Valentine’s Day has recently passed and spring is nearly upon us. With the arrival of spring our senses seem sharper and spirits fill with a feeling of renewal and rebirth. The world around us seems to take on a cleaner, fresher energy. The air feels warmer and smells sweeter; the chirping of birds sound like a finely tuned symphony and the greenery reawakens bestowing flowers and beckoning butterflies. This seasonal reawakening also brings renewed hope that the ever elusive emotion called love will grace its presence into our life. However, with the divorce rate at well over 50%, and with most of the couples remaining together committed to an unhappy union, it is clear that society has strayed from the path that leads to the ultimate brass ring called love.
As I observe the world around, I notice our world being inundated with messages that emphasize love as an emotion we feel because there is a special someone in our lives. This notion is systematically reinforced through television shows, advertising, songs, and in general conversation with others. Unfortunately, this emotion that we have all experienced, is not the love that we dream of, for it does not awaken, touch, and fill our soul! That familiar feeling is actually an infatuation that will eventually implode upon itself leaving the partners wondering what happened to the person, the relationship with whom they fell in “love”.
At some point we have all been told the truth; the path to true, unconditional, lasting love originates from within. Love that we share in a relationship is actually a deep feeling of self-love, self-acceptance, which radiates outward to the world around us. The emotion of love then becomes our own internal state of being whether we have a companion or not. Since we are already living in a state of love, it does not strike us as something new to our lives because we are already there. Love does not fill gaps in our soul, our lives, or our emotional selves, however, infatuation does. So how do we know if we are on the path of lasting love?
There is a lot of wisdom to the old adage that the best lovers begin as friends. This is because when we enter into friendships we see people as they really are; we like and accept them for who they truly are without wearing the proverbial rose colored glasses. This “like” deepens to the point of feeling safe and in sync with one another. Real love is akin to a very deep, compatible friendship that is based on repeated acts of mutual trust and respect. There are no extra feelings involved, just a deep, respectful, honest, friendship that grows.
This is important because, truthfully, feelings of infatuation divert us from clearly seeing our partner’s character and integrity. We think we know our lover because we have deep conversations, but truthfully, our vision is clouded by the emotion, much like anger clouds our judgment. Before we know it, we begin to rationalize and accept our lover’s disrespectful behavior in an attempt to keep the pleasurable feelings apart of our lives. We crave these warm feelings because, in reality, they are actually providing us an escape; an escape from ourselves. Eventually, the feelings are undermined by pervasive acts of disrespect, big and small, intentional or not, leaving us feeling hurt and frustrated.
The journey to discovering self love is a process that takes time and effort. So be patient and persevere with the journey for the outcome is more then worth it! Fortunately, there are some patterns of thought and words that will signal your arrival.
As we enter into a relationship if we find ourselves thinking or saying “he makes me feel loved, beautiful, special, etc…” and/or “she makes me feel needed, wanted, loved, etc…” coupled with a sense of wholeness that was not present before, realize this is not the beginning of true love. Remember, whenever we fill a reservoir of loneliness, sadness, boredom or emptiness as a result of having someone in our lives this is infatuation not love. Lasting love is solely a reflection of being comfortable in our own skin.
This is not to say that we should avoid these short-term relationships. Enjoy them while the inner work continues, but, please be aware that inevitably it will sour, leaving the couple confused and spending energy trying to get back what they once had. However, that elusive feeling will continue to evade them, given that right from the start they had fallen for a feeling rather than a person
Cynthia Pickett, MSW, LCSW, LADC