Most of us long for a healthy, happy love relationship. After all, love is the most precious gift any of us can give or receive. Yet, half of marriages end in divorce and we all know couples who stay married but aren’t truly happy. The challenge to create and sustain a healthy, loving relationship is immense.

My journey to true love took 45 years. Through personal experience and the experience of hundreds of clients, I’ve learned a lot about the barriers to love that we unknowingly make.

How do we create and sustain a healthy, love-filled relationship? The following are some of the keys that have worked for my clients and for me:

  • Love yourself — We’ve all heard it: “You can’t love someone else until you love yourself!” There was a time when I didn’t have a clue what that meant. Now, I understand that the people in our lives are mirrors to help us see ourselves more clearly. Over the years, as I grew in greater self-love, my romantic relationships got better and healthier. But I was still attracting unavailable men.
  • Accept full responsibility for all that is in your life — When I stopped blaming the external world for the fact that I was chronically single, and began pointing the finger at myself, I realized that I was unavailable to love because of the fears and self-limiting beliefs I carried. With the help of my inner spiritual teacher, I cleaned house inside myself and was finally ready to welcome my beloved.
  • Give your love relationship the time and attention it deserves — We are ecstatic in the early days of love. We can’t get enough of our mate. Then time passes, and we delude ourselves into thinking our relationship can run on auto-pilot. As a society, our lives are busier and fuller than ever before. We must creatively attend to the love in our lives. My husband and I literally schedule time with each other in our appointment books. When we neglect to do so, we notice the difference.

There’s a great little book called Spiritual Wisdom on Relationships by Harold Klemp. He writes: “If you love someone or something, nurture it. That means, at least once during the day, give the object of your attention or the person of your heart your full love. Even if just for a little while, listen to what they are saying. During this time, you are putting the little self aside.”

  • Listen to your beloved with a desire to know what it’s like in their shoes — Being a good listener is challenging. Often when we think we’re listening to another, we’re really only listening to the thoughts in our own heads. There’s a great communication technique called “mirroring,” taught by marital therapist Harville Hendrix, Ph.D., that I teach clients and use in my own relationship. It involves reflecting back to the speaker the gist of what you heard them say until they feel you truly understand them. When I’m emotionally worked up about something and Dale mirrors me, it immediately settles me down. It’s not about agreeing with each other. It’s about understanding and feeling heard.
  • Sing HU to open your heart to love and gain a higher viewpoint — We are here in this life to learn how to give and receive divine love. The challenges in our relationships can weigh us down and feel insurmountable. No matter what we face, singing HU can help. HU (pronounced hue) is a love song to God that can be used by people of all faiths. It can be sung silently or out loud. When I feel hopelessly stuck in old, habitual ways of thinking and feeling, HU is my way out. It calms and grounds me. It opens me to my intuition and creativity. It helps me to connect with the divine in me, and to see the divine in others. It’s the greatest relationship tool I have!

Our most intimate relationships give us the golden opportunity to learn about pure, unconditional love. It is a huge and humbling undertaking. The challenges are great. The rewards are far greater!

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