No matter where we are in the spectrum of love, and no matter where we are in the relationship continuum, many of us want to know how we can thrive in love.

“Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. They’re in each other all along.” – Rumi

We all want to love and be loved. We all seek intimacy on some level. If we aren’t currently in a relationship, more than likely we have been in some form of intimate relationship, which is the laboratory for the fulfillment of love and intimacy.

At its core, a partnership or marriage implies that we are willing to share ourselves in a truly intimate way with another person, both emotionally and physically; however, there’s no instruction manual that’s available to any of us. Certainly, we all know that new love can be the most delicious part and that older, more mature love can be the harder part.

However, when challenges arise, we tend to say to ourselves, “Oh no, more work … Shouldn’t being in love and in a long-lasting marriage just unfold naturally and organically?” The answer to that question is a definitive NO. To think that relationships don’t take skills and training is as silly as thinking you can be healthy and fit while eating junk food and never exercising. Loving and being in an intimate relationship require that we get personal and real about what it takes to be in one.

For a start, let’s bust some commonly held myths. There are three misconceptions in particular that have spread in our society like overgrown weeds, and they’re not helping us grow any closer to the love and intimacy we yearn for — as is evident in divorce rates now topping 50 percent in the U.S. When we demystify love, we demystify what it takes to thrive in a relationship, and we get closer to creating the love we want.

Myth #1: I will finally be happy if I find the man or woman of my dreams.

This myth is the most loaded one, and we’ve all been there. We’ve experienced the highs of peak infatuation and the lows of painful and intense endings.

Trying to find ultimate happiness through another person is a very slippery slope, because ultimately, our happiness, wholeness and fulfillment is our responsibility, and we need to have the power to create it within ourselves, versus waiting for it to come from the outside. If we rely on external circumstances to empower our lives, we’re giving our power over to others, and we lose our connection to having a say in what “shows up” in our lives.

Myth #2: My partner’s job in my life is to help me fulfill my dreams and highest values.

If you view your wife, husband or partner as being in your life to fulfill all of your dreams and highest values, then you are in the quintessential trap called “what’s in it for me?” What if your significant relationship was about you bringing what it takes to support your partner’s ability to live according to his or her highest values, or what is most important to him or her?

Try looking at your relationship as a chance to really “get over there with another,” and to help your partner deliver on his or her own essence or highest purpose. That is living with the highest intention for that person — and for yourself.

Myth #3: My intimate relationship will last forever.

If you view being in love with another person as the greatest opportunity for growth, then you have to be willing to let that person grow, as well. As the saying goes, “If you love someone, set them free.”

All of us have our desires for control, fear of being abandoned, fear of not being loved or fear of being rejected. There are no guarantees in life, and all we can do is be as open-hearted as possible and step into the risk of loving another.

No matter how hard we try to change our partners into what we want them to be, it doesn’t work. If we view relationships as a place to grow into our best selves, there is risk. It takes a certain amount of letting go and trusting: trusting that there is a higher order and purpose, and trusting that our personal growth and development is paramount to our journey.

Myths aside, now it’s time to thrive in love

Viewing your intimate relationships as a great learning opportunity, and as a tremendous opportunity for growth, can help you not only get through the tougher times, but also find happiness and fulfillment, and thrive.

This doesn’t mean that it will always be rainbows, hugs and kisses. Loving with a totally open heart can sometimes feel like sitting on the end of a skinny branch. It can get intense, but it’s also what makes relationships so exciting when they are new. Staying present to uncertainty inside of our significant relationships offers us the novelty, and moment-to-moment discovery of ourselves and each other, that make falling — and staying — in love so amazing.

Make Time for Love

Results in our lives are a function of the questions we ask, so grab a journal and reflect on these questions.

  1. Are you being the best version of you right now?
  2. Would you want to be in an intimate relationship with you, right now?
  3. Whether you have a relationship you love, want one, are not sure or are unhappy in the one you have, where can you be more loving and kind to yourself?
  4. Are you creating opportunities to learn and grow in your intimate relationship?
  5. What is it that you really want in your intimate relationship? Be clear about and take ownership for the answers.