Building the Empire
There is this belief that I have heard about love. There are three great loves you experience in your life. The first is puppy love that generally happens at a young age. I recall that one. It was my first crush and turned my world upside down in intensity and emotion while also being my first real heartbreak. The second is a love that teaches you lessons about who you are, what you want and don’t want from love, and often breaks you down to eventually guide you to build yourself back up. That was the story of my seventeen-year marriage. I thought it was meant to be the love of my life and my life fulfillment. Rather, it was my lesson about love and myself.
Now according to this belief, I have got something else coming into my life possibly. The third love. This is the one that feels effortless and you fall into with ease. It’s the love that is supposed to truly fulfill the ideals of being with someone that you have always wanted, yet never realized you were missing until this love enters your life. The idea is that it should be the truest form of love and your wish fulfillment. Sounds great, right? But how do we know it’s the real deal and not just another test to mark off along the journey to find that real third love?
Each of us experiences love in a different way. What one person craves may be the thing that someone else is triggered by in their relationships. So as I sit in my life at new crossroads and start to pen (literally) the next chapters of life, I realize that I have taken the lessons from the second love to finally have my eyes open to what this third love should be for me.
First of all, I no longer desire just a relationship, I know that what I want is a partnership that builds an empire together. I have faith this empire will transform not only our lives but the lives around us. In many ways, I imagine that one day I will do what my parents did in their generation for the communities they served through their love for one another. They built an empire that started as a deep friendship and always valued the role and presence of one another. Leaving a legacy of large shoes to fill.
At one point I believed I would have that in my second love, but empires require the strength of two people working together. It’s an impossible feat to build one alone while carrying the weight of unfulfilled dreams and the trauma of someone else on your back. Now I know exactly what my next commitment and partnership will look like. The foundation of which will be grounded in four essential things, that foster the growth and development of our collective hearts, souls, minds, finances, and future endeavors; this will be a friendship, feel like a partnership, focus on individual growth/development, and be filled with mutual adoration.
The next man has to be my friend and the person I want to experience life with. Having fun together is effortless. He will make me smile just because we share a hilarious moment or hold inside jokes that take us back to moments of levity and connection. We should have the ability to do absolutely nothing or the most mundane of life tasks like working, paying bills, household chores and it still feels like fun or just being in each other's company brings a sense of connection and peace. Friendship sustains when lust wanes.
Friendship is why older couples in their 80’s and 90’s still appreciate their spouses after 50 years of marriage. When your teeth start falling out, your bones ache and your food choices determine who you can hang around and the proximity of a bathroom, you have to have someone who will make you laugh and remind you of the beauty of life around you. Friends carry respect for one another that passion misses. That doesn’t mean there is no passion, that’s just a bonus to all the other amazing things that come from the depth of friendship with someone you also are attracted to and enjoy the presence and physical company of. We will come back to that because that's the necessity of adoration. Friends get each other through the hard times in life. They know when you need to stop the jokes and listen to the needs of the person you care for. Friendship holds you accountable and pushes you out of your comfort zone to grow. Which leads to having a partner.
Being a partner is another level of a relationship dynamic. We are in life together. That also requires individual growth and responsibility. But when you have a partner, even the hardest things you experience that shake your soul and test every ounce of your patience, are approachable and become problems that can be solved. Because you are not going it alone. The knowledge there is someone you can lean on and lean into when the burdens get heavy, gives you peace and keeps you and the partnership moving forward.
I once heard that being in a relationship is like a Venn Diagram. The visual is that there are two overlapping circles. But each circle also has its own space where they do not overlap. You can also think about a tree. The roots are the shared foundation that grounds the relationship, the trunk is the strength of values and common goals that create stability and hold the tree to grow upwards and then there are the branches.
These move outwards in many different directions. Each branch takes on a shape and movement of its own and bears its own leaves, fruit, and flowers. This is the same in love that sustains. You have the roots and the trunk together or the shared overlapping space of two circles, that is where you come together and have a partnership. But that partnership is only sustainable when both people do their own work and continue to develop themselves while also growing together. The branches are key for a flourishing relationship. Each person must focus on themselves and value their own peace equally to the relationship. This way, when there is a decision to be made of their partner's harm they are capable of checking their ego to put the hurt of someone else before themselves. They also know where to draw their own boundaries for their needs to be met and honored. This means you are looking out for each other and yourself. Each person also has their own desires and dreams outside of the shared ones. They maintain and foster friendships that give them insight and escape from their realities when needed. They try new things so that they build their own resilience and evolution in life. Then they come back to their partners and share these learnings expanding both their worlds. That’s the healthy balance.
The last piece is one that’s taken me longer to recognize as a need because I have only known dynamics where this was solely my contribution. Adoration could be mistaken for placing someone on a pedestal. That is a disaster waiting to happen. No one can sustain that towards someone else, and when you can’t see someone’s faults and think they are perfect, your boundaries keep moving backward while they get too comfortable with the benefits of no boundaries on their needs and actions. Pedestals only hold one person and they are high. One day gravity is bound to take effect and you will fall off hard and fast with a sudden realization of the truths in your relationship. There is no sustainability in that dynamic.
Mutual adoration is loving someone in their imperfection and authenticity but also knowing they are flawed humans who will make mistakes. There is passion, care, and the presence of all the love languages. It builds the confidence in a relationship to stop the need for looking outside of your dynamic for fulfillment. If you know your partner adores you for simply being yourself in all your alluring and goofy idiosyncrasies, you don’t worry about the possibility of a wandering eye or someone ( or even you) being unfaithful. You know that they may look at other beautiful women or men, they may even be flirted with by many. Still, you trust that at the end of the day they will come back to you because you are home, you are their peace and you value them.
They are confident in themselves to allow for open and unabashed adoration with physical affection in public and private. They watch you when you aren’t looking whether you are alone or across the way in a crowded room. They like the way you speak, the stories you share, the jokes you make even when they can be cheesy at times. They adore you to the point that they are hoping to be one of the main sources of your smile and laughter. They tell you they adore you when they acknowledge your efforts or skills in parenting, professional decisions, and in your life together. They comment when you take the extra care to look good. Compliments go a long way and consideration is huge in showing someone adoration. For more on that check out one of my older posts, “The Key”.
Empires are built with purpose and intentionality. So are lasting relationships. This does not mean that there won’t be challenges or that the third love won’t be tested and hurt at times. Clearly, I haven’t found the third love, but I have faith it's out there. I now know what I want it to feel like so that I will recognize its presence when it shows up and most importantly, be on the lookout when this is not what is being placed in front of me.
Good is nice, but I am striving for great. If it isn't, it’s not for me and it’s not my third love that I have come to believe exists somewhere in the chapters of this life journey.