Like Water For Chocolate

IMG_2981One of my favorite books in my 20s was a little novella called “Like Water for Chocolate” by Laura Esquivel. It’s the story of a pair of star-crossed lovers who spend their entire lives longing for each other, encountering one roadblock after another until they finally consummate their relationship in their later years with such intensity that they explode into flames. The book is magical and mystical, and I knew enough at the time to know that stories like these are meant to be read symbolically, but despite this knowledge it hooked me at the level of the romantic heart and I clung to it as a realistic goal for relationships.

What I understand now is that, while it’s not possible to live one’s life according to a Hollywood movie, it is entirely possible to move toward increasing intervals of openhearted union with your partner. Your partner may not look the way you thought he or she was going to look; you may not feel the lovey-dovey, heart-thumping feelings that you thought you were going to feel. But when you approach relationships through the lens of conscious loving, which understands that if your walls are up it’s because of something inside of you that needs attention and not because you’ve picked the “wrong” person, you can have the relationship of your dreams.

And here’s the secret: When you learn to define real attraction and learn the Love Laws and Loving Actions that will help you open your heart, the real dream is so much better than the bill of goods you’ve been sold by Hollywood and Disney.

And here’s another secret: You don’t have to wait until the the end of the movie of your life to stand undefended, unclothed, and openhearted in front of your partner. The moments of meeting each other naked arrive when you plant the seeds of commitment in a healthy, loving garden, then learn what Laws and Actions to take that will grow the seeds into beautiful flowers. Over time, you will fall back in love or fall in the love for the first time in a way that is real, sustainable, and rooted in healthy soil. This is what real love and real attraction are about.

The Hollywood version tells us that complete openheartedness happens in one ecstatic, dramatic moment, like the final scene in Like Water for Chocolate. This only confirms the ego’s deeply-rooted fear that when you surrender control you will lose yourself or lose your partner. There’s an ancient part of us that truly believes that you will not survive undefended love, so we erect walls to maintain the boundaries and preserve our separateness. While separateness is an inevitable and essential aspect of loving relationships, when the wall around your heart is inviolable and prevents you from experiencing the love and attraction for your partner that are swimming in the warm places, work needs to be done to thaw out and open up.

When you learn the Love Laws and Loving Actions you see that openhearted love doesn’t occur in one explosive moment just as the final credits are scrolling down the screen.

Openheartedness happens in waves and spirals: We touch that beautiful, wide-open space, and then something inside – the Gatekeeper or the Wounded Self – retracts. It’s at that moment that, without accurate information and tools, the media-mind easily assumes that something is wrong, that you’re in the wrong relationship, that love and happiness are for others, that if you were with someone else this wouldn’t be happening and love would be easy. The reality is that it’s at that moment that the real work begins.

It’s not easy work. It’s not fast work. When you commit to conscious partnership you’re committing to a lifetime of learning about yourself and another in the most intimate of ways. Growing your love and attraction when it has faded or it was never very strong to begin with means recognizing that the walls around your heart that have kept you safe until this moment in your life need to soften. You must learn to etch them away, to name and notice the ways in which you keep people at a safe distance, and even recognize that the path to growing your love and attraction for your partner must begin with falling in love with yourself.

But how can you do this when you don’t have the roadmap? If the Hollywood-Disney script we’ve all absorbed is faulty, what are the real steps to take to grow a healthy relationship? When you believe, like Laura Esquivel writes in her novel, that you have to just know that your partner was the One the moment you saw him or her, that attraction is either there or it’s not, and that you can fall out of love like falling into a puddle, you’re doomed when the feeling of love and attraction dissipate or were never strong to begin with. What then? Is the relationship over? Our culture says yes. I say a resounding no.

I’ve guided thousands of people through the tricky terrain of relationship anxiety and helped them find their footing so they didn’t walk away from the loving partner standing before them. I hope you’ll join me as I guide the next group of passionate learners through my upcoming round of “Open Your Heart: A 30 day program to feel more love and attraction for your partner.” I won’t be offering the program for another six months, so if you want to learn the vital Love Laws and Loving Actions that will offer you the tools to grow your love and attraction, I hope you’ll take my hand and join me as we journey together into the most beautiful, realistic sunset that defines true romance, attraction, and love.

28 comments to Like Water For Chocolate

  • Ana

    Does my partner have to sign up too? Or can it just be me involved in the program?

    • It can just be you, Ana. I created the program for people to go through it without their partners but many people went through it as a couple in my last round and enjoyed that as well. So either way is great.

  • Lisa

    Hello, I would love to run this course but my country Nigeria is not listed when I try to pay with my credit card. Please can you help out somehow? I really really need to take this course. Looking forward to your positive response

  • EmilyClaire

    Thank you for this post. I was feeling anxious today thinking that maybe the time for my relationship was past and I was just sticking around “out of habit” (an unhelpful idea that I picked up reading somewhere.) It’s great to be reminded that my walls are my own and that “Growing your love and attraction when it has faded…means recognizing that the walls around your heart that have kept you safe until this moment in your life need to soften.” Things have faded a bit for me, but when I am clear-minded its easy to recognize that this comes from me, not any problems with the relationship.

    • “Things have faded a bit for me, but when I am clear-minded its easy to recognize that this comes from me, not any problems with the relationship.”

      And that’s the priceless key, Emily. The real work can only begin when you pull back the projection and recognize that the source of the problem lies within you.

  • Chrissy

    For the past two days I’ve been freaking out thinking I am too comfortable with my boyfriend and just settling because I only liked him as a friend. Then I began panicking that if romantic love is just a choice then how are you able to just kiss the person you choose or become intimate with them. I am glad my boyfriend is very patient with me because I still have no idea… I do want to try the program but I have to come up with the time and money being a college student.

  • Louisa

    Thanks for this great post Sheryl, and like so many of your other articles it comes at just the right time.
    I thought I had been doing so well on my journey through my relationship anxieties, but they seem to have reappeared ten fold in the past few weeks. This coincides with me coming off some anti-depressants that I had been taking for 18months. My partner and I are also about to move into our house together that we have been renovating for the past 9 months…….heaven knows why I chose to come off my medication at this time, but it seemed a good idea.
    Over the past couple of weeks I have felt my anxieties returning, but not in the form of the sadness that I once felt. This time I’m struggling with having an incredibly short-temper and irritability. I’m treating my partner very badly, in the way that he can’t seem to do anything right, and I am ashamed to admit this. We have talked through things and together we have decided it may better for me to start taking my medication again, which I have done, just until we’re settled in the house.
    The thing is, I feel disappointed with myself for having to start the tablets again, for feeling so angry all the time, particularly as I thought I had learnt and developed so much through reading articles on here and also sessions with a counsellor last year.
    I’m trying to stay positive, and refuse to slip back to the very very dark place I was in some 18 months ago, although I think I will need some guidance in order to steer me away from that path.
    I am considering your 30 day course, and think that may just help to put things into perspective.
    Louisa

    • I’d love for you to join us, Louisa. It sounds like it could be just the right “medicine” to set you back on track at this juncture in your life.

  • Hayley

    How much time does this course take each day? I’m busy with study for the next 3 months but i’m desperate to take this Open Your Heart course. I don’t know if I can last another 6 months without feeling much love at all, especially since me and my boyfriend seem to be constantly getting annoyed with each other lately. I think we’re both just really stressed. If it doesn’t take up much time then I may be able to find the money (living on student allowance, eek), otherwise, are there any books I could read in the meantime that would help?

    • It takes 5-20 minutes a day. And remember, Hayley, that if you want to see a shift in your relationship, you have to be willing to put some real time and effort into it. That means committing to this work not only for the 30 days of the program but for the rest of your life!

  • The Balance Will Allow

    I’m so looking forward to taking this course! My boyfriend is also willing to give it a try with me. I’ve got two questions.Wh en is the deadline to sign up or how many spots are left? And how is this course different from the tools and things we’ve learned from the conscious weddings ecourse? I discover my walls through inner bonding and I slowly take them down, so I was just wondering how this program differs.

    • Right now there are 10 spots left, but they’re filling quickly. This program is different from the e-course in that the focus is not on relationship anxiety but on creating more loving feelings and intimacy in your relationship. In many ways it begins where the ecourse leaves off, meaning that once you address the bulk of your relationship anxiety you’re ready to build a deeply loving and close relationship. It’s also different because you’ll be going through the program with a group of people, each receiving the daily emails at the same time each day. This creates a strong community right off the bat, which you’ll find on the Open Your Heart forum. Lastly, I offer the weekly group phone calls, so you’ll have direct contact with me which doesn’t occur in my Conscious Weddings E-Course. I hope that helps!

  • Isabella

    I was doing pretty good. This past week there were times I would look at my boyfriend and think of him being my husband and I got so excited over it. Now I’m going down that path again. I feel empty and emotionless at times.

    • Sheryl Paul

      It’s essential for you to recognize that the emptiness is yours, Isabella. It’s not your partner’s job to make you feel excited and alive. When you take responsibility for your own aliveness, you’ll start to feel more excitement with your partner.

  • LBurn

    What about the question: Are you in love with the person or just the idea of the person/what you want or expected them to be? I’ve been struggling a bit with that, even though my girlfriend is wonderful and I know I love her for many aspects of who she actually IS, I also have had to come to terms with certain disappointments and realize I was also in love with certain expectations. Does that mean I’m only in love with “potential”? I heard someone talking about that the other day and now I’m really triggered. Sheryl, do you have any thoughts?

  • Rae

    I saw the movie version of Like Water for Chocolate and it became my relationship anthem in my 20’s. While it was a beautiful, passionate story, it really made the myths “I’ll just know….there is a perfect match out there for me, don’t settle….if it isn’t skyrockets in flight, something is wrong” stick. Looking back now in my 40’s, I wonder how much angst I could’ve saved myself had my head been screwed on a bit more straight. I wouldn’t give up what I have now for anything and I am in the right place, but I still have to work at it to avoid getting sucked into the myths. Thanks for reminding us, Sheryl, with your consistent messages the importance of letting go of those flawed but powerful messages culture leads us to believe is truth.

    • Thank you, Rae. It’s astonishing how impactful those images and messages can be. I tend to think that the movie version, with its larger than life images raining down into psyche from the big screen, seep into deeper layers than even the book version. Perhaps one day Hollywood will transmit a different, healthier message.

  • Emmanuel

    Hi Sheryl how can I contact or ask for your advice, base on what I have read I know now that I am experiencing relationship anxiety

    • Emmanuel: I wish I had time to offer advice via email, but I simply don’t. I suggest that you read through my site as thoroughly as possible as I offer hundreds of free articles and videos that will help you find your way.

  • Nicola

    Hi Sheryl,

    Thank you for another beautiful post. I have recently got married and really had quite intense anxiety from right from the proposal to quite close to getting married. However I learnt how normal this is through your website and course and one to one counselling. I have felt so much calmer and happier since we got married, its like the anxiety evaporated, however I occasionally have felt it creep back, mainly on my honeymoon, however I was able to talk to my husband and he was wonderful as always. This is the first time I have looked at your website for a little while and it really touched me and made me realise it will forever be a support to me. What I wanted to say was there is a really fantastic film which I wished I had watched before I got married, it actually reminded me of my sister giving me advice about my fiance. Its got Jennifer Anniston in it as the older sister, and its called Rumour Has It. I’d love to hear what you think! I thought it was great, you have to watch it the whole way through or you might think I have gone mad as at first it doesn’t look like it is going to support your views, but I think it definitely does.

    Thank you again as always

  • Audrey

    So grateful for all your work, Sheryl. Had a ‘spike’ feeling when reading through Inner Bonding Relationship course. I can’t remember the exact words, but there was something about the fact that you should feel love or some sort of positive feeling towards your partner, through their eyes, when having an argument. Weve been through a lot recently and, because of my anxiety, I’m up and down in the relationship all along anyway, but last week I was ready to leave (it horrified me and I’m still trying to get back to some sort of guilt free normality). When we argued, I didn’t feel any positive feelings through his eyes.. Any thoughts are always welcome.

    • Hmmm… I’m wondering if you misunderstood as I think my mother (co-founder of Inner Bonding) would agree that it’s virtually impossible to feel love or any positive feeling during an argument as that’s when your Wounded Self is at the helm of your mind and your heart is closed. It’s quite possible for positive feelings to wane or be gone altogether for long periods of time in a longterm relationship, but when you practice the Love Laws and Loving Actions you can cultivate the loving feeling more quickly. Still, there’s a natural ebb and flow in relationships, as in life, and when you’re in an ebb stage it’s helpful to bring compassion to yourself and to your partner.

  • Ann

    Is it normal to compare my partner to the others all the time? When I meet a couple I often think: Oh, this man is playing in a band, mine cannot even sing… That man is a doctor, I always dreamed of a doctor… The other is a photographer, mine is nothing close to artist…
    that makes me crazy:( I seem to want everything what the others have!!! Is it a bad sign that I do not value my man???:(

    • It’s more likely that you don’t value yourself, and your lack of self-love spills over onto your partner. It would also help you to write gratitude lists every day so that you can reorient your focus to what’s present in your partner instead of what’s missing.

      • Ann

        The thing is I am afraid I will not be proud of my partner enough, (though he is almost everything I have ever wanted, not perfect but definitely “husband material”).
        I afraid I will always look for someone better out there so maybe it’s time to quit and look for the perfect one who will have what this one doesn’t have…? Maybe there is someone out there that I will not be so unsure about…

  • Faara

    Dear Ann, I have so suffered all those anxieties and doubts. One of the solutions that I found to be useful is I started imagining, visualising what kind of life at best could I possibly lead with this person….how would we both be together if it were at its best. Then I started playing my part of being the best and then the rest followed the relationship too improved to being more secure more certain. I have been so engaged in improving myself, in trying to achieve what I’d love to achieve that these thoughts and fears did not get a chance to overwhelm me. I have spent probably years, wasted years after such questions, that there is someone better out there
    Now I feel it is my own need to be better in so many ways. I cannot fill my own gaps in the person I am with someone else.
    He may not be the best but he is a wonderful partner. And you know what, heard melodies are sweet those unheard are always sweeter!