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Can We Learn How to Love Better?

Written by Kara Thompson, Licensed Social Worker

So here’s the deal… Love is complicated. You may be facing this truth every day in your relationships with your partner, a family member, or maybe even within yourself.  Have you ever paused and reflected on this question: “How did we learn how to love?”

For many of us, the first way we learned about love is through the systems we were born into. Those unique experiences often include a spectrum of healthy-unhealthy tendencies. Why does this matter? Well, regardless of what type of relationship(s) we saw or experienced in childhood, we began subconsciously forming our personal beliefs of what “love” looks like. We rarely stop to think about the ways this may have influenced our learning of how to love. Processing our personal experiences witnessing and engaging in relationships allows us to recognize the way we may subconsciously drift towards (or away from) what is familiar. So again, I pose this question… “Can we learn how to love better?

The good news is that the answer is yes… and it’s never too late. However, our biggest barrier is that most people don’t feel like they have safe spaces to do so. It was actually through my work with young people where I saw this gap firsthand. When talking about relationships, teens would say things like “this is the first time I’ve ever really thought about this” or “I just thought that’s how relationships are supposed to be.” Identifying positive and negative patterns in the relationships we may have learned from challenges ourselves to be intentional about the ways we engage in relationships. Remember that at its core, our commitment to learning how to love better starts with the commitment to loving ourselves… no matter our age or lived experience.

So Now What Can We Do?

–          Let’s Get Honest: Regardless of how we grew up or the type of relationships we’ve seen, we can all make positive changes. If as you’re reading this article you’re thinking about how you need to share this with your partner so that they can learn how to love better… let’s pause and turn inward first. What does learning how to love better look like for you?  Why do we think it can feel a little uncomfortable?

–          Prompt Conversations with Youth: What if you become curious as to what youth think they already know about relationships? In doing this, you may find that there are significant misconceptions in their idea of a healthy relationship, which provides an opportunity for healthy dialogue. Remember that you don’t have to take on the role of the expert in the conversation. Giving young people an opportunity to teach you about what they have seen is a key dynamic shift that builds trust and rapport.

–          Utilize Relevant Resources: Have you been struggling to find relationship-based resources for youth and young adults that feel relevant and realistic? Check out the organization One Love whose mission is to tackle this issue by empowering young people to love better by educating them on healthy and unhealthy relationships. LoveisRespect is another great resource created for young people that even has a section dedicated to online quizzes such as “Am I a Good Partner?” or “Is your Relationship Healthy?”. Remember that the National Domestic Violence Hotline is always there for you as well.

Learning how to love better can be complex. If you or your teen could use some support in navigating this journey, I encourage you to seek support from a licensed professional. Feel free to reach out to one of our Chicago therapists at Symmetry Counseling today, letting them know you’re ready to dive deeper into the journey of learning how to love better.

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