I found a new site about "mid-life" dating and relationships today along with a recent blog post about the definition of love: Dating over 40: What is love?
Coach Ronnie quotes Rabbi Schnitzer on two points that I found particularly insightful:
* Love is not being "stirred" by perfection... that is admiration. Love is accepting and embracing imperfection.
* Love starts with self-love.
Putting these together, this means we need to start by accepting ourselves -- not just the stuff we're proud about, but even our flaws.
I know I had long heard the advice about "loving yourself first" and then you'll find love, but I didn't really "get it." I imagined it meant I had to go around giving myself "positive affirmations" all the time. Luckily, I had a wonderful childhood and I felt like my self-esteem was fine, so I really didn't feel the need to write myself little sticky-notes to remind myself of how great I was. I understand that most people aren't so lucky, and it takes a long time for people to feel good about who they are, but I really didn't feel like I had that problem.
However, I think there's a second-half to this "self-love" exercise. It's not just about recognizing your strengths, but accepting your weaknesses. Even though I had confidence in what I was "good at," I was embarrassed to admit my imperfections to others. For example, I'm really bad at keeping up on what's going on in the world. So, if someone would start discussing a topic that I wasn't aware of, I'd keep my mouth shut, rather than risk the embarrassment of ignorance.
These days, I admit to what I don't know. I'm often met with a surprised, "OMG! You didn't know THAT?" but I just thank the person for cluing me in. In fact, I usually quiz them for more data, telling them that they need to teach me all there is about whatever it is, so I don't make the same dumb mistake in front of someone else. They feel good about teaching me something, I feel good about learning, and we're both happy.
Likewise, when someone else risks showing me their imperfections, I usually feel closer to them. I can relate much more easily to someone who is imperfect and not afraid to admit to it, than someone who only wants to tell me about how great they are. I love confidence, but not arrogance.
I think the key is we need to have confidence in ourselves -- both our strengths and weaknesses. I had confidence in my strengths but was insecure about my weaknesses. We're not usually "confident" about our weaknesses. But if we accept our weaknesses -- admit to our imperfections and do what we can to improve -- we become much more "real."
So, if we do all this self-love stuff, will we really "fall in love" with someone else? Maybe. Maybe not. The thing is, it won't matter nearly as much. We'll be content with ourselves. We won't need someone else to "validate" us. We are the only person who will be with us forever, so we'll have most definitely found a love partner for life.