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Love and Nurturance
 
"...all acts are expressions of love, either as skillful statements or calls for love in disguised forms. Love is the power that moves the universe, and is the aching need of our world. If only we stood for love as we have for fear!" - from A DEEP BREATH OF LIFE,  by Alan Cohen.


Falling is love is the topic that seems to get more attention than just about any other. It is an interesting phrase used to describe one of life's most compelling and precarious state of events.

Romantic love is the door to relationships, the glue that binds the species together. It involves passion as well as the feeling of safety. This mysterious process eventually happens to almost everyone and is the perennial topic of endless discussion and speculation. It is a “fall” because we are at least momentarily out of control, disarmed and even sometimes blinded by hormones.

Courtship is a time of affirming all that is attractive and desirable. Blemishes are elaborately concealed. Cheeks and lips and other erogenous zones become flushed with color and we are swept away by a torrent of events that are the pre-cursor to some of our most elaborate of our rituals. Ideals are evoked; reality is more or less abandoned until ecstasy begets procreation. Then things begin to change. The change is usually for the better and almost always permanent.

According to The National Foundation for The Arts, the Song of the Century is "Somewhere Over The Rainbow," the quintessential experssion of longing. What the movies and the romance novels really don't tell you is that on the other side of that sunset, the next day, life together begins. And life brings with it challenges. At the very least, you now have to find out how to share the same house, the same room, the same bed, and the same money. In addition, you now have new friends, relatives, and strangers to deal with. 

Joseph Campbell called marriage an "ordeal through which we come into our spiritual maturity." Serendipity is a word used to describe events that befall us on our journey of life and usually leave us forever changed. It is an invitation to personal change through adventure, growth, fruition and wholeness through healing. But it isn't always easy. In fact it usually hurts. The romantic phase, the denial of negative traits, inevitably brings some anger, then depression, despair in phase two as a natural response to the failure of expectations.

No other thing that we do starts with so much joy, optimism, and celebration and, all so often, ends in so  much anger, fear, and disappointment, as does the modern marriage. It doesn't always have to be this way but we have a difficult time seeing the alternatives.

Romantic love is also the way all sorts of incompatible people get together, blinded to their differences. As the anesthesia wears off,  and all sorts of little differences show up, warts appear. Criticisms replace courtship, heralding the end of Phase one, characterized by romance, and the beginning of Phase 2, characterized by the power struggle, the natural second stage of any relationship. The power struggle belongs to the process and conflict just indicates that chemistry is molding the relationship.

As you grow through life, you will change. Your partner will change. Your relationship will change. If you stay open to accepting change, you can grow from it rather than resisting it. You need to be able to communicate, understand each other, and solve problems together.

We tend treat partners like we were treated as kids. Usually we choose as individual who is like our parents in emotionally significant ways. Some experts believe that our love interests always resemble one of our parents more than we realize. We have a kind of unseen image or imprint of the character traits and behaviors of parents or other childhood primary caretakers. Our unconscious mind constructs a kind of fantasy partner from those we loved as a child, that guides our search for a life partner.

Our personal relationship myth is: if we can sort out whatever was unresolved about the emotional dynamic between our parents, then we will find love. The result can be some fairly unreasonable expectations like expecting the other person to know what you need without your having to tell them, or expecting the partners love to hold the answer to all of life's other problems and that this love can fix everything as if by magic. The inner child seems to believe that "If I can find love, then all life's problems will be solved."

As a child you cried and would maybe even kick & scream to get needs met, and your problems solved, and to find out where the boundaries are. The parents understood what you could not and delivered relief. Trying to get partner to become parent who gave without asking, a kind of regression to childhood and we become compulsive when unmet childhood needs control our behavior as adults.

Since certain of the child's needs are essential to survival, they can be very strong, so there is emotional intensity and a presumption of entitlement. "You owe it to me, you belong to me," or even "you exist only for me," are examples of emotions coming from the inner child. Adults sometimes use criticism instead of crying. The belief is, "If I hurt you, you will change." The rationalization is, "I am trying to let you know what I NEED."

Everyone inherits some unresolved conflicts from their parents, and from childhood. There is some level of frustration rooted in childhood pain. How we treat our partner and parent our own children reveals a great deal about how we were parented. When a particular parent-child interaction reveals how strongly we resemble our own mother or father, that insight can be extremely disheartening.

But it can also be a catalyst for exploring unresolved issues that originated in our own childhood. By constructively moving this natural sequence into an agenda of personal growth, it can be a shared adventure that is healing and certainly more interesting.

Sharing and creating mutual expectations and boundaries is essential to creating a healthy relationship. It is not unreasonable to have expectations of your partner in the relationship. How you voice them is important. It's okay to say for example, "If our love is going to stay strong, it's important to learn how to communicate better." It's not okay to say "If you loved me, you'd understand me and know what I need." The difference is that in the first, you are owning your share of the relationship. You are not pointing the finger but, rather, inviting an opportunity to learn and grow.

Unreasonable expectations may also be motivated by a lack of care about the partner especially when there is a personal lack of self-esteem. When bargaining fails, reverting to despair or to anger or attempts at domination or humiliation are signals or indicators of a hurt child. Intensity mirrors the extent of the wound the child experienced.

Getting needs met through coercion doesn't work. People change because they want to not because you want them to. People entering marriage and committed  relationships do change some of the things they do. And all people change and grow as they age. But people rarely change for the better when they are under pressure from someone else…even a loved one.

Inflicting injury whether physical or emotional, will not get your needs met, but will be more likely to lead to the demise of the passion, joyful connectedness, lost idealization, and falling out of love. Accepting the reality that a power struggle is inevitable, even a deliberate act of nature, can help to develop empathy rather than anger.

 What your partner is least capable of giving is what they most need to do in order to get over childhood wounds. Learn to recognize that difficulty signals a hurt child.  Agreeing to discuss childhood anguish offers the brain a way to begin to heal childhood wounds and can lead to permission to be more open to the opportunities in partnership.

Roll playing makes the inner child feel safe. Try sitting in two chairs facing each other, knees touching knees. When someone reveals their inner child a good response might be, "I want to help you heal all that, I want you to have all childhood needs met." Though our culture discourages hugging and holding, it begins healing process and does wonders for unmitigated yearning of unmet contact needs, and feelings of deficit.

Longevity in a relationship, whether its friendship or love boils down to a single thing: what it FEELS like when you are together. If it feels good being together, the relationship endures, if it feels bad, then it dwindles.

Love is long suffering and kind. Suffering does not mean enduring pain but rather the willingness to permit and tolerate the kind of person someone else is. Love recognizes individuality and respects individual freedom. If I love who I am, then my love for you will include the tolerance to let you be yourself without censure or critique.

Ever longing for the ideal, for the sublime, we may not often soar "over the rainbow," but the metaphor may inspire us to be kinder, gentler, more caring in the here-and-now.

It is the magic
that needs no special potions
or any witches brew:
If you want to be loved
then love.


 
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