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.

59 comments to You Have to Love

  • becominglove

    Dear Sheryl, thank you for continuing to offer myself and others these precious reminders and encouragements. Your offerings have truly been my compass for over two years now. With the blessing of time, I am starting to recognise a pattern in my own journey and work with learning to love. I have noticed bottleneck periods of anxiety, like thresholds, where I am about to cross a threshold and my ego is seriously begging me not to. After crossing one of these thresholds recently, the anxiety eased and the love deepened. I now finally feel the compassion and care for my partner that I recognise as real love. Something in me changed and it was only after hanging in there with the most recent intense period of grief and anxiety. My way of looking at him changed and I started to recognise him as my partner for the first time. This is of course magical but I also want to acknowledge that it wasn’t a conscious choice. The choice was to do the work and be my own inner partner but the love just revealed itself. After yet more clearing away, it was simply there. I appreciate that through your work I can acknowledge that this is both a magical and exhausting time. Maybe these are the two truths I am holding today. With love xxxx

    • A thousand YESES to every word. Just beautiful.

    • Katie

      Could you please share with me a little how you did this.. my intrusive thought is always the same “you don’t love him” and I’m really scared that I’m starting to believe it because when I ask myself if I love him my head always says no, my chest gets a little tight and I ask myself “why don’t you love him” and I have no answer other than “just don’t” this man is the best person I’ve ever met and every time I think that I don’t love him I just wanna sit and cry my eyes out. I need the loving feelings back. I can’t and don’t want to lose my boyfriend my bestfriend

    • Katie

      I feel like I don’t know what I can do anymore, this is the best relationship I could ask for, sometimes when I’m crying I stop and say to myself “you do love him” when we are having a cuddle I feel warm and safe and my head tells me I love him. It’s just whenever I’m not around him my head says I don’t. My uncle said it sounds like it’s something I’m “doing/thinking” and not feeling but I’ve never loved or been in love before so if this website is saying that fairytale love isn’t real love (which is what I’ve grown up thinking love is) how do I know if I love him? We have no red flags, I want a
      Home and life with him. When I read real love laws we have and do all that, but again it all comes down to my head, it’s so convincing and I’m scared that I’m gonna have to leave and I don’t want to ever

      • becominglove

        Dear Katie, as far as I can tell, I would have run away from this relationship two years ago when I first freaked out and was convinced I did not love my partner and never would. I am still in the relationship because of sheryl’s ecourse and because I have learned to talk to the anxiety and to consciously process the grief and fear. It’s still a tiring road but Sheryl’s work is exactly the place to start. Regardless of my relationship, learning to partner with myself is something I really need in my life. Love, strength and courage to you x

        • Katie

          That spiked me a little saying that you would of left. Hopefully I’ll be okay. Thank you for your reply

          • anon

            Katie, I understand that spike (we all get spiked 🙂 but for all of us who are still in our relationships, the key is that it is a ‘choice’. A conscious one, despite anxiety.

  • mhk415

    “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.”

    I love this (and this whole article!)! Your wording reminded me of Saint Francis’ Peace Prayer, which is, in many ways a call to love when it is perhaps the hardest thing to do. If you take out the “Lord” and replace it with whatever resonates with you, I think this prayer can be a reminder that love, more than anything else is an action rather than a feeling and that facing pain and fear is how we truly come alive.

    “Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.

    O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.”

    ALSO, I absolutely love Louise Erdrich and now I am going to have to read “The Painted Drum.”

  • Thank you Sheryl for this post which I have read before work on a cold Monday morning. Monday’s are always anxious mornings for me and my fear self usually projects this onto my partner so thank you for helping me through this morning. I have recently started your relationship anxiety e course and am already feeling the benefits of learning about what anxiety is and how it’s causing me to doubt my lovely, loving, partner (who is the only partner I have ever had – which always causes me to feel anxious). Thank you for the work you have done, it’s given me a lifeline, and I hope one day to take your open your heart course.

  • Lindat

    Hi becominglove
    thank you for sharing your story, and your “bottleneck” image. It really resonates with me. I find that the threshold can be either in the relationship or, outside of the relationship but projected onto it. For example, I am about to move in with my partner and the anxiety is stirring up because I have to cross this threshold in my life, grieving the end of my single life and move forward. I want to be strong and hold my fear as I move through this threshold of life. I am taking the risk and all I want is to love.
    Thank you Sheryl for your words, as usual. Looking forward to connecting on the forum next week. Best wishes

    • becominglove

      Thank you Lindat. I am going through a very similar transition. Congratulations on your move and on your courage and honesty. Lots of love xxxx

  • Angela

    Hi Sheryl, I agree love isnt easy. We are meant to love and be loved, otherwise there would no meaning to life. I have felt i dont love enough since high school. I dont know why this thought keeps glued to my mind even now. I question myself alot. How would I cope in an emergency situation, things like that.. its like i dont know who i truly am. It scares me a bit. I feel like emotionally im not a stable person.

    • Maria [Germany]

      Angela, I feel the exact same way. This question “Who am I?” keeps coming back, and this feeling of not knowing who I am kind of prevents me to really feel the emotions I want to feel, especially when I picture certain situations. It’s like I don’t know who this person actually is who should love and feel. I’m currently seeing a therapist about this and really want to work on it, because I just can’t take this uncertainty anymore.

  • Tom

    Hey Sheryl, I hope you are doing well?

    One thing I’ve noticed is when ever I’m feeling bad/numb my sense of compassion and empathy for people doesn’t seem to be as strong. regardless of how I’m feeling I still try to make the effort to be there for people and offer an ear to listen to them and try and help them. But when I do this I notice my mind will spiral with thoughts like ‘ you don’t really care about them you are just pretending’ or ‘you are just a big fake” I know this is a projection of my internal state but can we still look at being compassionate and empathetic in the same way we look at love, as in I don’t always have to have a certain feeling to be that way. It can be a choice too?

    • agnes

      Hi Tom. I don’t have any answers for you I’m afraid, but I relate so much to your comment. I am ALWAYS feeling that I don’t feel deeply enough – care, compassion, sadness/anger in reaction to hearing bad news (something awful happening to someone for e.g.) orrr I do react the ‘right’ way but I don’t believe myself/it feels fake. Like you, most of the time I choose the good, compassionate, selfless path despite my resistance. It doesn’t make me feel any better though.

      • Tom

        Hi Agnes, I truly understand what you’re going through. as Sheryl mentions in a few f her posts it’s hard to feel for anything else when you are in the midst of emotional termoil. It’s weird my first initial thought when I read your reply was to not be so hard on yourself and that what your experiencing is normal under your circumstances. you still choose to be the person you know you are and that’s amazing. I need to not judge myself as harshly in these situations also!

    • Absolutely, Tom. In fact, this is one of the Love Laws that I teach in the Open Your Heart course.

      • Tom

        Thank you so much for getting back to me, Sheryl. I did your E course a while ago and it was highly insightful so I will definitely look into doing open your heart ?

        Take care.

        Tom

  • anon

    Hello Sheryl, I wanted to share a dream I had about you last night.

    I had a horrible dream that joined one of your courses but it somehow turned out to be a scam (sorry). I lost all my faith in your work and my own hard work with this site and was completely devastated. In the dream I felt such a huge sense of loss and I cried and cried. The emotion I ‘feel’ in dreams is so strange to me as one of my main issues is that my emotions feel muted; I judge the lack of them or the inappropriately timed presence of them. My boyfriend cries very freely and deeply, which closes me up as I judge my lack of ability to.

    Anyway…I searched for you and found you in a temple, hidden away from everyone here, & you explained to me that you were taking time away to look after your own needs. I cried and explained how much I have needed you all my life and you told me, the one thing I could rely on is that things take time. Time, if nothing else, will straighten things out.

    That’s it. 🙂 thanks for the post & for still being here, teaching us.

    • That’s a beautiful and powerful dream, anon. It speaks to the part of you that judges yourself, and allowing yourself to let that go, and then finding your own strength and your own wisdom shining through. The “me” in the dream represents first the lower part of you and then the higher part of you, these two parts that tend to wage battle in the psyche. The dream ends with you connecting with the higher part of you – the part that needs to take time away to look after your own needs – which is very, very positive.

  • anon

    Thanks so much for your insight. I will cut this conversation out and put it in my journal. I hope one day to understand my dreams as well as you do. 🙂

    • anon

      One more thing, which I found quite lovely and funny at the same time…at the end of the dream we were both growing a new set of teeth! Perhaps this is a new beginning for me.

  • Hannah

    All I can say is I love this article! Probably the best one I have read…

    I completely agree as human beings we need intimate and loving relationships throughout life. I find it such a shame that most of the world will leave a relationship because they fallen out of love. They end up leaving, searching again, falling in love, think they’ve finally found happiness, and then eventually fall out of love again. And the cycle starts again. If people just stayed with that person once they have fallen out of love and did the work we did, they would find happiness and find a new love with their partner which is much better! So many times I have nearly left my other half because of my expectations of love & anxiety over this. I have pushed through because deep down there was never a valid reason for me to do so. All I can say is, I’m SO glad I didn’t leave him. I know now, I have always loved him, hence the anxiety. The anxiety clouded over all my love for him so I assumed I didn’t love him. I did the work, I did open your heart in October 2015, I love him so much and I believe you helped me find this love for him. We are engaged and getting married next year. I cannot wait. I want it to come now, I just want to marry him now! I never thought I would say this, EVER. So thank you for everything, I believe someone was looking over me and guiding me towards you when my anxiety started. Thank you 🙂

    • Beautiful, Hannah. I especially love this: “I know now, I have always loved him, hence the anxiety.” Unless you’ve immersed yourself in this work, that sentence wouldn’t make any sense. Clearly you’ve done the work and are reaping the benefits. Congratulations!

    • Katie

      Hannah could you please give me some guidance on how you did this please? I am with the most amazing boyfriend I could hope for and I’m dealing with the whole “you don’t love him” thought.. I can’t think of any red flags in our relationship, he did break up with me about a year ago and it did really really hurt me, we got back together like a week later, I did kinda start to accept it on the last day but I was planning on keeping him as a close friend in hoping he would eventually want me back, we got back together anyway, I moved in with him a few months after we got back together ATM we are living with his parents until we get our own place sometime this year, living with his parents isn’t easy and it does get to me sometimes, I’m not happy in my new job in the area and I’m away from all my family and friends.. when we first got together I felt like I was on cloud 9 and the happiest girl on the planet, I had my eyes on him for about 6 months before we got together.. I want to love him so badly; I’ve been dealing with this for nearly a year now. I haven’t left because I don’t want to, but I’m scared that the thoughts might be real. He is the only person I’ve ever really thought of having a future with and want a future with. We never argue, he makes me smile and laugh all the time, he is my bestfriend.. I just feel like I want to cry all the time because I hate these thoughts, why can’t I feel love? Lately I feel like I just need to shout out to him “I don’t love you” but I can’t lose this amazing person. I’ve never had someone care for me like he does and been so loving.. I have moments where I feel warm and content around him and my head will be like “I do love him” when we speak about getting a home together I feel excited and smile. I’ve just grown up thinking love is feelings and that you should know if you love someone, it’s hard to re-adjust my head. How do you know it’s anxiety and not truth? I really am scared and don’t want to let this person go. He is the best

      • Leslie

        Dear Katie,

        You are making one of the biggest transitions of your life. Plus you’re in a job you dislike and you’re living with your boyfriend’s family in a new place without your community of friends and family. Right now everything is topsy-turvy, so of course, you’re out of sorts.

        Take a big deep breath…

        And start “feeling all the feels.” This is easier said then done, but in your private moments take some time to tease your feelings about this transition to the surface. This can feel like trying to coax a squirrel into your hand. But be patient, it will come, and when it does, have a big, ol’ cleansing boo hoo—or 10. Cry your heart out about what you’ve left behind.

        Yes, it’s wonderful to start life with your guy, but it’s also a loss—your childhood, your community, your freedom to be a single gal on the go, what a big change this is. Heck, now I’m about to cry and I’m old!

        Also, take a look at this new life of yours and see how you can fill it up Katie-style. How can you meet new friends? What can you do outside your work and home life that makes you jump up and down? Is there a class you want to take? Books to read? New recipes to try? Yoga? Running? Facials? Volunteering at the senior center? Working with at-risk kids? Making soap? Meditating? Starting a blog? What makes your heart dance?

        Today, with your brain in the pickling juice of its own anxiety, “finding Katie” might seem like the scariest thing in the world. Do it anyway. Fear loves for you to obey its edicts to “not,” “don’t,” “run,” “stay home,” “what if,” and so on. Fear is a wretched bully, who likes to visit when you stretch outside what’s comfy. Like when you move in with your boyfriend. Or eat sushi for the first time. Or start opening your heart.

        Sheryl’s the expert here. But I’ve been married a long time and have battled the fear demon over and over and over—some of us are just wired this way—if you can get at the grief surrounding this transition and sense all the unknowable unknowables underneath your anxiety and begin to find your footing in this brave, new life, I think you’ll start to feel the deep, warm thrum of love that’s so clearly already living in your heart.

        • Katie

          Thank you so much for replying, it means a lot.. I’m just scared that because I’ve been like this for almost a year now that I’ve convinced myself it may be true, but I’m still in the relationship because I don’t want to leave, despite the anxiety being at what feels like it’s strongest throughout the year I have had days/weeks where there hasn’t been anxiety and in that moment I’ve felt love and happy and finally thought it was gone and then it comes back. I noticed the other day the thoughts came back when his mum and dad annoyed me.. I’m just finding it hard to believe that this is fear and anxiety though, I’ve grown up thinking love is all feelings and fairytales and because now I’m reading that it isn’t exactly like that, my heads telling me “love is all feelings and you don’t feel it” scares me to death. How do you know when it’s fear/anxiety compared to truth? My thoughts only occur when my boyfriend is out, yesterday I was having a really hard day with the thoughts and then as soon as my boyfriend got home from work it was like they disappeared and I felt all calm. He gave me a cuddle and told me he would always love and be there for me and I just felt content and smiled into his chest.. I asked him what his idea of love was and this was his reply..

          “I don’t think there is really a different with love and in love, I know I love you because your my best mate, I love being with you and you make me laugh so much and I couldn’t imagine what life would be like without you in it ( this part spiked me a little because when I feel like fear/anxiety is there and I try to imagine what it would be like without him, my head tells me that I’d be okay 🙁 ) maybe you would say you love your parents, a hobby or even something like cheesecake haha and maybe say in love for your partner as it’s a choice to be in love with that particular person, abit like marriage I guess as it’s also a commitment. But to be honest I think it’s the same thing really. I don’t feel love 24/7 I don’t think anyone in the world does. Everyone has ups and downs but still love each other. It’s those really special moments that you have when you’re doing something together and just think “I love you” love isn’t always butterflies but occasionally you have those really nice moments and just know, that’s my outlook on it”

          I’ve had those moments when my heads been like “I know I love him” but that is my main anxiety, knowing if I love him. And retraining my brain from what I thought love was to what I’m reading that love is actually. I really hope I’ll get there because I don’t want to lose him.

        • anon

          Leslie, what a WONDERFUL comment. I’ve printed it and added it to my journal as a reminder (hope you don’t mind…) xo

      • Hannah

        Hi Katie,

        Sorry for the late reply!

        To be honest, I’m not sure what I did. I think it’s a mixture of doing the work and really trying my hardest to believe that the thoughts & the anxiety was never my truth. That took me ALOT of courage and strength to finally get to a point where I could call it out for what it was and not believe the thoughts.

        I would say a mixture of journaling, gratitude lists & training my LA helped me a lot! I still go through the course and still do the work now. I will probably always do the work. I don’t think I will ever stop. also, if you read some books on real love this really helped me understand that it isn’t just this place that has the views on what real love really is.

        I think most of all it is being strong even when you don’t think you can for much longer, just pushing yourself that extra bit towards them even when you don’t feel like it. And also, STOP looking for the feeling. This will not bring up any loving feelings at all. It will do the opposite. And feelings aren’t an essential part of a relationship. I know that is hard to accept and you are probably thinking no no no! But it is true. Those strong gushy feelings are only there in the beginning. They are there because the person isn’t fully available to you. That’s not real love. Real love is grown over time. And sometimes you do get those feelings, but again they are not essential. If you want to feel it more often, you need to cultivate it. I can now cultivate it quite easily because I know my patterns of when I open & close. You will experience real love you just need to keep pushing through. If your partner is a loving & healthy choice for you with no red flags then do not leave! It is such a huge learning curve but it will be so worth it in the end if you stick it out! I promise!

        • Katie

          Thank you so much for your reply it means a hell of a lot.. my partner is loving, he is so loving and caring and honestly is the best and we have no red flags.. last night was different for me, my partner and I had a little tiff over something silly and I know it was my fault, I was being a little stubborn and anyway we didn’t speak for a few hours. I started getting upset and when I was crying at first I was saying “I don’t love him” but then I was crying even harder and I started saying to myself “I love him so much, I’m scared he’s going to hurt me again, I don’t want to lose him” we finally kiss and made up and was led in bed having a cuddle and I told him this. He told me that sometimes it’s hard for him because he sometimes feels like it’s him but I reassured him that he’s done and does nothing wrong. It’s obviously something within me which I need to work on and figure out, I told him I’ve been dealing with this for nearly a year now, I obviously haven’t left for a reason..
          today I’ve been looking at applying for new jobs and then my head was like “what if you find someone you work with really attractive and get feelings for them” so now that’s bothering me.. I find people attractive now and yeah I sometimes might have a little look and appreciate but who doesn’t? I would never act on it and I always make it known that I’m taken if I feel I need to. I’m not an unfaithful person and I don’t ever plan to be..
          I do need to stop looking for the feelings, that is my main problem.
          Thank you so much again.

          • Alison

            Hi Katie,

            It has been really refreshing to see what you have posted. I feel like reading your words is almost unreal because they are to a T what I have thought and am working through not thinking anymore. It’s definitely
            Hard to shift gears in thinking that love isn’t a feeling and that feeling doubt and fear doesn’t mean it’s wrong. I’ve too had the anxiety spike when I think that I’d be fine without him.
            Anyway, I think what people have said replied back is excellent and I’ve taken it as really helpful and comforting for myself as well. I know that continually trying to force and looking for those feelings is only making it worse, and I think thats the biggest thing holding me back from freedom now. It’s hard when we feel our minds tell us that our love isn’t true. That has been the most difficult thing ever! I’ve never loved anyone so much! I’m thankful for this website and your personal story. I feel like we both need to take the advice of our peers here and just trust our relationship and focus on what love really means. Anyway, thank you so much for being honest here, it has been a huge help to see someone have identical thoughts to mine.

        • Alison

          Wow! Thank you for your words! I know that your response was not directed toward me, but I have had identical thoughts to what Katie posted. Telling myself my love isn’t true, and longing for the feelings to come back. I find myself observing him and looking at him hoping for my loving feelings to show up, and when they don’t, that is when fear and anxiety take over and I tell myself I don’t love him.
          What you said about needing to stop looking for the feelings is so spot on! It is making it 1000 times worse and is what is causing me the most upset.
          Thank you for your wisdom!

  • Kristina Van Dusen

    What is the best program you recommend to someone who is in a serious relationship that may lead to marriage? The more I commit, the more anxiety I have. My mind is always disillusioned about how I feel about him. Its a fight everyday. I’m so scared. Its preventing me from feeling anything, let alone love for him. He is wonderful and doesn’t deserve this crap. Pardon my French. He says he doesn’t want a push pull relationship. I cant certainly understand that. Help!

  • Angela

    To Maria from Germany,
    Yes, its not easy this journey of love but with Sheryls work, you dont only understand the real meaning of love and how it really works, but also you learn about yourself and grow more than you could possibly have imagined. They say the older you get the more one knows themselves, which us true to some extent. I personally think you need to want to know who you really are, and by doing that is look inside and not believe the rubbish thoughts that make us think we dont ourselves.
    I hope I make sense to you Maria.

  • Shannon

    Hi Sheryl,

    I am getting married in May and we are in the midst of planning our ceremony. I find that most of the readings that are recommended to be shared as part of the ceremony are trite and do not describe the reality of long-term loving relationships. Instead, they often describe two people destined as “soulmates” or something along that vein.

    While my fiance and I want to incorporate readings into the service, we are struggling to find any that fit quite right. Could you recommend some places to begin our search?

    Thanks so much 🙂

    Shannon

    • I’ve included many readings in the “The Conscious Bride’s Wedding Planner.” Here are several of them, and perhaps others will share theirs as well:

      From The Joseph Campbell Companion (1991)

      Marriage is not a love affair, it’s an ordeal. It is a religious exercise, a sacrament, the grace of participating in another life. If you go into marriage with a program, you will find that it won’t work. Successful marriage is leading innovative lives together, being open, non-programmed. It’s a free fall: how you handle each new thing as it comes along. As a drop of oil on the sea, you must float, using intellect and compassion to ride the waves. What I see in marriage, then, is a real identification with that other person as your responsibility, and as the one whom you love. Committing yourself to anyone, turning your destiny over to a dual destiny, is a life commitment. To lose your sense of responsibility to the person who has given you that commitment because something comes along that enables you to think, “I’d like to fly off in this direction and forget that which has already been committed”—this is not marriage. I do not think you are married unless your relationship to your spouse has primary consideration in your life. It’s got to be top.

      ***

      From Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea (1955)

      When you love someone, you do not love them all the time, in exactly the same way, from moment to moment. It is an impossibility. It is even a lie to pretend to. And yet this is exactly what most of us demand. We have so little faith in the ebb and flow of life, of love, of relationships. We leap at the flow of the tide and resist in terror its ebb. We are afraid it will never return. We insist on permanency, on duration, on continuity; when the only continuity possible, in life as in love, is in growth, in fluidity—in freedom, in the sense that the dancers are free, barely touching as they pass, but partners in the same pattern.

      ***

      From The Illuminated Rumi

      I would love to kiss you.
      The price of kissing is your life.
      Now my loving is running toward my life shouting
      What a bargain! Let’s buy it.
      *
      Gamble everything for love
      if you’re a true human being.
      If not, leave
      this gathering.
      Half-heartedness doesn’t reach
      into majesty. You set out
      to find God, but then you keep
      stopping for long periods
      at mean-spirited roadhouses.
      *
      Don’t wait any longer.
      Dive
      in the ocean,
      leave and let the sea be you.
      Silent, absent,
      walking
      an empty road,
      all praise.

      ***

      From Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet (1934)

      For one human being to love another human being: that is perhaps the most difficult task that has been entrusted to us, the ultimate task, the final test and proof, the work for which all other work is merely preparation. Loving does not at first mean merging, surrendering, and uniting with another person—it is high inducement for these individuals to ripen, to become something in themselves, to become world, to become world in themselves for the sake of another person; it is a great, demanding claim on them, something that chooses them and calls them to vast distances.

  • Shannon

    My goodness–these are WONDERFUL! Thanks so very much Sheryl! It didn’t occur to me that I could find these and more in your wedding planning book. I have “The Conscious Bride” but not its companion.

    That second reading is so beautiful–you can be sure we will use it… and how special that it came as a recommendation from my relationship guru 😀

    All the best,

    Shannon

  • AnxietyAlways

    Hi Sheryl,

    I received this is an email after signing up for your quiz on if I have relationship anxiety….turns out I do. I am only 25 years old and have been with my amazing and loving boyfriend for 2 years. The email really opened my eyes to all of the things that love means. I always thought love was a fairytale…that if you have a little doubtling about someone or a relationship, that meant that it wasn’t right. I grew up thinking that. I’ve had anxiety my whole life and after experiencing a medical issue this year, my anxiety skyrocketed. I always was the one who said “I feel uncomfortable….it is time to run.” But about everything anxiety brought me, and I never knew it was anxiety. I always thought something or someone was just “not right”. When these thoughts came in one moment about the person I loved the most, I panicked. I shouldn’t feel uncomfortable thinking about him? Being around him? And the discomfort was nothing I could describe. Just a feeling….which led to horrible thoughts and feelings….which led to extreme anxiety and depression. I have worked through that and a lot of thanks to this website. I haven’t signed up for any course due to monetary reasons, but just reading the articles and receiving emails like these has helped me tremendously. I still have the anxiety, but it’s easier now for me to let those feelings and thoughts subside because I know they are not truly how I feel. I hope I can help someone get through the horrible anxious negative thoughts and realize that the other side is there! Thanks to this website and people who have commented about their experiences. You are not alone 🙂 if you have anxiety in your life, relationships are a great avenue it loves to come out onto. Don’t let that ruin your life and take over. You are in control!

    xoxo

  • guest

    Seriously you are just other worldly with your words and always perfect timing, I wish you would write books because I would buy them all,you are just amazing and thank you so much, this blog has been therapy for me for years and I have had to visit less and less but whenever I do I need it and I always feel so soothed by your words.

  • Kate

    Hi Sheryl,

    absolutely love this, and all of your teachings about life and love and how softening the heart is a choice we all have to be brave enough to make if we’re truly going to live a full human life. I know this post and a lot of your work doesn’t focus around sex, but i was wondering have you come across Tantric sex in your work? Or know of anyone who has gone down that path? It focuses a lot on presence which in my opinion is the key to love and the key to life.

    Presence of the heart.

  • Nikki

    Oh Sheryl-
    Your posts about love lately have been so healing for me. My husband and I have been together for 19 years this year and married for 14 of those years. We are right here- all the baggage has come out, the patterns recognized and we can decide to do the work or not. I am choosing to do the work and it is HARD. And there are so many elements to it and it’s so dynamic and there are so many neural patterns to shift and if feel daunting and yet so hopeful. You have always spoken to the heart of the matters that I care about. And I am so grateful for your work.
    Thank you again.
    Always.
    Nikki

  • Loxa

    I’m so confused about the hard work part. Like, how hard and how often hard? I so often feel bad after spending time with my boyfriend and so I spend time journaling, doing the body scans (which often shows me that my body is tight and clenched), meditating, taking walks with my dog – is that the work I’m supposed to be doing? When people on here write things like “my partner is so wonderful and loving and I know he is right for me” I think – really? How do you get to that feeling? The arch of my relationship went from surprise to excitement to optimism and then once the big conversations came up I went into anxiety and then doubt with some hurt mixed in. The anxiety subsided but the doubt is strong and constant. I keep telling myself that when I feel bad I’m not working hard enough. I challenge myself to listen better, to be braver and share more, but that doesn’t cut through the constant doubt. My boyfriend sometimes insults me (I realize this happens when he’s feeling insecure). When I tell him this hurts my feelings he says that he is entitled to his opinions and I should be less “princessy” about my emotions. So I close down, and then work to open again, to notice he cares about me and has a different value system around honesty and doesn’t mean to be hurtful. I remind myself that we all have flaws and change takes time. I notice my judgement and remind myself to accept him for who he is. I get fixated on his hurtful behavior and then challenge myself to work on my fixating and up the meditation and forgiveness – we come together with others to grow and learn, right? And if I was totally miserable I would have left, right? All the while the doubts are screaming so I work on intrusive thoughts. It’s just all so much. Is this the work you mean? And where are the good parts? I look at his face and see a good hearted human and think – just hold on another month, just keep working because what else is there? Is this what is meant by relationships are work? I’ve posted before so am obviously a bit stuck. I’m really trying to grow.

    • anon

      Loxa, I struggle with this too – not knowing if I’m working hard enough for my own wellness. If I’m not careful, I can start to become perfectionist about this work as well as everything else. It’s a balance that needs constant tweaking. I read on here once – see Take Care of Your Anxiety Like A Scared Child – that when Anxiety/Anger etc. calls, it’s time to turn inward with compassion and notice what’s going on and ask what’s needed? Sometimes it might be more water and fresh air, sometimes it might be the need to establish more me-time with an exciting new project or hobby. I don’t think there total certainty – only more or less contentment with your choice. I know from my own experience when anxiety dissipates there can be a great sense of elation that you’re free…in this time, I found myself saying things like ‘I’m certain’. Also, I don’t think the goal is to beat yourself up when you feel bad 😉 feeling bad is just your cue.

      I’m sad to read that your boyfriend behaves that way and I’m not surprised you’re stuck. It sounds like there is some unresolved issue between you there. The fact that he calls you ‘princessy’ sounds as though he has false beliefs of his own (which probably cause both of you pain) – “emotions/sensitivity = self-indulgence”, perhaps.

      I am not an expert, just a beginner like you, but I hope that helps. It sounds like you perhaps need to read through the site a bit more 🙂 though it sounds like you’re already making some really good choices with the journalling, meditating etc. Good luck x

      • anon

        OOps, what I meant to say was – when anxiety calls, treat that call like a cry from a child for its mother. It helps me to be nicer to myself and I like to think I’m practising my patience and compassion for motherhood. 🙂

    • Loxa: Can you tell me specifically how your boyfriend insults you? If you’re in a dance of him hurting you and then he doesn’t open and soften once you tell him that you’re hurt, it’s going to prevent you from feeling safe with him. This piece needs to be addressed.

  • Loxa

    Thank you Anon for your compassionate response, and thank you Sheryl.

    The insults:
    -my voice, which he will mock and imitate and tell me that certain qualities are unattractive, especially when my voice is tired.
    -the way my body smells when I am emotional or asleep
    -a few comments about how he would prefer my body to look
    These are the 3 main areas, and I’ve heard them many times. Luckily I don’t have any insecurity about any of things – I know those are his issues, but the not listening when I say he’s hurting my feelings is very upsetting. Plus these criticisms come from moments when I’m most vulnerable – tired, emotional, sleeping, or naked. I’m not sure how to move forward because he seems to have some pretty entrenched ideas about the value of his honesty.

    • These are red flags, in my book, and need attention. None of these comments are okay, and what’s more alarming is his commitment to his position, which is that being honest is more important than being sensitive about your feelings. If he’s open to couples therapy, I highly recommend the EFT model. You can learn more and find a local therapist here:

      http://www.iceeft.com/index.php/find-a-therapist

  • growinglove

    Most the time when I talk to my boyfriend, it is a conscious decision I’ve made. I too like most people on here can’t really feel anything towards my moment- I rarely feel happy but when I do it’s amazing. My boyfriend is in his time of need at the moment and I cannot find myself to lower my “fear” walls for him, if anything I’m finding it draining and kind of want to leave. I’m lost.

  • Angela

    Hi Sheryl and all,
    I wanna deeply express my thoughts about how we are all on this journey of anxiety. Thumbs up ?? to you guys for allowing yourself to be vulnerable and honest about your current feelings and situation. This is the key to say your truth and im sure you feel much better for it. I can say with excitement, joy that when i let our every emotion without shame i am free. I experience it everytime i listen to myself and share it on here. I had a an experiencing last week which i havent felt in years. I found Angela she was content to be in her own skin accepting and confident. Sheryl, I know exactly what you meant when you said in one of your courses the excitement and joy to actually get ourselves without judgement. You guys will experience too! In your own time. ???

  • Sherron

    Sheryl, I have to ask. I’ve read many of your posts in the last few days. At first, they filled me up with such exhilaration and joy. It was incredibly refreshing to hear a clear, well-articulated critique of our warped cultural conditioning about love, and to have someone really debunk all the nonsense that gets pushed down our throats. However, the more I read, the more I am convinced that you tend to prescribe a ‘one size fits all’ approach to relationships. You seem to assume that as long as the partner in question is a ‘good guy’ with no red flags, there is no reason not to continue the relationship indefinitely. You reiterate this even where someone’s telling you quite plainly that they’ve never been attracted to their person, never felt ‘that spark’, or any romantic connection. Do you really believe that the only requirement for a healthy, fully-realised romantic relationship is that both parties are good people who treat each other well? This seems dangerously simplistic to me, much as I’d love to believe that it’s true. What would then make the difference between a committed, loving romantic partner, and a committed, loving friend? Why shouldn’t I just date one of my best girlfriends, and hope that the spark appears? I really hope you’ll consider responding to this. I’m dying to hear your thoughts, as I’m in a similar situation to many of your readers: 6 months in with a lovely man who adores me, but whom I’ve never been attracted to.

    • I understand your question and I’m glad you asked. However, I don’t have a black-and-white answer for you. Part of it depends on how you define “attraction.” When you say you’ve never been attracted, my ears prick up and I have to ask, “Then why are you still dating him?” We have a very narrow definition of attraction in this culture, which says if you’re not instantly physically and/or sexually attracted, the relationship doesn’t stand a chance. But my definition of attraction is much broader, and includes connection, intellectual compatibility, and an ineffable something that just keeps us in (often defined as a sense of home or safety). Furthermore, we can look to the high success rate of arranged marriages to prove that strict superficial attraction is not a prerequisite for happiness in marriage. These are relationships that are matched strictly on values. But my guess is that you have more than just shared values otherwise you wouldn’t have felt exhilarated when you first found my work. My guess is that there’s something deeper compelling you to stay with your partner. And yet, as I tell all of my readers and course members, I’m not here to convince you to stay with your partner. I’m here to offer an opposing view to the mainstream message that says, “Don’t means don’t” and “If you’re not attracted, walk away.” Ultimately, you must and will decide for yourself what information resonates for you, and you will make your choice from a place of self-trust.

      • Sherron

        Thank you so much for your nuanced and thoughtful response, Sheryl. You’ve given me a lot to think about.