It is February, and love is in the air this month — or, at least, probably in your inbox. It seems like brands are leaning hard into Valentine’s Day this year. In the time it took me to write this, I received two emails reminding me to act fast and secure a gift because Feb. 14 is right around the corner.
But love is more than a box of chocolates and a cheesy card once a year. It takes patience, empathy and humility. I asked Washington Post readers to share the best advice they have ever given or received about love, and their responses did not disappoint. Respondents ranged in age from as young as 16 to as old as 100. People wrote in from across the United States and from as far away as Australia. Here are some of their heartwarming, wise and thoughtful responses on how to find love, how to keep it and how to make it last.
If you are like me and aren’t celebrating Valentine’s Day with a romantic partner this year, much of this advice is applicable to platonic love, as well.
Building a strong foundation
“You must love yourself before you love someone else. If you do not, you will end up giving the worst parts of yourself to the one you love the most.” — Cate Goldman, 24, New York City
“When you’re wrong, admit it, and when you’re right, shut up.” — Jennifer Anderson, 52, Milwaukee, WI
“Love is a choice. It’s the choice to accept who the other person is. A choice to support them in their growth, while knowing it is ultimately their choice to grow. Infatuation is the initial feeling that causes us to overlook another person’s flaws, and that feeling fades. But you make the choice to love, and so it can last forever.” — Eleanor Johnson, 28, Randolph, N.J.
“The best relationships are the ones where both parties think they’re getting the better end of the deal.” — Joel Murray, 39, Melbourne, Australia
“Don’t ask, ‘How do I feel about them?’ Ask, ‘When I’m with them, how do I feel about me?’ ” — Paul Franklin Stregevsky, 65, Poolesville, Md.
“My mom often asks me to question if my feelings of love or wanting to be loved in partnership/friendship are coming from ego. She said, ‘If you are looking for love or to prove you’re loved to serve your ego, you will never be happy in love.’ I think about that a lot when I am meeting new friends and especially now that I was just broken up with. It has helped me to realize that until I am really sure of the love I hold for myself, I will enter into friendships/relationships for ‘proof’ of being loved instead of actually feeling it.” — Gabriella Corado, 25, D.C.
“Just choose it. Folx spend so much time looking for it, waiting for it, only to agonize over it when it shows up. Next time you’re chatting someone up just ask yourself: ‘Is this person someone I could love?’ If your insides say yes, then love them and build a life together. Stop wondering and dithering. Find someone to love and get on with all the goodness it brings. That said, things change, and life knocks us around. Just before I was wheeled in for open heart surgery, I told my partner of 16 years (and husband of six years) that the most important thing he could do if I died during surgery was to fall in love again.” — Joshua Saunders, 43, Atlanta
Make love last
“Always try to be willing to go more than halfway.” — Neal Manne, 66, Houston
“Never fight to win, because then someone loses. Fight to compromise, then the relationship wins.” — Jo Anne King, 68, Laguna Woods, Calif.
“My best advice stems from Gandhi’s wisdom to be the change you wish to see in the world. As I longed to be seen, I aimed to truly see others. Given my desire to be heard, I devoted myself to learning to listen. Because we all desire to be loved, I found people in my life responding to these offers of my love with deeper love in return.” — Bonita Gardner, 57, Fernandina Beach, Fla.
“Shortly before my marriage, almost 37 years ago, my grandmother gave me advice that I have passed along to my young nieces, as they entered into long-term relationships. My grandmother told me, ‘Always remember that marriage is not 50/50. Some days, it will be 80/20, other days maybe 30/70. There will be times that you need to give 80, and other days your husband will be the one to give 80. Learn to recognize what the balance needs to be, on any given day, throughout the life of your marriage.’ ” — Diane Henriques, 61, Charleston, S.C.
“Love is a verb. Saying it and doing it are two different things. I am loving my wife when I cook for her or when I listen to her fully or when I hold her when she is tired.” — Matt Hall, 52, Mountain View, Calif.
“Always assume goodwill. When something is said or done which harms you or interferes with your physical or emotional well-being, if you assume the person was acting with goodwill, you will respond with respect and caring instead of anger and confrontation. It opens the lines of communication instead of setting up defensiveness.” — Candee Van Iderstine, 68, Davidsonville, Md.
“As a longtime Aretha Franklin fan, it’s all about R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Be willing to look for common ground. When that process fails, be willing to respectfully agree to disagree. Also be wise enough to realize that perspectives can change over time.” — Dave Law, 76, Northville, Mich.
“There is something to be learned from how we find love, even in the most complicated places; it offers us hope, even if we have nothing else to hope for.” — Owen Agbayani, 19, Orange, Calif.
Have something to add? Shareyour best advice in the comments below.