What Love Is And Is NOT

Author Article

I was thinking about love and healthy relationships a lot in the past few months. I always ended up with the wrong person which alway lead to a heartbreak. I don’t want to make the same mistakes again, so I started to define what I consider love and the foundation of a healthy relationship.


What is NOT love?

When you are looking for your other half

I often hear from people: “I am so happy I found my other half.” And the point to their partner. “I wish I would find someone who completes me.” When I hear this on a date it is always a huge red flag and I close the date within an hour.

I consider this a toxic approach for relationship. As far as I see all relationship when one or both person consider their partner the other half, or someone who completes them fails miserably sooner or later.

If you feel you are not complete alone, you need someone who completes you. You need some time to work on yourself first. You are far to be ready for a healthy relationship. If you are looking for someone unconsciously who can solve your problems, it is not healthy. This problem could be anything, from the anxiety of being alone, feeling not loved, lonely to any other issues. You should never put this weight to another person’s shoulders. They won’t fix your problems and they shouldn’t even try it. It’s not their job. Once the euforia is over after a few months or weeks, you’ll realise you still have problems, and you’ll start to blame others for not fixing it. It leads to thoughts maybe he/she is not the one. You are wrong! You are the one who has to face with your problems, solve it and start a relationship after.

Dependency is NOT love

When you are depending on your spouse in any way, emotionally, financially or any other possible way. It is not love. People often interpret this as love, but it is leads to a toxic relationship which will almost always end. You should never put your wellbeing into the hands of external things — other people. You should fix your life first, be independent individual. See the previous point one.

Take responsibility for your own life and understand that it’s not your partner’s job to entertain you.

Attraction is NOT love

People are attracted to others. It is a fact and you have to accept it. Attraction will happen even if you are in a long term relationship, marriage or single. I attracted to many people for many reasons. I liked the way they laughed, I liked their humor, their mindset, the way they lived their life. Attraction could be, but not always sexual. I found people sexy because the way they smelled, the way they walked or talked or the way they were thinking. Many people tend to think attraction is love, but it is not. Attraction is magic. Attraction is based on completely inexplicable reasons. You don’t control this initial attraction. This is true for many of us. The problem is, most of us sink too much importance in attraction and, worse, they tend to mix it up with love. And while you don’t control who you’re attracted to, you do, however, control where you invest ourselves — time, energy, and emotion.

Wanting to be together or text all the time is not love. Wanting constant reassurance is not love. These are weak and toxic demonstrations of affection and insecurity. Love is never a give or take, it is never about keeping score, it is never about wanting and expecting.

Everything you see on TV it is NOT love

What is communicated in the media and in the movies is not love. You see love in an amorph bastardized way. That deep romantic visualisation of love simply does not exists. It is not possible to live in constant happiness, full of passion for years over years. Love and relationship is full of ups and downs. People fall in and out of love with the same person, and if you are lucky you and your spouse never fall out of love at the same time. If you are chasing what you see in the movies, you are chasing a shadow.

When we chase romance and excitement, we do to love what porn does to sex

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

What is love?

Love is a choice

Love is not a feeling. Love is a choice. You don’t make this choice once at the beginning of the relationship. You have to make this choice every single day. Good love is the way you love them. It’s you loving their being, you loving their essence, you loving their ups and downs and imperfections and dumb complaints and irritations and short-comings and differences, you loving their decisions — each day. And you have to make this choice each day.

Love is friendship

Love should be based on true deep friendship. Friendship should be based on high level of mutual respect. When your friends visits you and breaks your mug, you say it’s ok, i’ll buy a new one. When your spouse does the same you starc screaming. Why don’t you treat your spouse as you friend? Friendship means caring for each other, be there is the other needs you. Respect the other as an individual with an own personality, own goals in life. You never treat your friends as an object, or your belonging. It is based on mutual respect. Love is teamwork. You have to formulate a strong team with your spouse. You two have to be stronger together than as individuals. You have to work to fulfill your dreams, reach common goals, support each other in the hard times, or just work together simple tasks every single day, like the housework.

Love is commitment

You can see in many blog posts the key of a long lasting relationship is communication. It’s not true in my opinion. There is no doubt it is important, but commitment is has a greater factor. You have to commit every single day to your partner. You have to commit even when you are not feeling it. When you have some downs. Or even when you are attracted to someone else. Love is not a feeling. If you define love as a feeling in which you fall in, eventually you’ll fall out at some point. Because feelings change. And people change. And it is normal! If you want to stay together you have to commit even when you are not feeling it.

Love is consistency

You show love and respect for your spouse consistently. Of course there are ups and downs, there are fights and arguments. But you consistently have to let the other feel loved, and safe. Consistency creates safety. Safety creates peace. Peace creates stability.

Love is change

You have to accept the fact people change over time. You cannot stop it. You change too. You shouldn’t try to date with the person your partner was X years ago, you should date with the person they grow in years. As your partner changes, you have to accept, encourage, appreciate and fall in love with the person they become.


Most people think about love it is something just happens to them, or something they are in. They mistakenly think attraction or dependency is love, or they just want to be with someone for the wrong reason. They think it is something just happens to them. They do not realise mature, grown up love is an investment, they have to invest time, energy, work in it.

Love is a decision, a choice and work, it is not magic, it is not something superficial, not something you can’t control. It’s about choosing and committing every single day, it’s and act, it is work.

Oxytocin: More Than Just a “Love Hormone”

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Oxytocin is a chemical produced in the brain during sex, childbirth, and breast-feeding. Research has shown that the so-called “love hormone” promotes bonding and other forms of social behavior.

But the idea that this neurotransmitter works as some sort of natural love potion is too simple. The effects of oxytocin may be more complex than we once thought.

Lei Xu, a psychologist at the Clinical Hospital of Chengdu, recently investigated the effects of oxytocin on partner preferences. Do we find different people more or less attractive after a dose of oxytocin?

Xu had 160 straight volunteers report to her lab. Half of these volunteers had a shot of oxytocin blasted up their nose; the other half received a placebo. Neither the volunteers nor the research assistant administering the doses knew whether each spray contained oxytocin or the placebo with no active ingredient. Afterward, the volunteers were unable to accurately guess whether they had received oxytocin or the placebo.

Next, the male volunteers were shown a series of portrait photographs of women, while the female volunteers saw photos of men. Each photo was paired with a statement about the person’s history of cheating. The person was described as someone who had committed a sexual or an emotional infidelity, or as someone who had never cheated.

Afterward, the volunteers indicated whether they would be willing to date each person.

Different effects on men and women

Although you might think that cheating is unattractive to both men and women, Xu found that 32% of men and 17% of women were interested in a short-term relationship with a former cheater. A cheater may not generally be considered a catch, but under certain circumstances men seem less perturbed than women by the prospect of an unfaithful partner, perhaps because men assume a woman who cheats will be easier to woo.

Xu also found that men who had been given oxytocin, compared to men who received the placebo, expressed a stronger desire to date women who had previously been unfaithful. There was no equivalent effect of oxytocin on the female volunteers, but oxytocin did increase women’s interest in long-term relationships with faithful men.

In short, oxytocin didn’t simply turn men and women lovey-dovey; instead, it promoted the pre-existing sex differences in men’s and women’s preferences for faithful and unfaithful partners.

Xu and her colleagues write in their paper that their findings supported their theory that “oxytocin would enhance current social and reproductive priorities in both sexes.”

Another finding was that women who had received a dose of oxytocin were more likely to remember the faces of men who were labeled faithful.

11 Lies About Love

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It was in counseling that Stephanie realized another significant impact of her abusive marriage. She thought that getting away from her husband would be enough to free her, but her mind was still trapped. He said abusive things like, “You are a fool,” “You can’t do anything right,” and “You are worthless,” she now repeated in her head. Worse yet, her perception of love radically changed.

She now saw love as dangerous, confining, and vulnerable, yet she longed to be loved again. The roots of her poor perception of love were not just the result of an abusive marriage, it also stemmed from her childhood. Her alcoholic mother never attached to her so Stephanie was constantly looking for love from all the wrong people. This left her susceptible to an abusive husband.

Unfortunately, Stephanie had twisted definitions of love born out of dysfunctional parenting and an abusive marriage. These erroneous perceptions of love did significant damage to her and her relationships. Some of the lies may even be hidden in seemingly innocent remarks. So Stephanie decided to write out the lies that cause the destruction of a loving relationship.

  1. “I’ll show you love when you do what I ask.” Lie: Love is conditional.Lasting love is not based on a person’s performance. Rather, it is grounded in seeing the best in someone despite what they may do. But this doesn’t mean that abusive behavior should be tolerated. Boundaries can be established for safety and a person can be loved from a distance without it being conditional.
  2. “If I didn’t love you, I won’t be so mean.” Lie: Love is cruel. Truth can be spoken in a kind and non-hurtful manner without damaging a person’s ego, generating fear, or destroying an image. A person in a truly loving relationship should experience more thoughtfulness, compassion, and kindness than a friend or stranger might receive.
  3. “If you love me you will do it now.” Lie: Love is impatient. Demanding immediate compliance, being intolerant of other’s timing, or getting annoyed/irritated by another person is not love. Not everyone has the same pace in life. Loving someone means being tolerant of the person’s speed which is usually determined by personality, trauma, and motivation.
  4. “You love the kids more than me.” Lie: Love is jealous. Comparing love for one person over another is dangerous. The love a parent feels for a child is not the same as the love for a friend, spouse, parent, or even pet. Each has different weights and significance. Accepting love from a person means finding satisfaction in their ability to express it without jealous demands.
  5. “When you show me love, I’ll show it back.” Lie: Love itemizes. Keeping a record of rights vs. wrongs in a relationship does not show love. Rather, it places the relationship on a ledger where a person constantly has to prove their value in comparison to another. This wears a person out and exhausts the relationship.
  6. “It doesn’t matter if you feel loved, it matters how I feel.” Lie: Love is selfish. In the ‘it’s all about me’ culture, the concept that love is not self-focused but other-focused is lost. Too often it is about what a person gets from a relationship not about what a person gives to the relationship that becomes the emphasis. This hinders the free expression of love.
  7. “You HAVE to love me!” Lie: Love is forceful. No one has to do anything. A person should have the freedom to choose to love and not feel it is an obligation. Mandating love limits the power of love to work in life and relationship. When forced, it becomes a destructive weapon that can leave a permanent scar.
  8. “I love you more than anyone else could.” Lie: Love brags. Anytime a person says this statement, it is more about the insecurity of the person speaking than the value of the person receiving the comment. This is designed to ‘put a person in their place’ as a form of unnatural submission. A person who loves someone a lot has no need to brag, their actions speak far louder than words.
  9. “If you love me you won’t brush your teeth that way.” Lie: Love nick-picks. On any given day, there are probably 1,000 things that a person can do in an annoying fashion. Focusing on these small items and demanding change is not loving the person for whom they are. True love overlooks the small infractions and sees the larger picture of a person’s character.
  10. “No one can love you because of what you have done (or who you really are).” Lie: Love is resentful. The saddest of the lies is the one which displays long-standing resentment and hurt. Granted there are some issues that may end a relationship but that doesn’t mean there needs to be bitterness going forward. If the relationship is to survive the pain, then the anger must be released, or it will cause its own end.
  11. “I’m going to leave because you don’t love me.” Lie: Love quits. Real love does not give up on another person. However, it might set safe boundaries to keep from getting hurt again in the future. Not giving up on a person means hopefulness remains regardless of the circumstances.

Most of these statements don’t arise when the conversation is normal and functioning. Rather, they tend to surface during a confrontation. It is when a person is under pressure that the true nature of their character and misguided beliefs about love are revealed.

Love throughout History and across Lifetimes

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Love throughout History and across Lifetimes
Photo by Louri Goussev | https://flic.kr/p/72KkXM

It can be very hard, especially for a Westerner, to imagine spiritual wisdom and carnal pleasure peacefully coexisting (blame it on our Puritan roots). This Valentine’s Day, learn about the rich, beautiful, and sensual poetry of ancient India—and be prepared to rethink the separation of faith and love.

What Women Find The Most Attractive In Men, According To Science

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Straight men have pondered the answer to this not-so-simple question since the beginning of time: what do women want? The answer will not be found in a Mel Gibson rom-com, but it might be lurking in a research paper.

Science is doing its best to solve the age-old puzzle of the female brain. Scores of experiments have attempted to name things women find attractive in men, with varying degrees of success. The studies are often small, and rely on iffy self-reported feelings for results, but at worst they provide food for thought, and at best they offer real insight that could take you from dud to Don Juan.

Here are six science-backed traits that women find irresistible.

Good Looks, But Only Sometimes

Take the abs of Matthew McConaughey, the biceps of Chris Hemsworth, and the flowing locks of young Brad Pitt, and you have the perfect man – right? Physical attractiveness can be a factor, but it’s not as important as you might think. Study after study after study has confirmed that while women choose better looking guys for flings, they fall for other qualities for long-term relationships.

A Sense Of Humour

Ask a woman what she like in her partner and she’ll almost always say “He makes me laugh.” It’s not news that ladies love a man who can tickle their funny bone, but science helps explain why. One study found that a good sense of humour is sexually attractive because it reveals intelligence, creativity, and other ‘good genes’ or ‘good parent’ traits.

A Furry Friend

No, it’s not just a stereotype – women really do love men with dogs. Studies suggest that dogs facilitate social interaction between humans. Another experiment found that dog ownership can increase the long-term attractiveness of men, as it indicates the ability to nurture and suggests tendencies for relationship commitment.

Risk-Taking

Time to brush up on your CPR and sky-diving skills. A studyconfirmed the prediction that women would prefer physical risk-takers (brave, athletic, fit) over risk-avoiders as long-term mates, but only if the risk was taken during an altruistic act. Another experiment discovered that modern risks are considered unattractive for either sex, while risks that harken back to our hunter-gather history are attractive when undertaken by men.

Altruism

study published in The Journal of Social Psychology observed that both males and females significantly preferred altruistic mates for long-term relationships, and the size of this preference was greater than for other traits in mate choice. Women are especially likely to choose a mate based on his tendency for prosocial behaviour.

Wearing Red

Last but not least, one that doesn’t require a complete personality overhaul or the commitment of owning a pet: wearing red can make you more attractive to women, according to research published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology. A man sporting the vibrant hue is perceived as better looking, more sexually desirable, and higher status.

 

Love someone who uninstalls their dating apps as soon as your relationship turns official, not someone who keeps backup plans around in case you break up, someone who already has an exit plan because they are assuming your relationship is going to end sometime soon. Love someone who casually asks you to grab their phone…

via Love Someone Loyal — Thought Catalog

6 Ways to Show Yourself the Love You Deserve

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When people think about being kind to themselves and practicing self-love, it’s often considered in a noncommittal, “Yes, I really should be doing that more,”sort of way. Then they go about their merry way, continuing the same old behaviors and being anything but kind to themselves.

Fortunately, a number of people do decide they are finally ready to start loving themselves. But what made them ready, and why have they waited so long to start?

What about you — are you ready to start treating yourself with kindness and learn how to love yourself fully, the way you deserve?

Where do you find yourself on the “self-love/being kind to yourself” scale currently? Are you at the bottom, clueless as to what loving yourself even means, or slowly crawling up the scale, wondering why it took you so long to treat yourself with love and kindness?

10 Things You’re Doing Because You’re Finally Starting to Love Yourself

I asked myself that same question many years ago when I finally considered the option to stop being so hard on myself and instead learn how to become my own best friend.

The best answer I have is that I had totally colluded with the pain of the belief that there was definitely something wrong with me and that I was not lovable. That was it. If someone had even suggested self-love, I think it would have gone totally over my head.

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I mean, how could I even consider self-love inside that painful paradigm? I couldn’t.

And I imagine you can’t either, if you still live under that spell of unworthiness and unlovability. It’s painful, isn’t it?

Have you suffered enough that you finally feel ready to try self-love?

Does learning how to love yourself sound like a foreign language to you? Maybe you have an inkling of what it means to others, but for you…?

Oh, how you’ve been swallowed up by this great misunderstanding of who you truly are and what you are worthy of! How you’ve been conditioned to shut yourself off from your inner wisdom, believing others know more than you do!

I often run up against a wall when I talk to people about the importance of learning how to love yourself — unless this person has suffered so much that it’s willing to try a new way. I wish suffering were not the only reason why you would stop this insanity of treating yourself as a second-class citizen.

However, if you happen to be standing against that wall blocking you from self-love now, no matter how you got there, and are weary from denying yourself the goodness of life, let me share a few things I’ve learned since I broke through that wall myself.

Here’s how to love yourself for who you really are and treat yourself with the kindness you deserve.

1. Make a Vow.

The step to learning how to love yourself is to make yourself a promise.

In my self-love journey, I took a clear stand and vowed to never treat myself the way I had been, ever again. I embraced a power that I had lost touch with during all the painful years of self-doubt, self-hate and self-denial.

The pain of this ongoing torture had worn me down to finally realize that I didn’t want to do that to myself anymore

Finally, I’d had enough and wanted something else. It was a strong decision and, without it, you may still have found me in the trenches.

2. Say “No” When You Fall Into Old Patterns.

So now that I made this vow, how was I going to do it? All I had to go by at this point was that I didn’t want to do this to myself anymore, but I didn’t know what to do instead.

My determination gave me the option to say “no” whenever I would glide into the muddy trenches, simply by default. That was the “how” for now: Refuse to continue, the very moment when I found myself slipping back in.

Or, if I was so lucky to catch the first glimmer of the familiar invitation knocking at my door, simply refuse to open.

3. Stick With It.

I really started getting a feel for using the power of saying “no,” to the familiar suggestions to put myself down. It felt good. Yet, to be honest, I probably fell into the trenches more times than I would like to admit. It was a deeply ingrained pattern that didn’t just take the first “no,” for an answer.

However, my determination was strong and my “no” was getting stronger. This started my journey out of the trenches, without any idea of what my next step would be. I didn’t care. I gave myself permission to exercise my “no” — maybe more often than needed. I had to. I just had to use this new powerful weapon against the demons who were used to me saying “yes” all the time.

4. Accept the Journey.

All this didn’t happen overnight. Without knowing where all this was going, I learned what steps to take and when. I started seeing steps, obstacles, dead ends, tricksters, successes, and failures. I saw doors open and close, and also saw doors open and open even wider.

I paid attention and finally (after many years) could authentically show others how to love themselves. My own pain and suffering slowly turned into my life’s calling, something I would never have imagined when I took my first stand many years ago.

Here Are 20 Ways to Be Good to Yourself Today

5. Let Go of Resistance.

There are certain behaviors that keep a closed door shut, no matter how hard you push against it. The biggest one is resistance — resisting the parts of yourself that you hate, dislike, and are ashamed of. Resisting yourself keeps you imprisoned forever, and if you want to move past the wall, you’ll need a new strategy.

Have you ever pulled one of those Chinese finger traps, where one finger goes into each end, and the harder you pull, the tighter it gets? The more you try to get away from it, the more you feel stuck? Well, that’s no different from the painful emotions you’re trying to get rid of. The more you resist them, the more stuck you feel.

6. Acknowledge Your Emotions.

When painful emotions come up, I practice “allowing.” Allowing is the opposite of resisting and, coincidentally, seems to be what works to get out of your self-imposed trap. It feels counter-intuitive, but it works. You’ll have to shift your familiar tendency to get away from discomfort and, instead, be open to leaning into it and experiencing it.

Just try it as an experiment first. Test out this theory. Find out what happens when you are willing to move toward a painful feeling that you normally try to get rid of. Allow space for it. Breathe into it and find out what happens. This is your experiment and is for you to find out if the grip loosens or not.

When you let go of resistance and make space for whatever you have resisted, you release a lot of energy. This energy was stuck in the trap when you moved away from it. Now, when you move toward it with curiosity, you’ll notice that the feeling you wanted to get rid of, gets exposed. It’s vulnerable and needs your care.

Would you be able and willing to meet it with the same kindness as you would a scared little child or animal? Try it and see how this feeling responds. It may be confused first because it’s not used to your kindness yet. Imagine you offer it a loving hand or caring touch to let it know you are here to help.

When that part feels safe enough, it will slowly let you know about how it’s feeling and what it’s upset about. This is the released energy from the trap of resistance. It’s been waiting for you to listen and take it seriously, and here’s your chance.

Use this opportunity to take another gentle breath down into the area where this feeling has been stuck.

Just take some kind, gentle breaths, as though you want to say hello to it. Do it with a caring attitude to make sure this newly liberated feeling stays open. Just notice what changes when you gently approach it that way with a curious, caring attitude.

The connection has been made. You are now in a new relationship with your previously resisted feeling. Can you feel the difference?

If you need more time, keep breathing kindly into the area in your body and do your best to be caring and curious. The aim here is to find out more about this pain that was stuck in the trap. That part has a story to tell and needs you to listen.

Maybe nobody has ever listened to that part of you, least of all you. Here’s your chance to deeply listen and learn about yourself in a whole new way.

This guest article originally appeared on YourTango.com: The Subtle-Yet-Obvious Reason You Don’t Love Yourself — Yet.

Modern Relationships Scare Me

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Modern dating scares me because it’s impossible to distance yourself from someone you once loved. You struggle to move on, to tell yourself you can live without them, because they are always staring back at you from laptop, phone, and tablet screens. Even if you try to erase all traces of their existence, if you smash block and delete, there’s always a friend of a friend posting a picture with them or a Facebook memory that will make your heartache come rushing back. Closure is hard to achieve — and it seems like no one wants to achieve it. Exes will text you out of the blue when you feel like you are doing fine without them. They will ruin all the progress you made getting over them with a drunken miss you text. They will make sure you keep coming back to them, even when they have already made it clear they are the wrong one for you.

Modern dating scares me because there are a million different types of relationships. Serious relationships. Open relationships. Almost relationships. Casual relationships. Texting relationships. Situationships. Even though it seems like there are more relationships than ever before, no one actually wants to define the relationship. They want to see where things go. They want to avoid labels, even though without labels, it’s easier to get hurt. One conversation could solve everything, it could clear up all the mixed signals, but those conversations rarely happen.

Modern relationships scare me because cheating is easier than ever. You can download a dating app and swipe through options on your couch, at your desk, beside your own partner in your own bedroom. You can send snaps that will delete automatically, erasing any evidence of infidelity. You can harmlessly flirt with someone you would have never seen again, but with the help of social media, you can continue contact, you can build an inappropriate connection without realizing it’s happening. You can lose the person you love without ever seeing it coming, without catching onto any of the signs they are ready to stray.

Modern relationships scare me because everyone watches your love unfold. They see the pictures you post and either aww or roll their eyes. They make uneducated guesses on how long the relationship is going to last. And when you break up, it’s not private. Everyone notices when your profile picture changes to a headshot. They catch on quickly. It’s intimidating to know everyone on your friend list knows whether you are single or whether you are in a serious relationship or whether you have been jumping from person to person.  Everyone has an opinion on your love, even if they have never seen you two together in person. Your relationship is none of their business, but social media makes them feel like it is.

Modern relationships scare me because they are a breeding ground for abandonment issues. They can end without warning. They can end with a text — or with an unanswered text. Without a face-to-face conversation, most questions are left unanswered. Most wounds are left wide open. It’s hard to accept losing someone when you have no idea what you did to chase them away, when you aren’t sure whether it was your fault or bad timing or poor chemistry.

Modern relationships scare me, because no matter how much effort you put in, it’s useless unless the other person puts in effort too

Are You Sabotaging Your Self-Love?

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This month, we’ve been talking about self-love a lot over in my Instagrampage. We’ve been having meaningful conversations about what it is, why it’s so hard to achieve, and the main challenges about it.

Mariana Plata
Source: Mariana Plata

Self-love is the foundation for all the other relationships in your life. In simple words, one cannot pour from an empty cup. One can’t give if one doesn’t have:

  • You can’t have a healthy relationship with other people if YOU don’t have a healthy relationship with yourself.
  • You can’t be compassionate with others if YOU don’t practice self-compassion in your own life.
  • You can’t take care of others if YOU don’t take care of yourself, first.

Self-love, though it has a pretty ring to it, can often be one of the most difficult practices to accomplish. Why? Because we live in a society that promotes and celebrates your exhaustion and how tired you are. It benefits from your insecurities.

This is why loving yourself is a revolutionary act. Society has “normalized” the ways in which we sabotage prioritizing and taking care of ourselves.

The first step is realizing when these self-sabotages show up. Here are three red flags that you might be self-sabotaging your self-love practices.

You keep comparing yourself 

Social media is full of comparison traps. And, once we fall down this rabbit hole and don’t actively make an effort to get out, our self-love gets compromised.

I won’t tell you not to compare yourself, because we are only human. It’s only natural to fall in these traps. What I will ask you is that when you compare yourself, make sure you challenge that comparison. How? With gratitudeWhat is wonderful about YOU? What makes YOU magical, unique and special? And actively fight against that comparison trap with a gratitude perspective about yourself.

Black or white thinking 

“Good vs. bad.” “Skinny vs. fat”.””Pretty vs. ugly.” These are all black or white thoughts which are counterproductive to our mental health. Especially, to our self-love. Things aren’t good or bad, they are. Your body isn’t pretty or ugly, it is. It works. It helps you achieve your daily goals and tells you what needs adjusting.

These black or white thoughts only welcome shame, which is a powerful emotion that fosters a negative self-image, low self-esteem and promotes self-loathing. Shame is self-love’s arch-nemesis, and it’s only cured by practicing self-compassion, a key component of self-love.

You don’t prioritize your self-care strategies

Similar to self-compassion, self-care is a crucial part of self-love. The way we take care of our body (exercise, eating healthily, sleeping enough, drinking plenty of water); our mind (seeking help from our support system, talking about difficult emotions); and our soul (meditatingjournaling).

If you’re not carving out a space in your day to include at least one of the areas mentioned above, you’re not prioritizing yourself. And, if you don’t prioritize yourself, who will?

Why Love in the 21st Century Is So Difficult

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The nature of love in the 21st century has beckoned us to a new cultural and social horizon from which we may be able to learn how to manage our conflicts between love and hate, between dominance and submission, between surrender and self-protection, without creating an enemy. Either we will learn how to grow and develop in this way or our narcissisticlongings for a “perfect love” will defeat us. I believe that the contemporary couple relationship has created an urgent and critical challenge to the stability of our families and our lives. I want this challenge to lead to greater wisdom instead of a failure to love.

Before we can learn to love under current conditions, we need to reflect a bit on our past traditions. Marriage moved relatively quickly from being a vow of impersonal loyalty and a commitment “in sickness and in health until death do us part” for the sake of the family and property to a personal and transitory vow “for as long as this meets my needs.” This shift has made everyone a little nervous, and some people now feel almost obliged to break off a relationship if they no longer find their own image and values reflected in the other person in the way they expect: “How can I be with someone like this?”

Charlie Foster_Unsplash
Source: Charlie Foster_Unsplash

Further, because ideas of the hierarchy are eschewed in our contemporary lives, our relationships are based on ideas of equality and reciprocity, as well as personal desire. Equality, mutuality, reciprocity, and desire are destabilizing influences in a partnership or a family because of the ongoing requirements to negotiate needs and conflicts on a day-to-day or even hour-to-hour basis. Frequent and repetitive negotiations require emotional and communication skills that most of us lack. Our ordinary daily conflicts can soon become exhausting and dispiriting because no solutions are arrived at. These conflicts (even the most benign ones, like “what color should we paint the kitchen?”) may threaten to undermine our commitment to our relationships because they quickly lead us to review whether or not we want to “live with someone who is like this.” On top of all this, human beings (Homo sapiens) may, unfortunately, despite their intentions, simply feel more comfortable and at ease in a hierarchy in which one individual seems to be in charge. Then, the power arrangements are clear even if they rest on oppression—and potentially, abuse.

But in today’s world, you most likely believe that you no longer want a hierarchy in your personal life. Instead, you want to be equal with your partner. You want to be respected, you want to be witnessed and held in mind, and you want to be found desirable and cared for. These are the demands of personal love.

This love is different from romance and from biological attachment bonds. Personal love is much more demanding and challenging than a secure attachment or pair bond because it typically requires functioning together with a partner in multiple roles in our daily lives and using psychological insights, and even spiritual skills, that are unfamiliar and may seem burdensome. Attachment bonds and biology play a role in personal love, but only a minor one. Living together over time and solving problems with someone who is meant to be your best friend, your co-parent, your sexual partner, and possibly your business partner, in a reciprocal and mutual relationship, is a radical new endeavor for which the old archetypes and myths, as well as the current neurological and biological models, do not provide adequate guidance.

In today’s marriage—I will use the term “marriage” loosely here to mean a long-term committed bond—you fall in love with a stranger to whom you then commit in a relationship in which you promise not to dominate, control, or break the trust. Furthermore, you must also remain true to yourself—your own needs and values—or the relationship will not thrive. Personal love, as we will see, breaks all the rules that marriage has followed for centuries. Most radical is that this kind of love requires that an emotional and mental space be created in which both partners can grow and develop psychologically and spiritually. And this process begins with disillusionment after the romance has ended.

While disillusionment is the death knell for the initial romance, it is a necessary development for personal love and romance to mature into ongoing intimacy. Here is a radical idea: when you fall in love you have fallen into your own unconsciousness, and you can only step out of that unconsciousness after you begin to see what you have projected—both in idealization and in disillusionment. It is the nature of projection that you see and feel as though the disavowed aspects of yourself (either idealized or devalued) are within another person, not yourself. You will feel this as a fact, as though it were absolutely true. But initial disillusionment is critically important on the path of love because it is the first opportunity to notice your projection—after it has become sour and negative, when your partner begins to seem like someone you don’t like and someone you must defend against.

You then must develop, as the next step, a more complex picture of your partner and yourself that includes your projected anxieties, images, and desires. The truth is that this other person cannot satisfy all (or maybe even most) of your needs or be your friend in all the ways you had hoped. Embracing this truth (again and again) in a way that does not prohibit intimacy and friendship with your partner is an ongoing commitment. The process of taking back our projections never ends. It means you have to maintain a kind of psychological openness that helps you repeatedly get to know your partner anew and to look at yourself with fresh eyes as well.

For personal love to develop into what I call “true love”—a powerful mixture of reality and desire—you must shift from disillusionment into friendship, from antagonism into cooperation, from your partner being your “intimate enemy” into being your intimate friend. As a result, it requires you to discover and embrace a more complex sense of who you are—your history, vulnerabilities, and so on—since this is the basis of both your idealizations and your disillusionments.

The defenses that surround the pain of disillusionment often keep couples from moving into being intimate after feeling like enemies. Partners, and their friends and relatives, also tend to make critical appraisals of a devalued partner such as “he’s an alcoholic” or “she’s needy” or “he has bipolar disorder” or “she’s an airhead.” These appraisals lead to gathering evidence and grievances to illustrate their circumstantial “truths.” And so, disavowed aggressions and feelings of the “moral superiority” of victimhood complicate many daily conflicts with “proof” that a devalued partner is defective or mean-spirited. True love, however, requires walking through disillusionment without losing your faith and hope of finding your best friend again through a fog of confusion, discouragement, and pain. Sadly, it is at the juncture of defensive disillusionment where most committed couples flounder and become discouraged and feel imprisoned. It is at this point where traditional marriages typically lost their way and entered into the War between the Sexes. Learning to navigate the path from disillusionment to true love is what all couples must learn to do in this new age.

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