Because the only love I experienced before being with A was the ‘unrequited love’ type, I can feel that I have something missing with him. I am not in pain with him, I do not think about him every second of the day, I do not crumble when he does not text me back. I know it sounds silly and I am clearly looking back with rose-tinted glasses because I also remember that it’s a genuinely awful feeling, too. All the same, my wounded self is shouting so loud that what I have with A is NOT what I want. It shouts saying ‘I want someone that makes me melt’ ‘I want to feel proud of his incredible handsome looks and show him off’ ‘I want a man that is on a pedestal that I can worship, and never fades’.
I know that this is an unhealthy part of me, one that I would really like to shed, but it’s persistent and assures me that this is what I want. My wounded self tells me that that is what it is to REALLY be in love.
– An email from a client, published with her permission
This is certainly what our culture tells us it means to really be in love. We learn at a tender, early age that being in love means drama, chase, and delicious, exquisite agony/ecstasy. It means worshipping the object of your desire, being inspired to write angst-ridden love poems about your cherished beloved, always feeling proud to be attached to this person as if it increases your worth or status in some way. It means you miss him desperately when he’s away; it means you feel almost painfully attracted to her every time you see her. In short, it means a feeling.
The truth, however, is that being in love has nothing to do with my client’s description above. What she described is an adolescent infatuation that seeks to find validation, aliveness, and connection through the gaze of the beloved. She’s describing a state of longing that is often misunderstood as being in love. This adolescent infatuation in ultimately a self-serving experience where the lover or pursuer seeks to fill her or himself up by receiving the approval of the beloved or distancer. There is nothing healthy about this state of what we call being in love. It has nothing to with giving and everything to do with taking.
So if this isn’t what it means to really be in love, what does it mean?
This is how I see being in healthy love:
- Being in love means that you’re committed to the practice of learning about love.
- Being in love isn’t exclusive to romantic relationships. We fall in love with our children, with new friends, with pets, with a stimulating dance or yoga class, with life itself.
- When we talk about being in love, we’re referring to the strong feelings of joy, warmth, and sometimes ecstasy that bubble up from the heart in the presence of the beloved (again, not necessarily a romantic partner).
Like all feelings, these “in love” feelings are transitory. Every mother has had the experience of “falling out of love” with her child (a painful transition that deserves much more awareness and conversation in this culture). Likewise, if you had an in love phase with your romantic partner, you will inevitably fall out of love at some point. This is when the real work of learning about love begins.
Here’s my definition of being in love: The sweet and sometimes subtle joy that springs up from an open heart when the fear walls fall away and you connect to the warm current that runs inside your soul. You can experience this feeling when sitting in nature, gazing at your newborn, or holding hands with your partner. It’s an experience that is born from the fullness of your heart and leads to loving actions in service of others.
Where being infatuated comes from emptiness, truly being in love comes from fullness. Where infatuation is an immature state of being that seeks to take, truly being in love is a mature state of being that seeks, above all else, to give. When your fear walls and protection systems come down and you learn how to fill your well of Self, the state of love in which we are born naturally overflows toward others. We long for the feeling of being in love as proof that our relationship is valid, that it will withstand the test of time, and as a way to fill ourselves up and feel alive. But what we tragically and culturally fail to grasp is that it’s only when we learn to express love as genuine care and concern for another’s well-being do the feelings that we long for bubble to the surface.
And here’s the good news: Learning to soften your fear walls and fill yourself up so that you can experience being in love are skills that we can all learn! When it comes to intimate partnerships, there are certain Love Laws and Loving Actions that, when practiced daily, will open your heart and allow you to see yourself and others as you really are.
If you want to learn to dismantle the unrealistic blueprints and expectations you’ve absorbed about love, sex, and attraction – expectations that are quite possibly creating a barrier between you and the loving partner in your life – and learn the Love Laws and Loving Actions that will soften your fear walls, I would love for you to join me in my next round of Open Your Heart: A 30 day program to feel more love and attraction for your partner.