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The Care and Feeding of Love
by David Truman
Just as birds were made to fly, human beings were made to love and be loved. We were made to live in the context of sweet and loving relationships; anything less, and we feel lost, uncomfortable, incomplete. And of course, unfortunately, that is exactly how many people feel.
The only way we can solve this problem is to do our part to create the beautiful and fulfilling relationships our hearts yearn for. This article will describe where people run off the rails in their relationships, and what it takes to create a strong and beautiful intimacy.
The number one cause of all relationship problems and failures
People have tried all kinds of things to solve the problem of unsatisfying relationships. There are thousands of psychologists and self-help books full of suggestions and practices for making relationships work: what to do, what not to do, etc. But rarely do they address the most important issue: that in order for a relationship to be good, the people need to be personally, deeply, sweetly loved. As human beings, we have great hearts -- passionate, feeling, sensitive hearts. Because of that, we need great love, not mediocre love -- and we need to give great love, too.
The number one cause of all relationship failures and problems is insufficient love. No kidding. When a baby is underfed, it will cry continually. You can try all you want to make it stop. You can give it all the toys in the world, you can act the clown until your face hurts, you can try to talk to it, reason with it; but until you put it to your breast and feed it, it will still wail and complain. In the same way, a human adult will be miserable until he or she is getting enough love, care, and attention.
How much love is enough is not negotiable -- not really. A baby needs a certain amount of food to be satisfied, and you can't negotiate with it about how much that is. Similarly, every human being legitimately needs enough love to be satisfied. Less is simply too little.
A good relationship requires big investment, on an ongoing basis
Of course, no one is perfect in loving. In every relationship, there will be bad days, rocky interactions, slips, bumps, hurts. The investment of love is like money in an emotional bank account. A well-tended relationship has enough positive reserve to handle the inevitable withdrawals -- the emotional difficulties that happen occasionally between people. And well-loved people are less bothered by them. To have enough love in the bank, you need to invest regularly -- daily. And that's ideal anyway, because human beings need regular love, as well as big love.
I have counseled people for years, and so many people have come to me feeling exasperated, hurt, or let down by some seemingly little thing their intimate did. Maybe he always forgets to put down the toilet seat; maybe she is always late; etc. But what makes these little things seem like big things?
No doubt you have noticed this: when people feel under-loved, it's easy for them to become reactive, to be on a short fuse. Every little thing that happens is loaded with this major emotional issue of not enough love. Listen to this revealing conversation:
"Oh my God, I had a terrible incident this morning. Oh my God."
"Well, my husband tipped over my vase. We had a big fight about it."
"Why does that vase matter so much?"
"Well, it's not the vase. He just doesn't CARE. He doesn't care about me."
"Oh, NOW I see."
So it's not the vase, not really. We've even developed a saying about that: "In close relationships, the issue is rarely the issue." Almost invariably, when it comes right down to it, the real issue is that someone feels unloved, or under-loved. That's what creates the emotions that make those "trigger incidents" surprisingly loaded.
And then, watch this:
"I'm sorry I broke your vase, but you got AWFULLY upset about it. It hurts to feel like you love that vase more than ME."
Uh, oh -- there we go again! But this time the shoe's on the other foot!
It goes without saying, when love is insufficient, negative emotions fester: feelings of betrayal, sorrow, regret, and personal insecurity, all born of the fact that one feels inadequately loved. Almost inevitable, too, is that when such feelings smolder beneath the surface, little things will trigger big eruptions. Why else would people get so upset over "little things"? Where would that come from?
Obviously, if someone loved you generously and they tipped over your vase, that'd be a whole different story. And indeed, if you loved them generously, you might react differently when they broke your vase. But that's another story. No, wait a minute -- it's a crucial part of this story. (So watch out, friends, because here comes a curve ball . . .)
Please your beloved's heart, and you will please your own
Worse than not feeling adequately loved by others, is knowing that we haven't loved enough.
Each of us is our own judge and jury. We must satisfy ourselves, or we can't possibly be satisfied. That holds true for each and every one of us.
Ironically, what prevents satisfaction is not the fact that we don't get enough love, but that we don't give enough. That's right. We may not admit it, but it may still be true. If we pay too much attention to the love we get or don't get, we're liable to overlook one of the most underestimated facts of life:
TEN percent of our well-being comes from the quality/quantity of the love we RECEIVE.
Under the watchful scrutiny of judge and jury
Whenever the love we give doesn't meet our own standards for quality/quantity, we live under the disapproving gaze of our most important judge and jury -- ourselves. And that disapproving gaze makes us nervous. It causes us to want to run and hide. It makes us defensive. Why? Because, in our feeling heart and knowing soul, we feel bad about our loving. No one can escape that discomfort, except insofar as they give the same quality and quantity of love they wish to receive.
HINT: It isn't a question of mere FAIRNESS. It's deeper than that.
And: It isn't a "should" that comes from social programming. It's deeper than that too.
The real reason, incredible as it may sound, is this:
Love is who we are. And, love is what we were born to DO and BE. DO. BE. DO. DoBeDo!
The motive to love, to live as love, is in the Divine genes of every child of God. It is part of our soul constitution. Yes indeed!
The issue of love-worthiness
When we do not love, we feel bad, and unworthy of love. But we shouldn't take that wrong. Every person is worthy of love. There are no conditions on that. You are worthy of love, abundant love, infinite love, no matter what you do or don't do. Period.
But here, when we speak of unworthiness, we're talking not of an objective fact, but of a subjective feeling. Do we feel worthy of love? That's the question here.
Subjectively, it is absolutely impossible for a person who is not meeting their own love-standards to feel love-worthy. Instead, we'll tend to feel that people are making a mistake in trying to love us. The result? We can't actually receive the love we are given.
So you see, there is really no solution to the sorrow of feeling unloved until we ourselves are willing to love -- to love, care, and understand as much as we would like to be loved, cared for, and understood. Otherwise, we close our doors to receiving the very love we feel resentful about not getting -- and we live in sorrow. The only way for those doors to be opened is to love enough, and to do unto others as we would have them do unto us.
Deal with the real issue
These two problems -- not getting enough love, and not giving enough love -- create a cauldron of bitter emotions that we try to work around in our relationships. What is "working around"? It amounts to an effort to control all the different things that could bring these pent-up feelings to the surface. We create rules like:
Never say, "You always," or "You never."
Take turns choosing which restaurant we go to.
Always remember to put the toilet seat down.
Always leave the toilet seat up.
Don't say anything we know will irritate the other person.
Make sure we spend some time together at least once a week.
To some extent, rules may minimize negative incidents and keep suppressed reactive feelings from surfacing. And really, there's nothing wrong with creating agreements within relationships, to the extent that it helps. But of course, rules never help enough. In fact, ultimately, working around doesn't work at all. It simply fails to address the real issues. And that's why all the agreements imaginable cannot and will not, in and of themselves, create a happy, satisfying love relationship -- not even if we become experts at rule making/following.
Rules or no rules, the average relationship functions (or perhaps we should say, dysfunctions) like a boat at sea with a hole in it. Water is always pushing in, threatening to sink the boat. To keep it afloat, its occupants are constantly having to bail. We're talking about trying to save relationships from reactivity, blame, dissatisfaction, and resentment. Trying to keep those emotions under control so they don't destroy the marriage, partnership, or friendship.
But here's the question: Why work around the issue? If we want satisfying relationships, and happy loved ones, we need to be bold enough to feel and deal with the real issue -- and loving enough to satisfy the actual requirements of a living human heart.
Love unloads "issues"
Deal with the issues for real, handle them fully, by satisfying the legitimate love-needs of heart and soul. In so doing, you find that relationship hell vanishes, replaced by relationship heaven. Sure, you'll still have some things to negotiate, some agreements to work out, but guess what? -- all of those conversations will be unloaded, because they are now completely free from the heavy emotional content of feeling unloved and unloving. Gone is the "you tipped over my vase and you don't love me" complaint. At last you're just dealing with vases, and that's relatively easy! Someone will say, "Here's what we should do about that__________," and everyone agrees. Things get so much easier when we really love each other!
Love is who you are -- so be it!
How do you find in yourself the great spirit of generous love, true love, deep love? Simple: You find it with deep self-honesty. When you are deeply honest with yourself, you come to realize that you are a loving person. And moreover, you want to be a loving person. So, face the fact that love is true of you; and, having faced it, go about doing what comes naturally to you and every soul: to live love. To give it generously. To love sincerely, and not as a "should." Not because this article said so. Not because your friends, your spouse, the Bible, or your parents said so.
It goes without saying that trying to love as a should is absolutely obnoxious to the soul. It could not possibly satisfy you or your beloved. If anybody ever told you to love as a should, they were indeed wrong, and you knew it.
You have the standards, within yourself, that will satisfy you. No other standards will do. Consequently, until and unless you love the way you feel you should love -- the way your soul wants to, and the way you know is right -- you can't possibly be satisfied.
Like the Santana song says, "Give me your heart, make it real, or else forget about it." -- Amen to that! Certainly, if love is going to be a should, we may as well forget about it. But if it's real, then we have -- and are -- true companions. Then we have a bank account we can draw upon for the difficulties of ordinary life. Then we have real relationship security. And we have the satisfaction of knowing that we have done the thing that we felt, in our deep heart, we should do.
The solution to suffering
This matter of giving real love, and of investing enough in people to satisfy their hearts, is the core issue of every relationship, every community, even the world. We've got to handle it, because otherwise we just suffer and suffer, with no end in sight. So please deeply consider this, will you?
by David Truman
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