It's hard for people to understand the concept of choosing happiness — in other words, love for themselves — let alone trying to understand how the heck you just "decide" to love someone. Being confused about this (or thinking it's impossible) is simply the result of thinking that love is just a feeling you get. In the words of the poet and prophet Justin Bieber, "Love is not just a feeling." (No, but actually, he said that.) And he's right. What most people are thinking of when they think of "love" is just the sensation that a release of hormones gives them. It doesn't necessarily have to be sexual — it can be very romantic or even emotional, but that physical feeling in your body is a chemical reaction. Don't get me wrong: Chemistry is important! But it's only one shot in the cocktail of what it takes to have a great relationship, and it's certainly not to be confused with "love."
So what does it mean to really love someone? Well, it's just about seeing them for who they are, appreciating them for being that person, and making the conscious choice to remain keep choosing to see, support, love, and respect them. So yeah, it's a choice. You can choose to do romantic things that ignite that spark, too. The fundamentals of what draws you to one another, or in other words, your general compatibility — your fundamental belief systems, lifestyles, opinions, sense of humor — may not be something you choose, but the actual action of "loving" someone once you find a match, totally is. So here are a few really practical ways to do just that, because even if you get what I mean, sometimes it's hard to make it happen IRL:
Validate Their Emotions
Don't try to dismiss or change their emotions. Allow them to be as they are, and consider them valid, even if you, personally cannot imagine feeling similarly.
Support Them In What Actually Matters To Them
It's easy to support someone in the things that you like, or the things that you think make you look cool for dating someone who does them, but what's really meaningful is supporting them and being for them in the ways that it's most important to them. So maybe on the outside it seems like going to their new art show is "supporting them," but they may not care whether or not you come. They may really care that you put a print up next to your desk. The point is that you should ask how you can best support the people you love, then do that.
Take Care Of Them In The Little Ways
Cook them a meal or run an errand or just give them an open ear when they need to vent. It's the little things done regularly that have a much bigger impact than a nice thing you do once in a blue moon.
Stop Trying To Fit Them Into The Hole In Your Heart That's Shaped Like Your Ex
... Or your parents. Or religion. Or self-love. People are not replacements, they cannot fill the gaps that only we are capable of healing. Trying to do that is the antithesis to what it means to really care: you love them for what they do, and who they could be — not what and who they are already. When you love people like this, they never seem like enough, and so it never works out anyway.
Ask Them About The Things They're Passionate About
Talk to them about the things they love. Watch how they light up and rant on and on when you ask them about something they're super interested in. People love to feel as though other people care about what they care about — and that's never more important than with the person you love.
Look For The Best In Them
Not the "most convenient," or "good enough," or "maybe someday might be better." Consciously choose to focus on what's great about them – you'll find that you have a lot to work with.
Hold Them In The Highest Regard — Not As Being Responsible For Your Own Problems
It's really easy to project our issues onto the people who are closest (and most willing to accept them). But when you really love someone, you try to see their presence in your life objectively, and not mindlessly take your anger (or general dissatisfaction with life) out on the people who don't have anything to do with it anyway.
Want more of Bustle's Sex and Relationships coverage? Check out our new podcast, I Want It That Way, which delves into the difficult and downright dirty parts of a relationship, and find more on our Soundcloud page.
Images: Kei Uesugi/DigitalVision/Getty Images; Giphy (3)