Whether you’re solo going YOLO or all boo’d up, happy Valentine’s Day! Since the path of true love rarely runs smooth, we sought out love expert, author, and all-around inspiring badass Alexi Panos for her thoughts on finding the one, keeping the spark alive, and getting on board the #FebruaryLoveChallenge.
What does love mean to you?
Love is a powerful thing. The minute we try to define it, it no longer is love. The way I’ve known love is about accepting what is and truly embracing what's showing up and doing it from a space of understanding and compassion. When we use that type of love on ourselves, where we’re embracing what is and relating to ourselves from that space of love and compassion, it’s a very powerful thing. No one can mess with that. When you fully and wholly embrace all that is you and accept all of you from that space of whole-hearted love, you become unstoppable in a world that is telling you you’re not good enough. It's crucial to work on a deep relationship with yourself.
Do you have tips on self-love that you've found to be successful?
The first thing is getting to know yourself. A lot of people are living lives successfully but may be living on other people's terms. Getting to know yourself, what you care about, what you consider to be success, what you want out of a partner and what you want for yourself in your life is key. Not too many [people] take the time to ask themselves what is it they truly want in life: What do I define as success? Where do I want to live? What kind of partner qualities do I want? Answering questions from a logical space can give you insight on what you want. When you tap into what you want, then you can truly start to honor who you are.
On a subconscious level, silence is the best, best access point to self-love. There’s so much science out there about meditation that says it's so great for our health, mind, keeps us young and revitalizes us — and yet so many people don’t do it. I think we’re afraid of that silence and getting to know the self that we are. If you can, commit to five to 10 minutes of silence a day and do it without an agenda — people are trying to reach enlightenment in every meditation session, and that's totally not what we are looking for. We’re looking for silence, space, and stillness for you to be with yourself. Most of us are so good at doing, but have no idea on how to just be. If you can give yourself just time to be, it's a great start to self-nurture.
What’s your ideal relationship?
An ideal relationship for me is Person A, who's working on and committed to the highest version of themselves from a place of responsibility for greatness, and person B, who's committed to the same exact thing. A lot of people, especially in modern-day society, are looking to a relationship to make us feel love, to make us feel whole, happy, and we’re waiting for the relationship to give us all that. But when we start to give ourselves that love, happiness, wholeness, connection, and intimacy, we then attract a partner who is equally as whole — and that's when relationships work.
I’m not saying they’re easy; I’m saying that it's aligned. A lot of people are trying to change their partners into the perfect idea of what they think they need to be, when in reality, we need to get to know ourselves first and cultivate our wholeness. Then we attract another, from the space and wholeness we are in.
With a super-high divorce rate in our culture, what do you consider to be key attributes that are needed for a sustainable relationship?
The biggest key element is personal responsibility for everything that happens within your relationship. A lot of people hear this and may question, What if they cheat, what if they yell? Taking 100 percent responsibility doesn't mean you're to blame for the circumstance — it just means you’re taking responsibility for your reaction to what happens, and you're also taking responsibility to what you choose to do next.
You can’t always control what’s happening in the world, but we can control our attitudes towards what’s happening. If you know that the answer is to show up with responsibility, then you have the key to a healthy relationship that doesn’t feel bitter or has resentment. That’s what causes divorces and affairs; people feel like they can’t be themselves in their relationship, so they find someone who accepts them.
Do you believe there's only one true love? Or do we have multiple connections through a lifetime?
I believe that every single person we come in contact with is a soulmate in one way. I don’t believe that you have to get married to all of them. I do think that every single human is almost contracted to us, to give us a lesson, an experience of life that we wouldn’t have had without this person.
My husband and I feel that we’re twin flames, soulmates, and we also have multiple connections with other people that are equally as profound but in a slightly different way. If you're opening to yourself and the love that you are and the wholeness, you’re going to connect with a lot of people in the world because you’re susceptible to love. That doesn’t mean you're going to be physically intimate with every single one of those people you connect with — that’s a choice. That's the choice that my husband and I made, to commit to each other: physical intimacy for one another. It also means that we get to love, appreciate and have deep connections with all these other beautiful beings. It's just a choice to have physical connection and intimacy. So I do believe that there are multiple ones in your life.
What would you say to people reading your previous answer, who may think they possibly couldn’t do that because they would feel insecure or jealous?
As a woman, I’ve experienced those emotions and can totally relate to it. But I will say that I have experienced those emotions when I’m not tapped into my wholeness, and that's the shift.
The shift in me is when I’m living from a context of "I am whole, I am love, and I don’t need another human to make me feel that way." Then, my husband is just this amazing bonus. He’s so amazing and so incredible, but I don’t want to hold him back from sharing his amazingness with other people. But again, we’ve made a commitment to share physical intimacy [just] between us. He has so many incredible friends and close connections that build him with so much joy and allow our relationship to be so much fuller because he’s a better, more expanded man having those relationships.
We have to change our mindsets from "You're my husband," "You're my boyfriend," "You're my partner, I own you," even saying "my husband" — he’s not mine, I don’t own him. He’s his own human being, and he’s on his own path, but we decided to commit to one another and stand together. But in no way shape or form do I own him. I own myself, and I have control over myself. What’s interesting is that when you give someone that much permission to just be free and be their whole self, they actually want to be with you more. I'm not saying to do this to get this result. It’s a catch-22 that happens when you give somebody freedom — they don’t necessarily need it as much.
However, when you threaten to take away their freedom, it's because it's taboo, that they want it more and they’re almost resisting authority. We see it in all of us. If I say, "Don’t think of the color blue," you immediately think of the color blue. It's the same in a relationship. It’s saying, “I love you, we committed to certain commitments together, and I trust you to uphold that, and you’re an awesome human and you get to be awesome with other awesome humans, and you get to be in this life as an amazing free human."
For the woman searching endlessly for that one person but is now disillusioned with the dating world, how do you keep believing there's someone out there?
Well, first of all, my sympathies to anyone dating in today’s world. It is gnarly that we are making decisions out of a glance and [based on] first appearances.
I think we are having more sex than we ever had, but we are more disconnected from our own sexuality and our own deep connection and intimacy than we’ve ever been. A lot of women will look at where we are and say we are so free, we do what we want, and it's a hookup culture, but we’re doing it from this total surface place, and we’re not really connecting with people. I have single girlfriends and single guy friends who are equally frustrated and equally having fun with these apps, depending on what day you talk to them.
But what I would say for anyone that’s looking and is disenchanted with the whole dating world: Stop trying to make it happen! I was one of these women, so I get it. Stop trying to make every guy the guy. A lot of us do that. We make every guy the guy and find all of these reasons why he’s amazing versus just focusing on ourselves. It's so counterintuitive — the minute we focus on ourselves, start developing and cultivate a deep love and intimacy with ourselves, do the work to be the best version of yourself, go through your breakdowns and your past and find the breakthroughs, you take those lessons, and you apply them to your life. You go toward the vision that you’re building in your life — and guess what? You’re going to meet somebody that aligns in that same frequency.
Now, if you’re in the frequency of desperation, where you just want to find somebody, what are you going to find? Desperation. You’re only going to find the frequency that you’re giving out. Women that are in this desperate, "I just want to find somebody" phase are attracting men who are desperate and only want one thing; sex. And they wonder why this keeps happening. It’s because you’re in the vibration of desperation. If you want to be in the vibration of commitment and sustainability, you have to be in a commitment to yourself first. That’s what a lot of people are missing — they think they’re going to find the answer in the other person, but the answer is really in you.
Once you’ve found that one committed relationship, how do you keep the passion alive?
I think it's such critical question!
I have several answers that I have through self-discovery, but I also work with several other couples who have been married for decades and some couples that are new. What I have found is the biggest thing is curiosity. If you can keep curiosity alive within yourself about your partner, that is the entry way, the portal, the gateway to passion. Passion exists because there’s this mystery, unknown, and it feels new, dangerous and exciting — that’s the spark of passion. The only way we keep that spark of flame is if we’re curious about our partner.
Now, what happens is a lot of us move in with our partners, get married, spend a lot of time with them and then we get used to them. It's like a sweater in your closet that you’ve had for 10 years. Eventually, that sweater keeps getting worn less and less and you start buying new sweaters and start questioning whether you even like that sweater anymore because you’re so used to it. If you're honest and wake up every single day acknowledging, "I’m a completely different person, I’ve got completely new thoughts in my head, I’m growing through my stuff, I’m showing up to life in different ways, I have new dreams, new hopes," you can look at your partner the same way. This person is evolving, and the person you know today is not going to be the same person tomorrow, even if they seem like it on the surface. They are wildly different.
So keeping that curiosity is number one. Number two is playing together. Being giant kids together is huge, and finding the things you love together — whether it's dancing, painting, surfing, bike riding or strolling the streets on a Sunday afternoon — whatever it is, do it. Do it at least once a week, at least for two hours. Dedicate that time to your relationship.
The third thing is time away from your partner. If you and your partner are doing the same thing every day, there’s nothing to talk about. If he’s out doing his thing and he comes back to share his experience, and if you go out with your girlfriends and do your thing, and then come back, you're sharing new spontaneous goodness into the relationship, and that’s what you need to keep the spark alive. And then of course: time to yourself.
What are your thoughts on Valentine’s Day?
You know when I was younger, I used to use this day to make my boyfriend feel bad, saying, "You didn’t get me anything, you didn’t do this on Valentine’s Day for me." I put a lot of worth into it, but as I’ve gotten older, I have not celebrated it because I believe every single day is Valentine’s Day. First to yourself, then to your partner.
If you’re not treating every single day with the sacredness and the importance of Valentine’s Day, then you’re not focusing on your relationship in a way that will make it thrive. I’ve noticed so many of my girlfriends put so much pressure on Valentine’s Day to be the day that the guy they were dating was going to do the thing that would solidify the relationship, or it was the day they were finally going to do this thing with their partner — and then they're let down.
What I’ve realized is that we put so much pressure on ourselves to make the day the day. I invite every single person out there to take every single day of the remainder of February to make it Valentine's Day for yourself. If you can make it through February, then take it into March and April. Keep that daily practice for yourself to explore what it means to fall in love with yourself every single day.
For more on love, scope out Alexi's videos like this one titled "Are you really ready for Love?"