(This piece originally appeared at Rebelle Society.)
“There is only one serious question. And that is: Who knows how to make love stay? Answer me that and I will tell you whether or not to kill yourself.” ~ Tom Robbins
About three months ago, we wrote an article that offered a few ideas on how to make love stay, assuming that love was a woman. The response was pretty overwhelming – our piece has been shared more than 100,000 times, dozens of people gave us comments and numerous people requested a sequel from the male perspective.
So, assuming love is a man, this is how we’d make him stay.
1. Have his back.
Life sometimes gets the best of love. Occasionally, it will knock him down, drag him outside and kick him in the teeth. When this happens, be there for love. Hold his hand. Help him up. Heal his wounds. When love is overwhelmed and undermanned, out of touch or in his own world, be supportive.
Let him see that weakness is not the same thing as being weak. Help him recognize that weakness only weakens if it is withheld or withdrawn. Make him understand that weakness that is shared is not weakness at all. It is strength. Help him be strong by helping him be weak.
Boys put the weight of the world on their shoulders. Let him know that you are there to share his burdens and to carry part of the load. Talk to him about his dreams, his goals and his desires. Allow him to feel safe expressing his feelings and when he shares them with you, judge only yourself.
When he invites you inside to peak at the dark caverns of his mind, don’t push away. Rather, hold him close and pull him closer. Adore those intimate moments and appreciate his insights. Memorize them, and make them important to you. Making them matter will make him matter, and mattering feels good.
Be his loyal sidekick. Be his teammate. Be his champion. Make him believe that he can do anything at any time with anyone, and show him that you are right there with him, down in the trenches, fighting dirty, side by side, smiling at him when it’s needed and crying with him when it’s not.
Many hands make light work and if you approach love with open arms, he will always be there to receive them.
“Love and doubt have never been on speaking terms.” ~ Kahlil Gibran
2. Respect his individuality.
He’s unique, he’s special, and he’s one of a kind. There is simply nobody like him. He’s yours, and you’re his and while this may be true, always remember the importance of ‘me’ in maintaining the ‘we.’ Ensuring that you are independent, strong and able to sustain yourself helps to ensure that love can do the same. In this way, short-term separateness leads to long-term togetherness.
Besides, you cannot lock love in a jar for safekeeping. Love is a locksmith. He will escape. You cannot store love away for a rainy day. Love is a coward. He will flee. You cannot package love up, put him in a box and pretend that he is something he is not. Love is truth, and truth cannot be contained because truth is freedom.
You cannot change him if he doesn’t want to be changed. The harder you try, the harder he will resist and the harder you will fall when you fail. Thus, it’s up to you to tolerate his tantrums, to indulge his imperfections and to appreciate that differences breed similarities, that annoyances create opportunities, and that individuality is a powerful unifier.
However, whilst love is sometimes an unrelenting storm, you can adjust your sails. You can change your perspective. You can alter your expectations and you can modify your thoughts, your opinions and your actions.
But so can he.
And that’s why love is hard.
Although love sometimes forgets who he is, who he was, or who he is trying to be, he will always remember. Give love time, but more importantly, give love trust. It is the strongest of glues so stock up and be patient. He will succeed if you believe in him because tucked under his bed, right next to a pair of dusty socks, is his spirit, his heart and his soul. Let love remember to be himself and he will stick around to put on a show.
“Let there be spaces in your togetherness, and let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, and the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.” ~ Kahlil Gibran
3. Forgive him.
Mistakes are made, errors occur and good intentions occasionally lead to misery. Boys are imperfect. His plans will go awry and he will screw up sometimes (as I am sure you are aware). When he does forget, please forgive. When he errors, please encourage.
When he overlooks or underestimates, when he wants to give up or when he refuses to give in, please do not neglect his past, his potential, or who he is as a person. Don’t rub his face in yesterday’s mistakes like some kind of poorly trained puppy.
You are better than that.
And so is he.
His flaws are not faults, and his faults are not failures. They are simply a part of who he is right now. They are simply a process by which one becomes something better. They are simply part of someone who is trying his best to get through his life in one piece, just like you are and just like I am.
However, keep in mind that love is a two-way street. As such, it’s important that he is doing right by you, too, and that you are getting what you need. Accidents are okay, but inadequacies are not – not for you, not for him, not for us. There are limits. There are boundaries. There are breaking points. Know them, set them, and respect them.
When love has crossed the line, pull him back. When love has done wrong, tell him so. When love has taken advantage, set him straight. If you want, need, admire, desire, respect or expect something, say it loudly and clearly. Men are not mind readers and they are terrible psychics. Talk it out. Speak up. Communicate.
If love doesn’t hear you, shout. If love ignores you, fight. If love escapes, chase. However, if the battle becomes an unbearable burden, take heed and take cover. Take time to reflect, take note that warning signs can be guiding lights, and take comfort in the fact that, if everything does turn to dust, you will be okay. As with love, as with boys, as with everything – perspective and patience is what matters.
Life is full of conflicts. Deal with them head on, fight fair, and let go. Don’t hold onto grudges – they will weigh you down. Don’t grieve for a second chance – it won’t come. Don’t dwell on guilt, wondering what if and what could’ve, should’ve, must’ve been – it doesn’t matter. It’s done. It’s over. It cannot be reversed and it is time to move on.
What it comes down to is this: If you don’t let go of your past, you won’t be able to grab onto your future. Forgive love’s occasional fall from grace. If you do, love will quickly rise, dust himself off and get back into the business that everyone runs – the business of growing, of sharing, of connecting – the business of staying.
“When love beckons to you, follow him, though his ways are hard and steep.” ~ Kahlil Gibran
4. Appreciate him.
Have you ever heard that song by The Cure, ‘Boys Don’t Cry’? It’s a great song but a terrible lie. Boys do cry. They get sad and they sob. They get needy and teary, break down and crack up. In reality, boys aren’t heartless, soulless, emotionless statues of unfeeling existence. They are simply pretending to be like that. They are faking it.
For men, every day is Halloween because every day they have the whole world telling them, pressuring them, and pushing them to act tough, to be strong, to‘man up.’
Every day, boys are peer pressured into an obscene machismo norm in which it is okay to mock sensitivity, it is acceptable to conceal concern and it is encouraged to eliminate compassion. The result is that males around the world are playing perpetual hide and seek with their spirit in a twisted internal battle between the heart and mind.
Unfortunately, the old adage applies – there are no winners in war. So, it’s up to us to end the madness, it’s up to him to rewrite the rules, and it’s up to you to help make it so.
What does love need from you? What fulfills him? What makes him feel good? Is it a big burger? A beautiful blowjob? A burnt bridge rebuilt? Some bonding, a bit of bravery or a buddy to break down his barricades and banish his boredom?
Fill up his belly and feed his mind. Satiate him. Satisfy him. Desire him. Help him to feel successful and accomplished in the way that he defines, in the way that you want to define it and in the way that your relationship needs to define it. Let him know you need him. When you walk into a room, hold his arm tight and be proud that he is yours.
When you experience moments of pure joy, give him a bit of credit. When you are doing okay, let him know that he is doing okay, and when you compliment him, make it respectful. And when you make it respectful, make it meaningful. And when you make it meaningful, make it beautiful.
Why do you need to make him feel beautiful? Because, if you recall, beautiful things create beautiful things.
Be grateful for every cockroach he kills (or relocates), every door he opens, and every hug he offers. Let him be the man for you and make sure he knows how appreciative you are for that, for him and for every little thing he tries to do for you.
Never let him feel taken for granted. Never let him feel like you are better without him. Never let him imagine a life without you in it. Make love feel special and he’ll stick around to earn it.
“When you part from your friend, you grieve not; for that which you love most in him may be clearer in his absence, as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain.” ~ Kahlil Gibran
5. Love him freely.
Boys don’t like being told what to do, when to do it and how to think. They aren’t accustomed to schedules and plans because boys are wild at heart. They are carefree. They crave open fields, they want to run away, and they long to escape.
Use this knowledge to your advantage. Give him some space to be himself and he’ll let you join in. Let him feel boundless and he’ll bring you along for the ride. Unlock his handcuffs and he’ll reach for your hand. Freedom cannot be forced – it must be desired, demanded, and defended.
Men don’t want to process every feeling or thought that comes into their head. Sometimes they just need to be. Let them. Don’t dictate or act like his parent. Give him some liberty and see what he does with it. Remind him to follow nobody but his heart. Encourage him to follow nothing but his bliss.
Nudge, don’t push. Request, don’t require. Offer, don’t order. Shower him with sunshine and overwhelm him with compassion. However, always be on the lookout for love’s evil stepbrothers: Disdain, Resentment, and Denial.
Disdain is a dirty word. Disdain is a hired gun, a relationship assassin. Do not be disdainful.
Resentment is a dirty feeling. Resentment is a toxic elixir, a relationship poison. Do not be resentful.
Denial is a dirty choice. Denial is a wicked witch, a relationship cancer. Do not live in denial.
Rather, be understanding, be empathetic and above all, as Uncle Kurt said, “Goddamit, babies, you’ve got to be kind.”
Be an oasis for love and he’ll crawl through the desert to find you.
“Love is trembling happiness.” ~ Kahlil Gibran
6. Work with him.
Love doesn’t always get it right the first time. Boys learn slowly, but the good ones try hard. Teach him what you mean. Show him what you want. Tell him what you desire. Above all, communicate freely, openly and without hesitation. It’s hard and uncomfortable and scary, but all great things are at first. Greatness takes effort, effort takes practice, and practice is tough.
Practice, it turns out, takes practice.
Learn to work smarter, not harder. Improve. Assess. Evaluate. Be strategic. If things aren’t working, change them. If you’re not where you want to be, try new habits. If actions aren’t acting right, fix them. If feelings aren’t feeling okay, do something different.
Satisfaction is the death of desire so it is up to us, all of us, to keep studying, to keep striving, and to keep gaining ground on where we’re going and where we want to be. Stay interested in this process. Never settle. After all, helping him be the best version of himself helps make you the best version of yourself. Give love some time and he’ll make it last.
“God said, ‘Love your enemy’ and I obeyed Him and loved myself.” ~ Kahlil Gibran
So, there you have it – six more endless tips for making love stay. However, it’s important to highlight that these are only six tips out of six hundred choices, six thousand options, six million possibilities. There’s a great big world out there that is filled with potential. It’s up to us, each of us, to help love survive.
Ultimately, love isn’t a man or a woman. Love is a dogfight. Love is a hitchhiker. Love is enough and love is also lost, a blind butterfly in the wind. The only true way to make love stay is to pay attention, follow its flight and adjust your path right along with it.
Love is the ultimate prey and it’s up to each of us to be up for the hunt.
Grab a net and cross your fingers.