8 rules of love summary

Book Summary: 8 Rules of Love by Jay Shetty

The Book in Three Sentences

In this summary of 8 Rules of Love, you’ll learn that since no one teaches us how to love, we learn everything about relationships from movies and pop culture. This book gives a series of actionable steps to learn how to cultivate love. Through eight steps, you’ll learn how to love yourself, your partner, and the world.

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8 Rules of Love Summary


We’re so attracted to beauty that we want it for our enjoyment, but attraction withers over time. When attraction turns into love though, it needs our care and attention. True beauty happens when we take care of someone over a long period of time.

Love is complicated. This book is about building love intentionally rather than waiting for it to happen. The foundation of this book comes from ancient Hindu scriptures called the Vedas. The Vedas recognize four stages of life where we can learn the rules of love: preparing for love, practicing love, protecting love, and perfecting love.

  • Preparing for love: Before loving someone else, we must love ourselves. Rule 1 is about acquiring a series of skills like compassion, empathy, and patience. Rule 2 involves examining past relationships to avoid making the same mistakes.
  • Practicing love: We love ourselves but also others. Rule 3 helps us know if we’re in love. Rule 4 is about learning and growing with your partner. Rule 5 is about setting priorities and managing your time and space in the relationship.
  • Protecting love: This is where we look for peace after a breakup, loss, or when our family demands less of our care. Rule 6 helps us solve a conflict. Rule 7 teaches us when to break up and how to deal with it once we do.
  • Perfecting love: This is where we love every person in our life. Rule 8 is about loving everyone.

Part 1: Solitude: Learning to Love Yourself

Rule 1: Let Yourself Be Alone

No one wants to be lonely. We’re insecure, afraid, and anxious about being lonely and those feelings hinder our ability to find love. The cure to this ailment seems to be a relationship, but not all relationships are created equal. Being alone is an opportunity to understand our pleasures and our values. Once we develop compassion, empathy, and patience, we can use those features to love someone else.

From a very early age, we’re taught that being alone is bad. While loneliness implies pain, solitude implies glory. To go from loneliness to solitude, we have to go through these three stages: presence, discomfort, and confidence.

  • Presence involves being present. Noticing our feelings, the choices we make, our priorities, our strengths, and our weaknesses. Your values are also important because when you’re with someone, both of your values have to align.
  • Discomfort is the feeling of inadequacy you feel when you’re not used to being on your own.
  • Confidence is the feeling of self-assurance you get from appreciating your own abilities and qualities.

Solitude helps you see yourself. There’s a “you” before, during, and after a relationship. When you’re in solitude, you learn about control and patience. Self-control is the distance between your attraction to something and your reaction to it.

When we’re looking for a partner, people tell us to look for our other half. That makes us dependent and unfulfilled and it puts a lot of pressure on someone else because we treat that person as someone who’s supposed to give us instant relief. Some problems you have to figure out yourself and you can’t expect someone else to do it for you.

Rule 2: Don’t Ignore Your Karma

The decisions you make now, determine your future. This is what’s known as karma. While most people believe that karma is something bad that will happen to you, karma actually refers to the law of cause and effect. Karma isn’t about getting punished or rewarded, but about teaching you something.

When we’re born, we get impressions from the world around us. All of those experiences influence how we behave and react. We often get a chance to keep our impressions or change them. All the choices you make start a reaction called the cycle of karma.

The impressions we get when we’re young tell us what love is. Unless we’re consciously aware of these impressions, we’ll continue the same karma. We can use that awareness to break the cycle. Learning from the past heals us and prevents us from making mistakes. Love is something you learn from your parents, the media, and past relationships, but all of those experiences affect our choices because we give them too much importance.

Our earliest experiences with love come from our parents. Ideally, parents would teach their children that love is protection, loyalty, and sacrifice. A lot of people had emotionally unhealthy parents though, so they learned different impressions. Regardless of how you were raised, you’ll still face challenges. Parents give us both gifts and gaps and we seek partners according to that. But we can use our upbringing to learn and use that karma to lead us to the relationship we need.

Media also has a big impact on how we approach love. Its big promise is that the right person for us will appear out of nowhere and we’ll recognize them as soon as they show up. The problem is that first impressions are unreliable. Also, the context in which you meet someone heavily influences your impression of that person.

Our early impressions also shape our ideas of love. In part, this happens because our prefrontal cortex doesn’t fully develop until we’re adults. So people remember their first love as something more intense than anything else, even when it wasn’t healthy.

Jetty identifies five types of people we date:

  • The rebel: Someone who challenges the status quo
  • The chase: Someone who’s emotionally or physically unavailable
  • The project: Someone who needs to be saved or taken care of
  • The F-boy or F-girl: Someone who sleeps around and isn’t interested in commitment
  • The opulent one: Someone who’s knowledgeable, famous, rich, beautiful, or strong.

When we start a new relationship, we should bring gifts, not gaps. We shouldn’t demand someone to fill our own gaps, we should do that ourselves. When we’re looking for a partner to fill an emotional gap, we ask them to be in charge of our happiness. Instead of blaming someone else for your emotional issues, work on them yourself.

Part 2: Compatibility: Learning to Love Others

Rule 3: Define Love Before You Think It, Feel It, Or Say It

There isn’t a universal definition of love. For some, it means sex, but for others, it means spending their lives together. We say “I love you” in different contexts and to different people, but there are no commitments and no guarantees when words are spoken. Love takes a lot of time, but we often rush to say “I love you”. Some people renew their vows, others have long-distance relationships, and some people get a divorce despite loving each other. How do you define love? What’s love supposed to feel like? How can we tell when someone loves us? To answer these questions, we have to use more than three words.

Phase One: Attraction

This is a desire to connect with someone. As you get to know the other person, you start revealing each other’s vulnerabilities. The author recommends the three-date rule, a simple framework to determine if the other person is a good fit. Each date focuses on a different area: personality, values, and goals.

Phase Two: Dreams

This stage is about designing, building, and nurturing a solid relationship.

False expectations are all the qualities we think our partner should have. Technology has made this worse because it gives us the illusion that there are endless potential partners to choose from, so we end up treating relationships like items in an online store. Anyone we meet will have a unique list of issues just like you. It’s likely that you want to have the same goals and values as the other person, but even if you don’t, that doesn’t mean that the relationship has to end. As long as you create things together, the relationship can work. How you handle difficulties in the relationship is more important than coming up with similarities.

This is also the stage where you develop rhythms and routines. While focusing on future dreams is natural, what you do on a daily basis is far more important because this is how you build a strong relationship.

Phase Three: Struggle and Growth

No relationship is perfect and there will be problems at some point. Some of those issues are solvable, but we have to learn to live with others. Love is about confronting difficulties. It’s rare that love flows naturally and you must work on your problems. There are two kinds of problems, small and big. For the latter, you have three options: you leave, you stay and commit to working on them, or you stay and change nothing. In this stage, you might encounter problems that are deal-breakers.

Phase Four: Trust

Overcoming challenges with someone else allows both of you to grow. This growth leads to trust, but despite what most people think, trust isn’t binary. Trust is something you build over time as a person performs certain actions or says different things. To generate trust in someone else, we must be trustworthy ourselves. There are three kinds of trust:

  • Physical trust is when someone makes us feel safe when they’re around us
  • Mental trust is when we trust someone’s ideas and decision-making
  • Emotional trust is when you trust someone’s values

While you may not get all three from your partner and they will make mistakes from time to time, it’s important to communicate the kind of trust you value most. Trust takes time and you must nurture it often.

Rule 4: Your Partner Is Your Guru

Gurus are spiritual teachers you can learn from. Gurus use compassion, empathy, and humility to impart lessons. In a romantic relationship, you’re both each other’s teachers and students. Gurus offer guidance, wisdom, and love without judging or expecting anything in return.

The objective of being in a relationship is to grow. The self-expansion theory says that our life will be richer when we expand our sense of self with the help of our partner. This can be a series of skills, personality features, and perspectives. Control isn’t something you should look for in a relationship, growth is.

Gurus aren’t supposed to be in control of their students. They just help them in every way possible and they lead by example. Also, gurus support each other’s goals, not their own. O learn the most, we must adopt a position of humility. The opposite would be adopting a position of ego. This is the false belief that we’re better than everyone else. The ego makes it impossible to learn and grow. Despite having a mentor figure, never forget your own personality, values, and goals.

Rule 5: Purpose Comes First

To become the best version of ourselves, we have to have a purpose in life. Or as it’s known in Hinduism, dharma. Your dharma comes first in your life and relationships. All other pursuits are clearer once you know your dharma. To create positive energy in your relationship, your calling has to come first for you, and your spouse’s calling has to come first for them.

To prioritize your dharma, follow the pyramid of purpose:

  • Learn: Explore your interests and skills to learn about your purpose. Shetty defines purpose as the place “where your passions intersect with your skills”. Once you identify your purpose, you need extra time to carry out that activity. Eliminate distractions if you have to and see if how you spend your time aligns with your values.
  • Experiment: Experimenting is about putting certain activities to the test to see what you like and what you don’t.
  • Thrive: Once you achieve a level of expertise where you know what you like and what you don’t, you’ll perform your purpose. At this stage, you determine what your routine will look like and you set goals.
  • Struggle: Inevitably, some problems are likely to come up. It’s important that you communicate with your partner when this happens.
  • Win: Winning is rare and you’ll spend most of the time doing the process. To put this in perspective, winning represents the 1% and the process represents the 99%. For everything to be worth it, you must enjoy the process rather than the destination.

Be supportive when your partner is trying to find their calling. When you have children and you both have purposes, pursue them after hours, prioritize one purpose over the other, take turns with each other’s purposes, or decide to pursue both purposes at the same time.

Part 3: Healing: Learning to Love Through Struggle

Rule 6: Win or Lose Together

Regardless of how compatible a couple is, there’s always going to be conflict. At the beginning of the relationship, there won’t be any disputes, but they’ll happen eventually. This is normal and expected in healthy relationships. The most common points of contention are sex, money, and how to raise kids.

To avoid hurting the other person (or hurting yourself), you must learn how to fight. Never confuse conflict with abuse though. Nothing positive comes from abuse and it’s unacceptable.

There are three kinds of arguments:

  • Pointless arguments: You don’t get the point and you don’t want to find a solution to the problem. The best thing you can do is determine how trivial some problems are and you must let them go before they escalate into something bigger.
  • Power arguments: Here you want to win just for the sake of it.
  • Productive arguments: The conflict is something you want to overcome to actually improve

When problems come up, try to get to the core of them:

  • Social conflicts come from external factors
  • Interpersonal conflicts happen when your complaint is with the other person
  • Inner conflicts come from within and the root is usually insecurity, expectation, or disappointment

There are three fight styles:

  • Venting: You express your anger until you reach a solution
  • Hiding: This is when you need space after an argument
  • Exploding: This is when you’re unable to control your emotions

The best outcome when conflict arises is when you win together. You do this by finding peace.

  1. Place and time: This is when and where you’ll solve the conflict. Scheduling a conflict helps you create distance between your emotions and the conversions when you’ll try to solve it.
  2. Expression: These are the words you use to express yourself and you must choose them carefully. Avoid extreme words, threats, or attacking words. Be clear, don’t insult, don’t be defensive, and be respectful.
  3. Anger management: Explain your intentions to your partners and try to solve your problem together.
  4. Commitment: The idea is reaching an agreement and committing to some form of change.
  5. Evolution: Once we’re able to take responsibility for our problems and apologize for our mistakes, we get closure. There are three steps to apologizing: acceptance, articulation, and action.

Some arguments seem irreconcilable. In such cases, negotiate solutions that are beneficial to both of you. Some delicate topics, you must agree on. If you can’t, you have to determine if you should continue to be a couple or split up.

Rule 7: You Don’t Break in a Breakup

Love disintegrates over time if you let it. Small issues can escalate into bigger ones if not taken care of. There are some bigger issues you can’t ignore, such as abuse, infidelity, inertia, and disinterest. You should never tolerate abuse. There are six categories of abuse: physical, emotional, sexual, financial, digital, and stalking.

Infidelity is one of the most difficult problems to recover from and this is the case because fixing someone’s trust once it’s been broken takes work and commitment. When this happens, rebound relationships seem like the way out, but trying to fill the void of your previous relationship with someone new won’t fix the problem you take with you.

Loss of interest usually happens because there’s a lack of communication. Don’t avoid the other person and if you do, think about why. Some signs of disinterest include feeling drained when you’re with them, not wanting to share intimate information with them, and not putting in the effort.

You may be disconnected from the other person. For our relationship to flourish, we must take care of it regularly. We generate different kinds of vibrations depending on what we talk about.

  • When you bond over something negative, such as criticizing others or gossiping, you generate low vibrations.
  • When you bond over meaningful topics, such as a to-do list, you generate medium vibrations.
  • When you bond over meaningful topics, such as discovering something you both have in common, you generate high vibrations.

The higher the vibrations, the more intimacy you create. If you’re fully present, you can use entertainment, experiences, or education to create intimacy. Once you’ve fostered intimacy, you have an option: you can elevate, separate, or stagnate.

The author details a path to elevation, a journey where you go from intolerance to acceptance and it looks like this:

While time-consuming and difficult, this process is about changing your perspective. Often, people stay in relationships because they don’t want to be alone. It’s worth pointing out that even when the relationship’s breaking, you’re not. There was a “you” before the relationship and you’ll continue to exist if it ends. The problem isn’t being alone, we want to be wanted because it makes us feel valued. We have value whether we’re with someone or on our own.

After breaking up with someone, wait before dating someone else. Being on your own for a while gives you confidence, and you can attract the people you want in your life (friends, communities, or family). Also, this is the perfect time to invest in yourself.

Part 4: Connection: Learning to Love Everyone

Rule 8: Love Again and Again

To conclude this summary of 8 Rules of Love, the more love you can give to others, the better. Romantic love isn’t the only kind of love you’ll encounter. You should strive to create loving connections with everyone you meet. By expressing love, you’ll receive love as well. First, we can show love to those closest to us. There are four qualities to consider:

  1. Understanding
  2. Belief
  3. Acceptance
  4. Appreciation

Further Reading

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