Two men hold hands.

Lessons In Love

Romantic relationships need a solid foundation for unconditional love to thrive. Romantic relationships are beautiful when two whole people come together to love, take care of, support and enrich each other’s lives. I thought of sharing my fundamental tools for any romantic relationship to thrive. I hope these lessons will help you or someone that you know in their journey of getting ready for love.

  1. 1. Foundation in friendship

    You often hear that the best romantic relationships started as friends. There is a Xhosa idiomatic expression that goes, "umtya nethunga," when two people either have a common understanding or are always together or are lovers. I think getting to know someone as friends first gives you a preview of the kind of person they will be in the relationship. When you start as friends, you get to see how they handle certain situations, treat others and act when they do not get their way. Getting to know someone's character is very important. That can help you decide whether to take the friendship to the next level or to continue just being friends.

    People who find there is nothing better than having your best friend as your partner often say, “It is lovely to be in a relationship with someone that you just like.” For them, they have found being in a relationship with someone that they “like” brings them unconditional and long-lasting love. 

    When your best friend is your partner, you are less self-conscious in the relationship. You also know each other’s shadow-self all too well, such as insecurities, deepest fantasies, secrets, weaknesses and dark sides. When your partner is your best friend, arguments that could have escalated into a full-blown fight often fizzle out by compromising or submitting to your partner. A relationship can become toxic when a partner revisits an issue and cannot forgive their partner for their mistakes.

    When your partner is your best friend, you accept each other just the way you are, similar to that Bruno Mars song. When your partner is your best friend, you may have a deep, intimate, emotional and spiritual connection. For instance, you may know intuitively what the other one is thinking and feeling before they tell you. These are just some of the benefits of having your best friend as your partner. Ultimately, it is up to you to decide what works for you, either having your best friend as your partner or not.

  2. 2. Set boundaries for mutual respect

    It is always healthy to set boundaries in any relationship in order to establish mutual respect for one another. When you set boundaries, essentially, what you are saying is, “These are the lines that you will not cross with me. If you respect these boundaries, then you can remain a part of my life.” When you set boundaries, from the start of the relationship, the other person will know what behaviours you find to be unacceptable in your relationship with them. Most importantly, when you set boundaries, you are essentially safeguarding your mental health and showing yourself respect.

  3. 3. Communicate what's on your mind and heart

    Communicating your boundaries, expectations and needs in a relationship is fundamental. Often, when these are left unspoken, they will never be known and can never be fulfilled. Thus, effective communication is key to a fulfilling and long-lasting relationship. Effective communication means the person you are talking to actively listens and respectfully responds when necessary. The person also asks questions to gain clarity about what you are communicating to them if it is unclear. Effective communication builds a sense of trust, respectability, honesty, understanding, compassion and feeling heard in the relationship.

    There are several guidelines on effectively communicating with your partner, such as this YouTube video below by Mpoomy Ledwaba and her husband Brenden Praise. Here are my tips: schedule a time to talk. Talk in person with your partner to avoid miscommunication over text messages and emails. Never attack your partner, always attack the behaviour. For example, instead of saying, “you have been distant,” rather say, “I have been missing our quality time together.” It comes across less harsh and attacking when you use “I” and “we” instead of the personal pronoun “you." Always tell the truth even if it hurts your partner. Apologize when you have done something wrong instead of making excuses. Have positive body language: Sit up, directly face them, make eye contact and have your arms relaxed on the sides of your body. Put your phone either away or faced down or on silent when your partner is talking. Listen and respectfully respond to your partner. When something is bothering you about the relationship, communicate that immediately rather than later. Use a 72-Hour rule (similar to the one we have when it is time to vacate campus residences!) to let your partner know if something is bothering you in the relationship. Effective communication is beautiful when partners have mastered it in a relationship, but it can be hard work, so be patient with one another.

  4. 4. Listen to your intuition for guidance

    Intuition is one’s inner voice of discernment. It is a natural knowing about someone or a situation without reasoning or having to ask for advice. This discernment is also an extension of the wisdom of the universe, God or whatever you believe in is guiding you to your destiny. When you choose to trust it, essentially you are trusting something greater than yourself to guide you. Listening to your intuition can help you to discern between people who will pursue you with good intentions and those who come from a place of jealousy, hurt, hatred, resentment and selfish intent. As a young person, it can be challenging to discern, but choosing to listen to your intuition will guide you to what is right and divinely meant for you.

  5. 5. Love yourself first before you love someone else

    To receive love from someone worthy of you, you need to embody love. It all starts with you filling your cup before you can fill someone else’s cup. You can fill your cup by choosing to accept yourself, take care of yourself, invest in your potential, nurture your dreams, take yourself out on dates, heal from past relationships and traumatic experiences, and believe in yourself. When you take the time to love yourself, you will easily attract love. Remember to balance your relationship with yourself, and those who are important to you such as family members, friends, colleagues and anything else that brings you joy, happiness, fulfilment and purpose besides your partner. 

Then you’ll simply just sing:

"I’m ready, I’m ready 

I’m ready, I’m ready

For someone to love me (For someone to love me)

​I’m ready, I’m ready 

I’m ready, I’m ready

For someone to love me

For someone to love me"

Song by Sam Smith, Demi Lovato – I’m Ready