1. It doesn't have to be tit-for-tat. Richness can come in uneven packages. Soften your grasp on equality. The universe takes care of karma, not you.
2. Sex can complicate the fuck out of a beautiful connection. You can actually request taking it off the table (for now, for a while, for good). You can love what works and leave the rest behind. This is easiest when you don't have the pressure of monogamy demanding that everything intimate come in one package from one person right away.
3. Tell the truth and tell it fast. Even if it lets him down or causes you to risk losing attention or affection. The quickest way to activate another's insanity is by keeping them in a guessing-game about where they stand with you. No one wants to be misled, used or strung along. Jot your notes. Rehearse on a friend. Spit it out. It's called respect.
4. Strategy is an important form of self-love. A year ago, such words would have never left my lips. But I can tell you now, strategy matters. A framework that you're playing inside of. The edge you're intentionally leaning over. Your life lines. The ways you intend on keeping yourself grounded.
5. Assume the best of our species: that we are mature beings, capable of non-conventional relating; that we want to be connected in ways that work for everyone.
6. Leave room for surprise. When you brave conversations that assume the best in everyone and tell the whole truth, you give love a chance to sing a new tune. It could be anything. Stay open.
7. Let your longing and loneliness grow you from every angle. Your darkest days point to the chance for a new practice. Poke around. That's what the lonely is for.
8. If it's on, it's on. You can feel the flow. Simple.
9. Drink the muddy water at your own risk. Incessant doubt, worry and deliberation... if they don't subside within a few interactions, you may be hooked on false hope. No matter, though. Every experience has its silver lining. Just be prepared to listen for it.
10. The wisest people are total fools for love. When you feel it, go all in. It's okay if you end up being the only one standing there. It feels good to be so alive. And heartbreak is something we're able to survive. This much, we're all learning all the time.
11. The wisest people love themselves by not contributing to their own destruction. They admit when it's no longer love, or never was from the start. (Even when it disappoints them). They don't linger too long in the land of old hope. They mourn their losses, then trust possibility. Hard.
12. Approaching dating as an evolutionary calling is good for society, and your conscience. Will I practice being in this natural disaster of desire without pillaging the next town over? Will I be compassionate even when the norms suggest I don't owe it to anyone? Will I call someone out when what went down was truly harmful? Will I put in the effort, for the sake of everyone's transformation?
13. Make this decision: to be on the evolutionary edge of sexual liberation and joy. Be ready for your play-partner to waltz right into your life. Call up the sex-toy lady. Host the salon. FAQ each other like the future of sex depends on it. Because it does.
14. The 100% rule is a smart convention. They talk about it in Cosmo (according to my 13 year-old friend Madeleine who teaches me tons about dating). Basically, all connections add up to 100%. Ideal dating connections are anywhere from 40:60 to 50:50 ratios. Once things start heading toward 30:70, the scales are tipping a bit too far and someone ought to rebalance them if a healthy connection is desired. Lean in or step back. You know where you fall in the spread.
15. Let there be space.
16. Solitude is essential. There's no replacement for laying in bed alone, happy to be at home in yourself.
17. You invite the lessons, the heartbreaks, the heroes you need. Say thank you to each of them. Really.
18. No one can save you from yourself. I repeat: No one can save you from yourself.
20. Consent trumps convention. You can have it how you want it. Age. Gender. Orientation. Race. The number of people at one time. Your unique expression of love is needed in the world, belongs.
21. We're in the tangle of sexual trauma together and we're all needed in order to unravel it; to explore the difficulties of sex and power in all their nuance and subtlety. The courage thing, the honest conversation thing, the evolutionary calling thing: they definitely apply here. As well as therapy, healing relationships, naps, lotion, baths. Sentences like, We can do this.
22. Sometimes, people need time to catch up. Sometimes, you're the one chasing the wisdom-bus.
23. It's helpful to think of the ones we date as our best teachers, to lean into each other for answers. Because the truth is, it's one big experiment and there are no real rules of play. We're all we've got. If we want to evolve at loving, we've got to teach each other the very best lessons we know. We have to let ourselves be clueless, ask vulnerable wobbly questions.
24. Be forgiving. We all fuck it up.
25. Humans are wild. Sometimes we forget, but it's true. Deep down, we're not asking to be caged by lofty rules on love. But we still want some insurance that it's out there for us, like the world is a place where we can offer our hearts and be received, like we really do belong all the way. And experiencing love with another is one way we can feel ourselves fall into belonging. But it's not the only one. There's also meditation. They go together, solitude and connection. Discovering that nothing's disconnected. Feeling it in your very own breath. Walking it in your very own step. Finding a whole world of life in yourself--ten thousand ringing bells in each one of your curls; an infinite song you can't erase if you try. We are all together in an infinite spiral, learning to love our scary wild aloneness. It's okay. We're safe here. Together and alone. We're okay here. Here we are.
What are your most treasured lessons from the wondrous adventure of looking for love? I'd love to know. We all would.