We all think we know what love is, but when times get rocky and relationships get rough, the gaps in our knowledge can become crippling. Don’t fall for these five common mistakes.

1. Love is a 50/50 partnership

Many people view love as a two-way street, with each person receiving affection in proportion to what’s been given out. It’s true that love often breeds love in return, but expecting a measured response for each gesture of affection is unrealistic. Worse, it leads to score keeping and the constant feeling that one is doing either too much or too little.

The reality is more like a series of candles, each lighting the others. Some candles are large, some are small. One person’s 80% may glow dimmer than someone else’s 20%. Sometimes we pour love in a constant stream toward someone who is not yet able to give it back. Try to give 60%, 70%, or even 100% in every relationship you are part of. You never know which candle may be just a few seconds away from sparking.

2. Loving someone means never letting go

We all make sacrifices for the people we love, but there’s a big difference between changing your plans for someone else’s benefit and allowing yourself to be swallowed up in self-destructive behaviors that benefit no one.

Remember that sacrifice is about exchanging something of worth for an outcome we value even more. Like a chess player giving up a pawn in order to advance his queen, we let go of our own desires in order to improve the well-being of those we love. If our selfless gestures fail to achieve this goal, they cease being sacrifices and become waste.

You never have to stop caring about someone. But sometimes, for your own safety and sanity, it’s important to step away, regain perspective, and create an environment that allows everyone to grow.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA3. Being loved cures loneliness

No one likes to feel alone. Feelings of isolation can become crippling, like an all-consuming whirlwind that funnels into a black pit of despair. When you’re trapped in that pit, it’s easy to feel that if someone – anyone – would just care about you, things would get better.

The truth is that people do care. They just haven’t figured out how to say it in a way that gets past the whirlwind. They want to help, but they can’t. No amount of love poured in from outside can fill up the aching chasm of loneliness.

Fortunately, there is hope. Often the chasm can be filled from the inside – not by being loved, but by loving other people. Reach out, be honest, share what you are feeling and express your sincere desire for the welfare of others. You may be surprised at what happens next.

4. True love knows no bounds

It’s not easy to be trapped between the people you care about and the choice you know is right. Many of us have stood in that difficult place and listened with heavy hearts to the inevitable words: “If you really loved me, you would do what I ask.”

Loving someone doesn’t mean giving them everything they want. One of the most difficult, empowering, and life-changing expressions of love is the willingness to say no.

file00017859263795. Love is blind

Love isn’t about pretending not to notice problems. It’s about seeing problems, understanding them, and forging onward despite them. It’s about seeing people for who they are and who they can become. It’s about acknowledging imperfections and choosing not to make a fuss about them.

When problems arise, don’t ignore them. Instead have the courage to say, “This sucks, but we can fix it.” Try to view your loved ones as partners in the search for a solution, and not as the source of the problem.

Love is not blind. Love sees, and it makes us feel safe to be seen.

Featured photo credit: taliesin via morguefile.com

Love this article?