You Have to Love

springriver“Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.”

― Louise ErdrichThe Painted Drum

We’re wired to love. We are social animals and we need loving relationships around us in order to feel secure and seen in the world. We also know now from attachment theory that, even as adults, we’re particularly wired to gravitate toward one particular other, someone with whom we can share life’s burdens and celebrate the blessings, someone who has our back and is on our team.

We know this and we gravitate toward love, and yet when the challenges of love show their faces in the form of discord, disconnection, doubt or disillusionment, we want to run. And these challenges will always show their faces eventually; that’s the nature love, especially in a longterm relationship (although they can appear at any time, as early as date one). For where there is love, there is fear. Where there is certainty, there is doubt. Where there is connection, there is disconnection. Where there is fantasy, there is disillusionment. Nobody tells you about the sticky side of the equation of love, which makes its appearance even more confusing and disturbing. Nowhere are we offered a guidebook or roadmap for how to navigate through the flip side of love.

We have to love. We’re wired for love. We gravitate toward love. Yet we don’t know how to love. It’s a phenomenal realization to admit to ourselves that most people don’t know how to love and be loved, especially since we live in a culture that tells us the opposite: “Love should be easy. Love should be effortless. And if you have to work at love there’s something wrong with your relationship.” If I could extract one lie about love that the culture promotes, it would be probably be “love should be easy” as it’s the one that messes with psyches more than any other.

There is nothing easy about love. All we have to do is look around and observe not only the abysmal divorce rate in our culture but also the tiny number of thriving, connected, long-term relationships to know that love is anything but easy. Healthy love is a skill that nobody learns in school. Passionate love is a habit that very few people saw practiced at home. While there is a small fraction of our population who are “lucky in love”, meaning that healthy loving seems to come easier for them, the vast majority of couples struggle to stay connected to each other through the vines and valleys of life and time (and again, this difficulty finding and maintaining connection can show up very early on).

If we don’t know how to love, how do learn to love? Much of it is time and patience. The longer you stick it out with the headlight of curiosity and vulnerability guiding your way, the more you will learn about how to love and be loved. Many couples in longterm, loving relationships will say that it took them at least ten to fifteen years to truly get to know each other and hit their stride. Ten to fifteen years! This is not the message we receive from the media. Time is clearly a key factor is the equation of healthy loving.

But time and patience while practicing habits that create more discord doesn’t serve our aim. We must allow time for an intimate relationship to grow as we learn the intricacies and idiosyncrasies that comprise two humans together and we must find patience for the blossoms of the tree of our unique love to bloom, but if we can do this while following Love Laws and practicing Loving Actions that promote togetherness and closeness instead of following our habitual and inherited laws and actions that lead to separateness, all the better.

That’s what I teach in my course, Open Your Heart: A 30-day program to feel more love and attraction for your partner. I teach the art and skills of love. I offer the roadmap for dealing with the bumps of fear and the pain of disconnection that you never learned in school. Because if we have to love, which clearly we do, how much more fulfilling is the path when we can follow a roadmap and practice the art and skills of love in a way that will lead to what all human beings ultimately want: to feel loved, to feel connected, to feel safe, to feel wanted. We can shoot in the dark and stumble around blindly, following our inherited patterns from generations of ancestors who likely knew very little about healthy loving, or we can proceed with a map.

As both a devotee and a novice at love, I continue to learn deeper and deeper layers about this art and skill myself. While I created this course almost four years ago and have run it nine times, I continue to peel the layers off of my own understanding of how love works. Nobody is a master at love. We are all apprentices, bowing humbly at the altar of the heart, making mistakes, hurting, being hurt, recovering, forgiving, repairing. As I said in last week’s post, I will be sharing my newest revelations from my own marriage in the weekly phone calls and on the forum, and I look forward to connecting with you directly on these calls (I always learn as much as I teach when I run my thirty day courses). So I invite you to join me and a group of passionate learners as we deepen our understanding of this magical mystery we call love, taking each other by the hand as we travel through the dark tunnels of fear and excavate the jewels that live in the most hidden places of our hearts.

This round of Open Your Heart: A 30-day program to feel more love and attraction for your partner, begins on February 4th, 2017. I’ll look forward to meeting you there.

Love is Softening

Our hearts are encased in protection, layers of materials like iron or brick that create a fortress around our most sensitive selves. When these material first arrived, they came as friends, for our hearts as young people didn’t know how to rest undefended. We needed to harden in order to survive. But one aspect of growing up means realizing that our greatest strength is what we have become conditioned to believe is our greatest weakness: a softened heart is a wise heart, and it no longer needs the armor it thought it needed to keep it safe.

Safety, as an adult, means dropping the defenses. It means letting those we love into our innermost chambers. It means saying “I don’t know” or “Yes, maybe that as well” instead of being entrenched in one position. It means taking the risk of being vulnerable, which by definition is an undefended state. It … Click here to continue reading...

Caught in the Story

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Our stories form a crystal cave of stalactites and stalagmites in our minds, a cool chamber that seduces us with the promise that if we spend enough time there we will divine our answers. How beautiful this cave looks! How many promises it offers! And how familiar this cave becomes when we’ve spent thousands of hours there seeking safety from the vulnerability of childhood. Each stalactite tells a story. Each stalagmite offer the infinite details that need to be figured out.

It’s very easy to become caught in this cave of stories, to fall prey to the widespread belief of the culture and the intrinsic ego belief that we can solve our anxiety by figuring out the “answers” to the conundrums and riddles that occupy daily, human life. Yet as Einstein said, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” This means that the … Click here to continue reading...

Deconstructing the Family Story

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One of the essential spokes of the growth and healing wheel is being willing to see our parents clearly. As children, we almost have no choice but to see our parents as infallible heroes and gods, and many people continue to carry these fantasies into adulthood. But if we’re to know ourselves, which is essential to healing ourselves, we need to know where we come from. We need to be able to trace at least some of the lines of our negative patterns back to their origin.

This origin doesn’t always lie with our parents, of course. We are social beings and subject to many other sources of influence; siblings, peers, religion, and education all play a fundamental role in our development (as does temperament, personality type, and learning style). In fact, I’m often surprised and disheartened by how little attention these other factors – like sibling relationships – have … Click here to continue reading...

Two Healing Words

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Last week, I had the blessed opportunity of having a closure session in person with a beautiful woman with whom I’ve worked for almost six years. As we sat face-t0-face (as opposed to screen-to-screen) and the session’s minutes clicked toward the end of our hour together, I told her that I wanted to make sure we had ample time to talk about our work and reflect on her growth over these past six years. She immediately dropped into her heart and, through tears, expressed her gratitude. And then said, “You know, one of the most transformative pieces of our work together is that you normalize everything. I’ve shared every thought and feeling I’ve ever had and you always tells me it’s normal. I’ve shared every struggle with my husband and I leave the session feeling like there’s nothing wrong. I have a feeling that’s why so many people come to … Click here to continue reading...