even true love – and simply expecting it to last forever without effort, I must once again refer borrow from How To Lose a Guy In 10 Days… and call “bullshit!”

Love is a verb, not a noun. Verbs require action or they are nothing more than words.

I have been doing some life coaching sessions with a woman in Arizona over the past few years. She’s been married 15 years and has come to realize how her relationship is not even remotely what she wants it to be. From day one, it headed in the wrong direction and never turned back. Now she is at a crossroads: divorce, or convince him to try. I have always maintained that love is not found, nor does it retain its value. Love is made. Daily.

As a part of her homework, I am having her create a list of 10 commandments. Ten things which she absolutely must have in order to enjoy a happy and fulfilling relationship. These are not material things, of course, but manners in which she must be treated, loved and appreciated in thought, word, or deed. In other words, the minimum expressions of love required to make her happy, whether it is taking out the trash without being asked or being swept off her feet one night a month.

With these 10 commandments, she will “set the bar” in her life. Any man (inculding her husband) in her life who cannot(or refuses to) meet these minimums will not remain in her life. It’s as simple as that. It’s all there in black & white. No mind-reading, no game-playing. Nothing. In a similar fashion, the commandments, or bill of rights, whatever you choose to call them, can be written for, friends, etc.

Keep in mind, however, that you are not writing them for one particular person, but for anyone, now or in the future, who fills that particular spot in your life. Also, that you must welcome the other to reciprocate with a list of their own. This is, basically, “How to Love Me in 10 Easy Steps: An Operator’s Manual”.

It often helps to have a sounding board for such exercises: someone whom you trust as an unbiased and caring source. They can help you edit the list to make sure each item is:
– Necessary: Is it just a want or truly a need? Make sure you focus on needs and not trivial wants.
– Attainable: Is it reasonable? Is it within the capacity of someone to accomplish habitually?
– Communicated: Is it clear and concise? Will the recipient understand it fully?

Once complete, I recommend having a good and loving conversation with the recipient, which includes inviting them to create their own 10 Commandments.

Imagine an end to all the mind-reading and miscommunication. Imagine having your needs simply met on a regular basis, without the feeling slighted, without the nagging, without the arguments.

It truly can be this simple.

Of course, you have to have a willing partner to work with you – someone who cares enough to put a little effort in – and in order to make room in your life for that person, all you have to do is refer to your list.

Here are a few examples from my own list:

– I’d prefer it if you were the first person I speak to in the morning and the last with whom I speak to at night. I realize and accept that this won’t always be possible, but with very few exceptions, a 1-minute phone call is well within reach and those precious minutes, however small and trivial they may seem, are the mortar that holds together the kind of relationships that last a lifetime.

– Our lives are busy – that’s just how life is – and when we look back upon them, stolen moments with be the stitches in the fabric of our happiness. We must not wait until we have hours for each other, for those may are rare. Be it a phone call between meetings or on the way to lunch, or ducking out of a commitment a few minutes early to meet up, we must strive to steal moments of our lives and give them to each other as gifts.

– I want you to protect our relationship from others with the level of appreciation that you have for it. While I am a friendly person and you are, too, I would not allow any woman to get near to threatening the relationship or woman I love and would be as firm (or rude) as necessary in order for her to understand that clearly.  I expect you to do the same and to not put me in the position to have to do it for you. When we both protect what we have, there is no room or need for jealousy, as we are both secure in our partner’s desire to keep it. In truth, when protected well and feeling secure, we are both more free to spread our love out into the world without any ill effect on one another or our relationship.

– I need open, clear and honest communication. We’re not competing in this relationship, we’re on the same team. Failure to do so impedes our progress and leads to frustration and arguments. Time spent mind-reading and guessing would be far better spent meeting each other’s needs.

I hope these help. Try writing some of your own. They could be similar to those above, or as simple and straightforward as “pick up your socks” and “put the cap back on the toothpaste”, but while it is possible to list your pet peeves, I’d suggest that you work to get over them rather than have them control your life’s happiness, because they’re not truly all that important in the grand scheme of things.

These things will alter over the course of time, so it’s good practice to go back and edit them annually. It’s also good practice to adhere to them as strictly as possible between editing, for in truth, this is a contract with oneself: a commitment to being only with someone capable of treating you as listed. Also, a commitment to not being with anyone who doesn’t. If you don’t stick to the plan, you can’t reach the goal: maximizing happiness and minimizing problems, disappointments, hurt feelings, etc.

When working with this exercise, one thing that may surprise you is how very simple it it to make you happy. We really don’t need much! We just need what we need, regularly and without having to demand it. When we get it, we feel loved and fulfilled.

Love and light,