What are some signs to look for, beyond that moment of vulnerability? Bisbey has some ideas:
- You feel deep empathy. Empathy is the ability to recognise, understand and experience the feelings of others. When you feel deep empathy for another, you can feel from that person's perspective.
- You love without ifs and buts. You love the person with all his faults and foibles. You love the person when she is in a bad mood or her behaviour is unpleasant.
- You feel accepted by your partner, regardless of your mood or state of mind.
- Your partner's love is ever present; not contingent upon you behaving in a certain way or providing some object or service.
- You are excited to watch the person unfold and become more authentic, more creatively herself in the future.
- You feel your partner's encouragement to grow in whatever direction brings you passion and joy.
- You are encouraged to explore ideas and issues.
- You are encouraged to expose your thoughts and feelings to the light, to discuss your fears and anxieties.
- You feel safe when you expose your most authentic self to your partner.
- You feel inspired.
Sounds great, right? There's one thing you have to do first. Anderson continues: "Wow; who wouldn't want that — experiencing and being able to deliver unconditional love and acceptance. Here's the tricky part: your ability to provide that experience for another rests solely on your ability to provide that to yourself!
Do you go into that delicate closet and do a spring cleaning? Do you sort through what no longer serves you and with self-compassion, self-love and non-judgement and just gently toss it out? This is loving gently. Expanding into self acceptance and love. When I am firmly rooted in this place I am able to extend feeling to others. I can move through my experiences with others and know that I can love them unconditionally, providing them the opportunity to be seen, know and loved."
If this seems like a lot of work, or a big leap, know this one thing: it is absolutely worth it. Bisbey concludes with these inspiring words: "Unconditional love is the bedrock for the relationship of your dreams. With unconditional love, negotiating the structure of the relationship, managing and resolving conflicts that arise and moving towards joint and individual goals in the future is easy.
When you love and are loved unconditionally, you can speak your mind without fear of reproach or judgement. You can take a risk in the knowledge that your partner will align with you to help you move towards that goal. You can be your full self without reservation while at the same time, respecting your partner's individual self."