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.

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