You can’t experience soulmate-like, life-changing, awesome love unless you go all in.
And further, what does “going all in” look like?
Consider the following examples.
You play in one of your routine lacrosse games, or, dance in a ballet recital. You decide beforehand that you probably aren’t going to succeed anyway. That you aren’t that good at lacrosse or ballet. And that everything will likely be a flop, regardless. You won’t win the lacrosse match, or, you won’t execute the ballet moves well. And because you believe this ahead of time, you will play lacrosse not so well, or, you will not dance to the best of your ability.
You go to write a book, or an article, or put together a lesson plan for your class of kids, or work on calculations for an engineering project, or plant some flowers. Yet, before you even get started, you think to yourself: I am not going to be able to do this well. It isn’t going to work out. I am going to fail anyway. I don’t feel like I can make this happen.
Guess what happens then?
Your heart isn’t in it.
You go into it, already feeling semi-defeated. You lag. You put less effort and hope into the project or activity since you don’t believe in the results. Your attention is ever somewhat elsewhere (in the realm of “I can’t do this, or, this isn’t going to work out for me anyway”).
And guess what?
You don’t make it happen.
It comes out…lacking. If it even actualizes at all.
Your book or article is less than, stilted, it doesn’t have punch, it’s lacking the heart or emotion that an engaging and fantastic story has. Your calculations are off. Your lesson plan falls flat. Your garden is…lackluster.
And then you assume: I was right. It wasn’t going to work out anyway. I wasn’t good enough. It was doomed to fail.
This is called a self-fulling prophecy. You believe something will turn out a certain way, and so subconsciously, your actions going forward make this reality actualize. Then you think, “see, I know it! It wasn’t going to work out. I was right all along.” When in fact, it was far more likely your response and your actions which hammered those nails in the coffin.
We do this all the time in dating, romantic relationships, marriages, you name it. We also do it in friendships or familial relations.
We decide that an interaction or a relationship isn’t going to work out anyway. That it will fail. That it will not go well. That this person will just leave me eventually anyway. That these things never work out. That “I am not that likable so they aren’t going to come to love me.”
And when you think that way? These very things are likely to happen.
People can sense these feelings in another person. They sense when you are desperate and are thus, repelled. They sense when you are holding back or are guarded, and they remain guarded themselves, and thus, neither of you really love fully. They sense when you don’t believe yourself worthy, and then they have trouble finding you worthy as well (because what we think of ourselves tends to be what others will eventually see and believe about us too).
There’s a famous study about the top regrets of the dying. Two of them were: I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings, and, I wish I had let myself be happier. (A few others: I wish I hadn’t worked so much and I wish I had stayed in closer touch with my friends).
Another few regrets from Karen Nimmo’s, The Top 8 Regrets of the Middle-Aged, are: regretting having spent so much time worrying and being afraid. As well as, playing it “too safe” and wishing one had risked more. People also regretted hiding their feelings or burying them. They regretted things they hadn’t done, like taking risks and trying different things, as well as traveling more and pursuing less popular career paths.
All of this to say that within love, not going all in? Holding back? This is a choice rife with potential (and likelihood) for regret.
It also, as in the case of self-fulfilling prophecy, makes the relationship less likely to work out in the first place.
You have one period of time on this earth, and it does have an endpoint. How do you want to have lived? Most importantly, though, how do you want to have loved? What things do you not want to look back on and regret?
Loving from the (perceived) safety point of being slightly removed? This isn’t really a way to love. We think it protects us, but it doesn’t. Because all of love is a risk anyway, just like all of life is a risk. Each job you try out, every friendship you give a go, the handful of romantic relationships you dare to delve into, the different adventures you go on, the places you live, the things you write, the foods you sample, all of it is a risk. Some are much bigger risks, while others, less so. Life, though, in and of itself, is a risk.
If you decide to date and fall in love with someone, this person may break your heart. You also might break theirs. If you decide to marry someone, the relationship could end in devastation, or, it could be the most meaningful connection and venture of your life. If you dare to live in another city or culture, it could be a disappointment. More likely, though, it will be a character changing, growth-inducing, eye-opening experience and, in many ways, an incredible time of your life. If you brave the decision of trying out another job or career path, you might not love it, in which case, you switch back or try out another, or, it could be the best leap you ever took. Adopting a pet will conclude in heartbreak when the pet eventually passes away. It could also be one of the more meaningful loves of your life.
So you see. All of life is a risk. This includes love.
When you love from a distance though? Worrying or assuming it “won’t work anyway,” so you keep yourself somewhat at bay? This is a watered-down, half-ass, cowardly way of loving. It’s also a sad excuse for love. And, you (and your partner too) will feel it in the relationship as a result. Your emotional connection will not be as deep. The relationship will not feel as…poignant, powerful, or intense. You will not feel as entwined with this person. The relationship will still cause you to feel a degree of loneliness because you are holding back and thus, are not as invested or engaged within it. Both of you will feel a silent, subtle…separateness between the two of you.
And, consider this: when you half love, as a supposed way of protecting yourself? You make the love affair more likely to end anyway. Your partner will eventually sense that you are somewhat…removed. That you are holding back. That you aren’t fully reachable. That you are not as invested or in it as they are. And this will be off-putting, as well as deeply hurtful. A person with high self-esteem, as well as someone who wants a healthy, awesome relationship themselves? They will not settle for someone who only half-loves them. For someone who is only partially in it. They will be patient and brave enough to move on, waiting for that great love who is all in, right along with them.
Love doesn’t work well, nor does it tend to last, when we do not go “all in.”
If you are in it to win it, so to speak, this makes the relationship far more likely to be a major success. Your partner will feel the depth of your love and enthusiasm, in both your words and actions and in the way you treat the relationship. When you are all in, even on the occasions when challenges arise, the mindset is not “will we make it?” but instead, “we will make this work, so let’s figure out how to navigate this, and let’s even get creative and think outside the box.” These are the people who experience great love. They are the ones who know that life goes through phases, that people, jobs, relationships, and the current scenario changes. That life is full of ebbs and flows. That people and the world are ever in flux. The ones who understand this are those who are not as fearful or put off by this and who, instead, far more often find a way to navigate the shifting waters with their love, hand in hand, side by side.
They see life as a journey to figure out and move through together. They see it as a grand adventure and invitation to take risks and be brave. And so, they find a way to make the relationship happen.
When your mindset is “I don’t know if this will work. Maybe it won’t…” this makes such a possibility far more likely. It’s the people who’ve decided, I will do this, and I will make it work. I will succeed. I will achieve this. I will make this happen. That, more often than not, they do and it does.
And, on the occasions that it doesn’t? They are far less likely to live with regrets because they know that they gave it their all. They sunk their heart and effort into it, which means at that point, it was by no fault of theirs that it didn’t work. That, in this case, it was likely to come to such a conclusion anyway. In which case, that is part of life and it’s unavoidable. There will be times in which we give it our whole soul and every effort, and this particular thing or situation or person was no longer meant for us, and while this can be deeply painful, it is part of being alive and being human.
Give things your all, though, and you are far more likely to reach heights you’d never even imagined. Shoot for the moon. Then, even if you miss, it’s likely you’ll find yourself among the stars.