Linda: Conscious loving requires us to come out from behind the security of our manufactured image, and bring a high level of authenticity into our life. This requires us to be fearless yet tender, committed yet open, engaged yet not attached, powerful yet yielding, and strong yet vulnerable. To fully love, we must cultivate the ability to hold the tension of the opposites because love is inclusive not exclusive, and it can be fierce in its demands. It invites us into the space beyond the duality of separation or enmeshment and challenges us to surrender our defenses that prevent us from deeply connecting with others.
If loving another person is, as Rilke says, the final test and “that for which all other work is but preparation,” perhaps it is because we cannot be a capable lover until we have established an accepting relationship with all parts of ourselves, including those aspects of our personalities that we deem unlovable. Investing time and energy in a commitment to develop the capacity to become more fully loving will bring forth a greater return in terms of our quality of life than anything else we could do.
To become a more loving person, it is necessary to find out what is really true about love from our own experience, not from what has been handed to us or from the beliefs that we may have picked up along the way. Here are a few examples of commonly held beliefs about love. See if you can relate to any of them.
Love is all you need
Love is forever
Love will make you whole
Love is the answer
Love is unconditional
Love is blind
Love will get you through the hardest of times
Love will cure whatever ails you
When you find your true love, you’ll never be lonely again
Love means never having to say you’re sorry
You’ve got to choose between love and freedom
After you meet your soul-mate you’ll live happily ever after
When you’ve lost that loving feeling it’s gone, gone, gone.
You may notice in reading each of these statements about love that you have an internal response that tells you either “yes” that’s true or ’no’ that’s not true, or “I don’t know whether or not that’s true”. In case you haven’t figured it out yet, the ‘truth’ is that none of these statements are true or untrue. This list simply represents a few of the beliefs about love that are prevalent in our culture, none of which have any objective universal truth to them, but some of them, you may have noticed definitely seem true or untrue.
The good news about falling out of love is that you are no longer deluded by unrealistic expectations of who this person really is, and have passed into the stage of disillusionment, in which you can (hopefully) take them down from the pedestal and see them with greater clarity. The tricky part here is to not throw the baby out with the bathwater and to see not only our partner’s shadow side, but to also remember that they still do have those qualities that we initially found so attractive.
When we experience a greater appreciation for our partner’s “golden side” we are likely to feel much more inclined to see them through eyes of love, rather than eyes of judgment. When we shift our perspective in this way our feelings are likely to shift as well, and we feel motivated to give share feelings of love and affection with them. The question then becomes, “How can I best do this?”
When we consider love, for many people words like bliss, ecstasy, openhearted, and connected come to mind. These are certainly aspects of the experience of “being in love” which is often distinguished from “loving”, as in “I love you but I’m not in love with you.” Another word for being or falling in love is “infatuation” which is the first stage of a romantic relationship. “Infatuation” comes from the word “fatuous” that means “foolish, unreal or illusory”. What we can know is our own experience of what we call love. And to know true love, we examine our limiting beliefs and step outside of our image to move into the zone of authenticity where a deep and abiding love resides.