A Manual for Love

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAI wish I had been given one. I wish we all had been handed a Love Manual in a class in high school, and taken levels two and three in college. For there are basic laws and practices we could have learned that would have made the path of intimate relationship so much easier had we only been given the proper roadmap.

I don’t believe that there’s one manual that would apply to every aspect of every relationship. That would be like saying there’s one parenting book that applies to all parent-child configurations and would resolve every child-raising difficulty. It sounds alluring, but when that promise is made I turn the other way, as relationships of all kinds are far too complicated to be simplified into a one-size-fits-all formula.

But what I have learned over many years of being in intimate relationships and guiding others through them is that there is a basic set of information and actions that can dramatically improve the daily tenor of the heart and the atmosphere in the home. There are love laws that are easy to learn and understand, but if you never see them in action growing up you won’t intuitively slide into their vocabulary. I’m always amazed and inspired by my clients who were raised in a home where they witnessed a healthy, loving marriage (yes, they do exist!) and how naturally they’re able to communicate with clarity and love to their partners. We learn best by osmosis, so for these fortunate clients it’s not anything their parents explicitly told them that allows them to live out the love laws through daily actions but it was simply by swimming in the language of love that they learned them.

For the rest of us, however, we need the manual. We need the love laws and loving actions spelled out for us so that we can learn, follow, and practice daily a language that will help us open our hearts and continually cultivate more love and attraction. This is how new, loving habits are formed. And the good news is that they can be formed! Even if you grew up without any positive role-modeling regarding love, you can still learn the actions that create loving relationships.

And even if you did breathe in the benefits of witnessing a healthy marriage growing up, there’s always more to learn. Fear has a sneaky way of undoing the healthy patterning, so that when your partner dips into the inner folds of your heart, fear will jut up its walls and cause a sort of amnesia about the ways of love. People often ask me, “But I grew up seeing a healthy marriage. Why am I so scared?” You’re scared because we don’t grow up in a bubble, so there are many other elements that influence your ability to give and receive love. You may have been bullied by peers. You have have been hurt by early partners. And without a doubt you absorbed false information about love, romance, attraction, and marriage through popular culture and other sources.

Mostly you’re scared because part of the human condition is to learn how to navigate fear and choose love, meaning that fear is simply part of being human. Some would say that that challenge is at the core of the spiritual path, and that intimate relationships are an accelerated course in learning about fear, resistance, and the walls that prevent us from loving fully. The more we can name the fear and learn the actions that break down its walls, the more we can open the chambers of the heart that let love in. And this is what needs to be included in the manual nobody received.

You can receive a brief, bullet-point version of the manual here.

But if you want to delve deep into the core principles and receive personal guidance and group support as you practice them daily, please join me for my fifth round of Open Your Heart: A 30 day program to feel more love and attraction for your partner, where I’ll be teaching you about the foundations of love, how to name fear and resistance, what it means to love yourself, and how to open your heart so that you can give and receive love in the fullest sense with your partner.

Registration is now open. If you’re ready to learn, take my hand and let’s begin.

18 comments to A Manual for Love

  • Ann

    Hi Sheryl,
    This post, as always, is wonderful. After a number of unhealthy relationships I found myself floundering about in the world of dating for years, distrusting myself and my choices, suffering from intense relationship anxiety and generally becoming very disillusioned about my chances of ever having a relationship again, let alone a healthy one. I have been very fortunate in meeting a very wonderful person a few months ago when it seemed I’d finally given up hope! And I’ve had the most profound epiphany, if that’s a good word for it, about all the things that have happened in my past that I thought were purely negative but that I now see were all teaching me important lessons about life and love and what all of that really means. I am determined to apply all the valuable knowledge I’ve acquired over the years to this relationship and to work on it and myself as honestly and with as much dedication as I can. This post and the love manual have given me a wonderful framework from which to start. You and your blog have been a very important part of my journey and I thank you most sincerely. Your posts are always so relevant to where i’m at and always seem to come just at the right moment!
    Ann.

  • Lu

    Sheryl, thank you for your posts. I’ve been having a difficult time with my current, and first “real”, relationship not only because of my own doubts/fears but also because of doubts coming from my family about the person I am dating. None of the doubts stem with how he treats me so I have been trying to manage the “noise” to gain clarity for myself and understand whether this is the right person for me. Through your posts I am slowly realizing that I have to do some work of my own in dealing with issues within myself that I didn’t really think about before or even know I had that are coming to the surface b/c of my relationship. While I find your posts so helpful, the one thing I’ve been battling with is, is fair to put my boyfriend through the pain of being in a relationship while I struggle through this and am constantly doubting my feelings for him? My anxiety about the relationship is not only taking a toll on me but feel it will take a toll on him emotionally (and his self-worth) as I continue to work through these issues. I feel too guilty put him through this but am trying hard to not run away from him either.

  • Lea

    Sheryl, I’ve written you several times and you’ve always been so kind to answer my questions, doubts and fears. I was considering to take the course but at this point I’m in a bad financial situation so I won’t be able to do that any time soon. My anxiety was present since the beginning of my relationship since we started seeing each other immediately after my fiance broke up his first engagement. We’ve been dating for one and a half year, and we’ve been living together for more than a half. Our relationship was great, however since he proposed I started having doubts. Now, it is all I can think about. I’m not sure if he’s the one for me although this wasn’t a question while we were dating. I feel like there’s someone better out there for me, someone I’ve always dreamed of having. He treats me like a queen and understands me so much but I feel like I won’t be able to get through the wedding. I wanna be with him, but when I think about the wedding and marriage everything inside of me screams NO. I’m so scared that I will make a mistake. I really wanna take the course cause I know it’ll be great help, but unfortunately I come from the Balkans (Europe) where the cost of the course is almost my monthly salary 🙁 Anyone in this blog is welcomed to help me with their advice.
    P.S. I’m also bothered by the fact that he is not as educated as me ( this doesn’t mean he’s not intelligent but he doesn’t have a college degree but he’s a hard worker ).

  • Lea

    Sheryl, I come across this article: http://conscious-transitions.com/is-my-partner-intellectual-enough/ and it was a great relief. Actually, this is the question that’s been bothering me since my fiance proposed. Is he intellectual enough and what other people will think of me for being with someone who hasn’t got a college degree? I see my future husband as a trophy, someone that I’ll be proud to show to my friends and my fiance is not someone like that. I hate myself for this, especially that I started having these doubts after he proposed. I love him and we communicate perfectly, I have no problem with his education, I have problem with what other people will say about me being with someone who hasn’t got a college degree. Terrible right?

  • Lea

    And yes, I have to mention that I’ve always compared myself to my best friend who is now married to a nice successful man but before she met him she had a relationship with a man who was so good to her but she broke up with him because he didn’t have a college degree although she loved him a lot. Now I constantly compare my relationship to hers. I know my fiance is a wonderful man who I love and feel wonderful with but I just can’t seem to make the decision whether he’s the man I want to spend my life with. 🙁

  • Your posts always provide such relief to me! I just signed up for your open your heart class, and am really excited to look deeper into why my anxiety flares up when it does. I know that my issues in my relationship are mostly due to my own inability to let him in fully. Thank you (as always!) for being a voice of reason and compassion. 🙂

  • Emma

    Hi Sheryl,

    I hope this comment gets to you. My boyfriend and I have been together 3 years. I’m 23 and he’s 26. He broke up with me two major times in the course of our relationship, with small little break-ups here and there. I grew very insecure, never really knowing if/when we would get into a fight and he’d decide to call it off. I developed anxiety a while back, unrelated to my relationship but Relationship OCD hit me like a train after stopping birth control at 22. With time, and by taking the same acceptance approach as I do with anxiety, it slowly faded.

    However, my boyfriend broke up with me this summer after a patch of fighting. We were apart for 3 months — the longest ever. I thought he would never come back. I was shattered. I started finding solace in an good male friend of mine. Feelings grew and I became infatuated — he made me feel like I could love someone else, find someone else attractive, funny, smart. It breathed new life into me, made me forget my break up, I got the fluttery feelings of that “new” love — it was exciting and fun…despite the heartbreak I was still carrying. When my boyfriend decided he did in fact want to be together, I was skeptical. After working it out with him I agreed to give it another chance. He promised he was in this for the long haul, and as long as we worked on what needed to be fixed, he would always be here.

    That was in late September. Things are better than ever now, truly. Yet, the feelings for the other guy are still there. At first I continued to text him but have stopped. I still think about him, miss him, even have dreams about him sometimes. I find myself wanting to text him (but I don’t). My ROCD is back and this time it’s more frightening because the feelings for my boyfriend are flat…almost this sense of boredom. It’s a backdoor spike because the lack of feeling used to give me terrible anxiety and depression, now it’s not even doing that! My feelings for my bf are muted but the feelings for the other guy are not. I worry that this is not anxiety. I worry because I read your blogs, along with the comments and I seem to be the only one who has these infatuated feelings for someone else. I start to believe that this may be a case of being 23 and needing to experience a new avenue. However, all I want is for this flame for the other guy to burn and for the one for my boyfriend to spark up again. Is this normal…to be feeling this way? 🙁 Does this mean I need to break up with my boyfriend? Do you think your E-course can help me?

    Love,
    Emma xoxo

    • Charity

      Sorry to hear what you’re going through. I take it Sheryl has to be selective of who she gives her time to, so I’m going to leave a little comment just so your words don’t feel like you posted them in a vacuum. I’ve been reading Sheryl’s blog for a long-time and my fiance and I are planning on doing her e-course soon.

      Reading your story makes me feel sad because it’s almost like looking in a mirror for me. Your mind is so stressed out and you’re surrounded by these guys who want of your time (and most likely body) but who don’t seem to be investing in the health of your heart. Just reading the query you entered in Google truly reminds me of myself at your age. You’re trying to diagnose one of your symptoms (having feelings for the friend and wanting to know if that’s a bad sign) instead of looking inward and diagnosing yourself (regardless of the guys in your life). Ask yourself, do you feel safe, loved, and secure? From the way you’ve described your relationship by focusing on the amount of times you’ve broken up, it seems either you are not feeling secure in the relationship, or you have not allowed yourself to forgive yourself and him for the past hurts and so they keep resurfacing.

      Once the trust and boundaries have been shattered, what gives you the reason to believe things will be different this time? I’m willing to bet he’s told you he’s in for the long haul more than just this once, yet you two broke up anyway. It seems he’s been steadily testing your limits and the boundaries go further and further than you’d like them to each time.

      Men have a call to LOVE their woman. To treat her like a prized possession.
      Women have a call to RESPECT their man. To treat him like a king.
      His action of breaking up and making it last longer each time does not show you how much he loves you and if he is willing to fight for his prized possession.
      You don’t state the nature of your fights, but there may be a chance he has not felt respected and safe with you as well.
      You’re still young, and in three years from now (with God-given maturity) this whole situation will make perfect sense. While you are still in the thick of it, just make sure to love and respect yourself above all and make sure day-in and day-out you are being treated like a prize. If your boyfriend does not do that for you, then you don’t need to worry about feelings for a friend, you’ll just learn that there is no beautiful future with this guy.

  • Emma

    PS. I forgot to mention that these fears are also perpetuated by the articles I read after googling “Is it normal to have feelings for someone else while in a relationship?” I know that my particular situation is a little bit different, because we were apart when the feelings grew… but the feedback online, even in psychology journal has been bleak….

  • Rae

    Loved the manual Sheryl. I really wish I would’ve had this information when I was in my early 20’s. It would’ve saved a few decades of heartache, confusion, self-blame, pushing the right guys away, pulling the wrong ones toward me, and even telling myself the lie that being single forever was the only thing that would bring me peace and harmony. (I know, right?!) So I’m a late bloomer? I guess it doesn’t matter when the light clicks on in the brain, only that it does.

    Until I took your Open Your Heart course a few years ago, I didn’t realize how much I bought into false myths about love and relationships. So I’m continuing to de-program, tend to my love garden, and approach myself with compassion. I see how my relationship is getting richer as I’m continuing to heal in layers.

  • Emma

    Charity,

    Thank you so much for your thoughtful and wise response. You are totally right in saying that I need to be looking inward for the answers. You’re also right in saying that I have not felt entirely safe and secure in my relationship. I do take responsibility for some of our break-ups, I was very needy at times and did not give my boyfriend space. He was a young guy and I’m ashamed to say I suffocated him sometimes, especially when we would argue. I would fight with him and push his limits. I’m ashamed to say I did not always treat him like a king, as you put it. I have since learned those valuable lessons about love. Our relationship is better than ever before. We have little to no conflict at all and we respect each other very much. He constantly talks about getting engaged in a few years and eventually starting a family. He has no reservations about marrying me and knows that that’s what he wants. He acknowledges the fact that he has broken up before and says it came down to the fact that our relationship was falling apart and he needed space from the fighting and constant conflict. He says that we have grown from that and he would never leave again. He treats me so well, Charity, he really does. He is affectionate, caring and concerned, he is always helping me with anything I need. The only current problem is those feelings I caught for the friend….:(

    Perhaps you are right in saying that I’ve not truly forgiven him for the break-ups. Despite taking some responsibility for the fact that he needed space from me, I still in my heart am not completely over breaking up. I love him and want to be with him and I know he feels that way too. He shows me everyday. What do you suggest I do from here? Are feelings for someone else normal? Do you think they will go away and the ones for my boyfriend will return?

    A million thanks for your response, God bless you xx

  • Stephanie

    Thank you Sheryl-I am in the process of going through a difficult breakup with a man who has shown himself to be incapable of working through his own fears and issues. I am heartbroken on one level, but have a sense of comfort knowing that, thanks to the work I’ve done on myself (both through your e-course and therapy), I can move forward with wholeness and hope. I will continue to seek your wisdom as I forge ahead, and will hope for a future partner who is unafraid to name his fear, and committed to lifelong discovery and renewal of love and friendship.

    • You will continue to learn a great deal from this situation, Stephanie, and you will bring all of the wisdom with you so that you find someone who’s truly available to learning alongside you.

  • Lea

    Sheryl, I’ll sign up for the e-course any day soon, but meanwhile I think my situation is getting worse. I’m so scared that I’ve even convinced myself that it’s better to leave. I have no courage to see my friends because all they talk about is my upcoming wedding and I have an ugly premonition that we won’t get to that point. This weekend he and his parents are coming to officially ask my parents for permission to marry me. I just want to run away somewhere because I don’t want to do it. It is scary. I don’t think I’ll ever be ready. Anyone , please write me and please share your experiences because I’m starting to believe that maybe I’m just convincing myself that I love him.