The Rapture of Love

We long for rapture. We long to be transported to an otherworldly place where the problems that weigh heavily into our souls and the pain that pierces our hearts lift away, if only for a moment. We long to feel profoundly alive and deeply fulfilled. We long for ecstasy.

Western culture conditions us from the time we’re old enough to absorb information that the rapture and ecstasy we long for can be found in romantic love. If you find the “right” person, you will be airlifted out of the human realm and set atop a sea of clouds where life is beautiful and serene. If you find “the One”,  you will ride off into the sunset and experience unparalleled bliss from first kiss to last breath. Some part of our minds know that this is a fantasy, that there isn’t one person who has the capacity to offer a lifetime … Click here to continue reading...

What Should Love Feel Like?

At least once a week, a client asks, “I know that love isn’t all butterflies and fireworks, but what should it feel like? Since I’ve never seen a healthy relationship and I’ve never been in one, I have no idea what it should be like.”

I usually balk at the word “should”, but I know what they’re getting at. They want me to offer some kind of template or description of a healthy relationship so that they know if they’re on the right track. How sad it is that most people are bereft of this model! How tragic, really, that because our culture doesn’t offer these templates we’re left groping around in the dark, grasping at some idea of “healthy” and most often left feeling like we must be doing something wrong or that our relationship is wrong in some way. As Alain do Botton writes in The Course of Click here to continue reading...

If I'm Calm Now Is It Still Relationship Anxiety?

There is often a predictable arc to relationship anxiety that includes three stages.*

The first stage is characterized by typical symptoms of anxiety and panic:

Can’t sleep Can’t eat Tearful Depressed Bolting awake in the middle of the night Difficulty functioning at work Fluttering stomach Racing heart

On a purely physiological level, we can’t maintain this state of high anxiety for very long. Eventually the alarm will simmer down to something that feels like calm. This isn’t the true calm that arrives after working long and hard facing our fears. Rather, it’s the calm that follows the dramatic and intense storm of the first stage. It’s where psyche and soma settle into a manageable state that might be characterized more by numbness or indifference than true calm. You can sleep now. You can eat. You can function. But you’re just not that excited about your relationship. At least when you … Click here to continue reading...

Call the Witch by Its True Name

My favorite fairy tale when I was a child was Rumpelstiltskin, the story of a girl who makes a bargain with an imp-like creature in exchange for saving her life from being executed by the king. First she gives the imp a necklace, then a ring, then promises her firstborn child. But when her child arrives, she begs the imp to let her keep it. He says he will if she can guess his name. In deep distress, she wanders into the forest and stumbles upon the creature, who is hopping around the fire singing, “Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow, I’ll go to the king’s house, nobody knows my name, I’m called ‘Rumpelstiltskin.'” When the imp arrives at the kingdom to claim the baby, the girl (now married to the king), says, “Your name is Rumpelstiltskin.” The imp is enraged, but the deal is broken and he has no choice but to … Click here to continue reading...

You Have to Love

“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 … Click here to continue reading...