In friendship we are able to hear honest, critical feedback. We trust that a true friend desires our good.
Committed love relationships are far more likely to become codependent when we cut off all our ties with friends to give these bonds we consider primary our exclusive attention.
The more genuine our romantic loves the more we do not feel called upon to weaken or sever ties with friends in order to strengthen ties with romantic partners. Trust is the heartbeat of genuine love.
Genuine love is the foundation of our engagement with ourselves, with family, with friends, with partners, with everyone we choose to love.
...abuse irreparably undermines bonds. … When we love rightly we know that the healthy, loving response to cruelty and abuse is putting ourselves out of harm's way. ...[we are socialized to believe] everything must be done to save “the relationship.”
...it is more fulfilling to live one's life within a circle of love, interacting with loved ones to whom we are committed. … Satisfying friendships in which we share mutual love provides a guide for behavior in other relationships, including romantic ones.
Forgiveness is an act of generosity. It requires that we place releasing someone else from the prison of their guilt or anguish over our feelings of outrage or anger.
Our willingness to make sacrifices reflects our awareness of interdependency. … Mutual giving strengthens community. ...we can begin the process of making community wherever we are.
Love allows us to enter paradise. Still, many of us wait outside the gates, unable to cross the threshold, unable to leave behind all the stuff we have accumulated that gets in the way of love.
...the only alternative to not turning into a conventional macho man was to not become a man at all, to remain a boy. ...to them, a relationship was about finding someone to take care of all their needs.
The privilege of power is at the heart of patriarchal thinking. … The fact that this sadomasochistic power dynamic can and usually does coexist with affection, care, tenderness, and loyalty makes it easy for power-driven individuals to deny their agendas, even to themselves.
When someone has not known love it is difficult for him to trust that mutual satisfaction and growth can be the primary foundation in a coupling relationship. … The practice of love offers no place of safety. We risk loss, hurt, pain. We risk being acted upon by forces outside our control.
When individuals are wounded in the space where they would know love during childhood, that wounding may be so traumatic that any attempt to reinhabit that space feels utterly unsafe...
To practice the art of loving we have first to choose love—admit to ourselves that we want to know love and be loving even if we do not know what that means.
Choosing to be honest is the first step in the process of love. … Once the choice has been made to be honest, then the next step on love's path is communication. ...the first responsibility of love is to listen. … Listening does not simply mean we hear other voices when they speak but that we also learn to listen to the voice of our own hearts as well as inner voices.
Setting a time when both individuals come together to engage in compassionate listening enhances communication and connection. When we are committed to doing the work of love we listen even when it hurts.
Living in a culture where we are encouraged to seek a quick release from any pain or discomfort has fostered a nation of individuals who are easily devastated by emotional pain, however relative. When we face pain in relationships, our first response is often to sever bonds rather than to maintain commitment. … many people fear getting trapped in a bond that is not working, so they flee at the onset of conflict. … They flee from love before they feel its grace. Pain may be the threshold they must cross to partake of love's bliss. Running from the pain, they never know the fullness of love's pleasure.
Acceptance of pain is part of loving practice. … When love's promise has never been fulfilled in our lives it is perhaps the most difficult practice of love to trust that the passage through the painful abyss leads to paradise. … This labor of love is futile only when the men in question refuse to awaken, refuse growth. At this point it is a gesture of self-love for women to break their commitment and move on.
When we practice love, we want to give more. Selfishness, a refusal to give acceptance to another, is a central reason romantic relationships fail.
Giving generously in romantic relationships, and in all other bonds, means recognizing when the other person needs our attention. Attention is an important resource.
A useful gift all love's practitioners can give is the offering of forgiveness. … Forgiveness opens us up and prepares us to receive love.
Love is an action, a participatory emotion. Whether we are engaged in a process of self-love or of loving others we must move beyond the realm of feeling to actualize love. This is why it useful to see love as a practice. When we act, we need not feel inadequate or powerless; we can trust that there are concrete steps to take on love's path. We learn to communicate, to be still and listen to others. We learn compassion by being willing to hear the pain, as well as the joy, of those we love. The path to love is not arduous or hidden, but we must choose to take the first step.
To return to love, to get the love we always wanted but never had, to have the love we are not prepared to give, we seek romantic relationships. We believe these relationships, more than any other, will rescue and redeem us. True love does have the power to redeem, but only if we are ready for redemption.
Few of us enter romantic relationships able to receive love. We fall into romantic attachments doomed to replay familiar family dramas. Usually we do not know this will happen precisely because we have grown up in a culture that has told us that no matter what we experienced in our childhoods, [...] romantic love will be ours. We believe we will meet the [partner] of our dreams. ... We wanted the lover to appear but most of us were not really clear about what we wanted to do with them—what the love was that we wanted to make and how we would make it. We were not ready to open our hearts fully.
If you do not know what you feel, then it is difficult to choose love; it is better to fall. Then you do not have to be responsible for your actions. ...we continue to invest in the fantasy of effortless union. We continue to believe we are swept away, caught up in the rapture, that we lack choice and will.
"To love somebody is not just a strong feeling—it is a decision, it is a judgment, it is a promise. If love were only a feeling, there would be no basis for the promise to love each other forever. A feeling comes and it may go."
-Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving
...it is more genuine, more real, to think of choosing to love rather than falling in love.
To be capable of critically evaluating a partner we would need to be able to stand back and look critically at ourselves, at our needs, desires, and longings. ... We fear that evaluating our needs and then carefully choosing partners will reveal that there is no one for us to love. Most of us prefer a partner who is lacking than no partner at all. What becomes apparent is that we may be more interested in finding a partner than in knowing love.
We are all capable of changing our attitudes about “falling in love.” We can acknowledge the “click” we feel when we meet someone new as just that—a mysterious sense of connection that may or may not have anything to do with love. However it could or could not be the primal connection while simultaneously acknowledging that it will lead us to love. How different things might be if, rather than saying “I think I'm in love,” we were saying “I've connected with someone in a way that makes me think I'm on the way to knowing love.” Or instead of saying “I am in love” we said “I am loving” or “I will love.” Our patterns around romantic love are unlikely to change if we do not change our language.
We fail at romantic love when we have not learned the art of loving.
Often we confuse perfect passion with perfect love. A perfect passion happens when we meet someone who appears to have everything we have wanted to find in a partner. I say “appears” because the intensity of our connection usually blinds us.
Perfect passions usually end when we awaken from our enchantment and find only that we have been carried away from ourselves. It becomes perfect love when our passion gives us the courage to face reality, to embrace our true selves.
Not only do I believe wholeheartedly that true love exists, I embrace the idea that its occurrence is a mystery—that it happens without any effort of human will.
...we may meet a true love and […] our lives may be transformed by such an encounter even when it does not lead to sexual pleasure, committed bonding, or even sustained contact. […] True love does not always lead to happily ever after, and even when it does, sustaining love still takes work.
All relationships have ups and downs. Romantic fantasy often nurtures the belief that difficulties and down times are an indication of a lack of love rather than part of the process. In actuality, true love thrives on the difficulties.
The foundation of [true] love is the assumption that we want to grow and expand, to become more fully ourselves. There is no change that does not bring with it a feeling of challenge and loss. When we experience true love, it may feel as though our lives are in danger; we may feel threatened.
“A soul connection is a resonance between two people who respond to the essential beauty of each other's individual natures, behind their facades, and who connect on a deeper level. This kind of mutual recognition provides the catalyst for potent alchemy. It is a sacred alliance whose purpose is to help both partners discover and realize their deepest potentials. While a heart connection lets us appreciate those we love just as they are, a soul connection opens up a further dimension—seeing and loving them for who they could be, and for who we could become under their influence.”
-John Welwood, Love and Awakening: Discovering the sacred path of Intimate Relationships
The essence of true love is mutual recognition—two individuals seeing each other as they really are.
“True love is a peculiar kind of insight through which we see the wholeness which the person is—at the same time totally accepting the level on which he now expresses himself—without any delusion that the potential is a present reality. True love accepts the person who now is without qualifications, but with a sincere and unwavering commitment to help him achieve his goals of self-unfoldment—which we may see better than he does.”
The rugged individual who relies on no one else is a figure who can only exist in a culture of domination where a privileged few use more of the world's resources than the many who must daily do without. Worship of individualism has in part led us to the unhealthy culture of narcissism that is so all pervasive in our society.