Loving Relationships

August 27, 2007

Each of us rightfully deserves loving relationships in our lives. As humans we are social creatures. Even those who chose to isolate themselves from humanity, cannot avoid depending on others for support in some way. The very act of eating food connects us to an amazing chain of people. From the farmer to the grocer, numerous people have contributed to our act of eating. Supportive, nourishing human relationships are one of the greatest healing agents we can expose ourselves too. Regardless if they are kept clean and fed, many of us know infants die early on if they are not properly loved and held. Right up until our dying breath, we benefit from loving contact with those around us.

Too often, many of our human relationships become battlegrounds and erode these loving ties. Previous experiences of neglect and abuse cause us to mistrust, hate, or fear those around us. Our inability to forgive and forget, to love others unconditionally, to be flexible, and to be free of heavy expectations and control issues, erode even the most promising relationships over time. After each disappointment in relationships we may run from person to person, from counselor to counselor, seeking some salving balm to heal our disappointment and anxiety. Looking out into the world at the mass amount of crime and suffering, we may lose our trust in human relationships and believe loving relationships can only be found in make believe and fairy tales.

One day it may occur to us to attempt a new way of relating. Instead of seeking out there, for the perfect partner, we undertake the mysterious process of learning to love ourselves. This involves a series of steps of cultivating attitudes of unconditional positive acceptance of who we are. At the same time, it requires a cultivation of wisdom which can continue to encourage us to become more and more who we desire to be. With the release of each layer of judgment, expectation, and condemnation, we gradually learn to open our hearts towards ourselves. We are not perfect, but as I once heard, “I’m not OK, you’re not OK, and that’s OK.” Meaning even those aspects of ourselves which we might have condemned are excepted. They are there. And that is OK, until time and space can help us to be different.

As the journey of self-acceptance bears results, something mysterious happens in our relationships towards others. After assuming others needed to change to meet our needs, we now discover that as we transform into loving human beings, others can not help but respond. Yes, the spouse may still be unaffectionate at times, the children forgetful, our co-workers insensitive. But as we react to these incidents with understanding and compassion, versus judgment and indignation, they begin to respond in kind. The spouse starts to feel bad over being inattentive. The children resolve to try harder next time. The co-workers begin to wonder if there is not something about us they had better pay more attention to. As the ocean wears away even the tallest mountain, day by day, our radiant capacity to love, erodes in others their fears, and hatreds, and anxieties.

It is an ancient spiritual truth found in many religious traditions that we should love others as ourselves. As children we deserved that love, even if we did not receive it. As adults it is never too late to make the commitment to ourselves, to start to love, cherish, understand, and respect ourselves anew. Though the truth of it is almost trite, it remains a basic fundamental in our lives. Love is the answer. Loving intelligently and wisely is our ultimate reason for existing. Embrace this each and every day, and over time, you cannot help but reap the results.


Coping With Potential Rejection

August 27, 2007

This problem has just started major today. (F.Y.I) I am 13 years old and i have had this very deep crush on a girl at school. I have liked her since last year and have finally brought up the courage to call her. Everything was goin well until she told me some disturbing news, the previous year she dated one of my best friends! This hurt inside soo much! Then she told me another boyfriend she had and was talking about “hot guys” to me! Inside I was really crying but outside I was acting normal. On top of that, she even tried to hook me up with her friend.I am having unbearable pain, emptiness, i can’t explain it but it’s…empty. I am calm, but empty. I feel as if I could cry for-ever.

I will probably call her and tell her how I feel, but I’m in 4 of her classes and don’t know if I could stand being there.

So if you could help me out here… I NEED IT

Tom, Maryland

Dear Tom,

My wise friend, for that is what you are, wise to recognize and admit your feelings in this situation. That is already a big step!  So, here you are, needing to tell her how you feel, risking one of the biggest thing any of us can risk, rejection!  

Here are some tips.  First, be prepared!  I like to say, “Expect the best, but prepare for the worst.”  Before you make that phone call, ask yourself, “What is the best thing that could happen here?”  Try to be realistic.  Maybe she will respond to what you say and want to go out with you.  Maybe she will respond to what you say, and only like you as a friend.  Or, looking at the worst that could happen, maybe when you tell her how you feel, she will tell you she is not interested in you in return.  Then, you will have to look at her in 4 classes knowing she said that to you!

What is most important here is what you will tell yourself mentally in regards to whatever response you get.  What I advise you NOT to tell yourself if she rejects you is something like, “I must be a loser.”  “I will never find someone like her ever again in my life.”  “I don’t know how I can live without her.”  I would also avoid listening to any songs that reinforce these kind of negative messages.  Instead, create some counter-messages that are more affirming.  If she is not interested in you, tell yourself, “I trust in the Divine to know who is really suited for me, and who is not.  If she has told me no, the Divine must be telling me someone else, much more suited to me, is waiting.  She simply is not the one for me, despite what my emotions may tell me.”  You can also tell yourself, “I am a great person.  People will recognize this in my life, and if they don’t it is only because they do not really know me, or are too different from me to appreciate my many gifts.”  You might also say, “I will live through this rejection, remain a loving and wise person, and find someone else who will really like me for who I am.” You could even write some of these messages on a note card.  Put them in your notebook, and when you are sitting in a class next to her, look at the note card and read these messages silently to yourself. 

Unfortunately, rejection is a part of life.  If you learn early on how to handle it without lowering your self-esteem, you are already setting the stage for success in your life.  After all, the most successful people are often those who failed more than anyone else, and just kept on learning and growing regardless. Finally, maybe you will be lucky, and this girl will have the wisdom and sensitivity to see what a great young man you are!  At the very least, you and she will become great friends.  At the most, you will learn more about what it is to honestly care for and accept another person.       

From the heart,

Lisa


Is a Fear of Relating Stopping You?

August 6, 2007

Is Your Fear of Relating Stopping You?

It’s a strange, but increasingly common, phenomena happening with both married and single people.  It’s called “commitment-phobia” and it can ruin even the best of relationships.  What causes it?  How can you prevent it?  How can even married people suffer from it?  These tips will help you sort it all out.

You’ve heard the stories, or perhaps been through the experience, or having a relationship end that had a great deal of potential or even satisfaction.  For some reason, you, or the person you were with, just couldn’t keep the relationship going so it could continue to grow in a healthy way.  So, one or both of you ran away.  Maybe someone left the relationship completely.  Or maybe someone stayed but kept the distance through affairs, work, television, or a variety of other methods.  Whatever the reason, one of both of you demonstrated a lack of commitment towards making sure the investment of time and energy into your relationship paid off.  In the 90’s a phrase was coined to describe this phenomena.  It was called “commitment-phobia” and ironically even people who have been married 50 years or more can suffer from it.  How can this be?

First, views towards commitment and relationships are changing.  Since the cultural revolution of the 1960’s marriage was no longer seen as the main acceptable choice for adults.  Prior to the ‘60’e, those who were not married were shunned by society.  Having children out of wedlock, remaining single into the 30’s and beyond, ending a marriage in divorce were all taboo and a sign that one had failed in life.  This made marriage the safest route towards personal contentment even if the marriage was far less than you may have hoped for.  Because of this people remained committed to the institution of marriage even if they were not totally satisfied with the person they were with.  Getting divorced or being single was a far worse alternative than marriage, so people stayed married.  But if they were unhappy they often learned to run from through distancing techniques like affairs, being work-a-holics, and other means of avoiding each other.   

Second, since the 60’s many of these societal stigmas have been removed.  Men and women discovered other options to marriage like remaining single or going through a series of short-term serial relationships.  Increasingly people wanted to be in relationships for personal satisfaction.  If the relationship started to not feel good, people were more inclined to exit the relationship, instead of work to improve it.  Typically the end happened right when the infatuation, romance, and fantasy stages of the relationship wore off and the inevitable difficulties of any real relationship emerged.  Unwilling to do what was required to help the relationship last, no matter how many rewarding elements existed once the surface romance stage wore out, the lessons of real relating were never learned.  Thus “commitment-phobia” was born.  

Third, because of these recent societal changes a new definition of commitment is starting to emerge. It is no longer enough to be committed to the institution of marriage or to one’s own personal happiness.  Instead, in her book The Truth About Love, Pat Love states that a commitment in our time means both individuals commit to the well-being and long term satisfaction of the relationship itself.  This requires that both parties value what a loving, conscious and connected relationship can bring them.  They are realistic knowing their relationship will have cycles when they feel more and less connected to each other.  When feeling less connected each member is committed to doing what it takes to deepen communication, trust, passion, and intimacy.  The relationship is a priority over all other priorities.  They still remain individuals seeking their own happiness, but that happiness is grounded in the well-being of the relationship as well.  Both must be adjusted to the other.  

Until this shift occurs commitment phobia is likely to remain because it is  based in a fear of the institution of marriage or in the loss of personal freedom and satisfaction in any relationship.  No relationship can survive and be satisfying under these conditions.  Only when both parties view committed relationships as a source of satisfaction because they help us improve our capacity to relate to another human being on a deep level will commitment-phobia end.  Then, each individual will invest in learning what it takes to have a lasting love between them.  May you find this in your own life as well.

To your success!

Dr. Lisa Love


Afraid to Love

August 1, 2007

Afraid to Love

Recently I’ve fallen for a man, but am afraid I will get wounded again as I have in the past.  How do I know this is really love?   

Tammy
Fargo, ND


Dear Tammy,

As you may know there a variety of loving styles ranging from the passion and desire lovers feel, to the tender protective nature a parent experiences with a child, to the supportive and accepting atmosphere that friends give to one another, to the gratitude and appreciation a child has for a mother and father.  And, last but not least, there is the mystical rapture and communion some of us feel in relation to spirit, God, or the divine. 

So, there it is, the basic styles of love in our lives.  It sounds simple, but you, like I, know that often times it isn’t.  Because what we call love can also be filled with episodes of heartbreak, rejection, fear, distance, anger, and more.  How can this be?  The answer is simple, because these reactions are basically indicators of where we are at in the spectrum of love in our lives.  They tell us, whether what we need in any moment is to love or to be loved. 

First of all, each of us needs, and in many respects deserves love in our lives.  It is what helps us thrive and grow as a child, what gives us a measure of comfort, stability, and joy, so that we move out into life trusting others, and trusting ourselves to make our way through the tangles and thorns that life can be full of in a successful, loving, and undamaged way.  When we don’t get this, and many people don’t, it creates areas of uncertainty, vulnerability, and contradictory behaviors that can cause us to retreat in the face of love, even if it is real.  So, when fear, distance, and anger come up, it is usually because we dip back in time to an experience where we needed love and felt we didn’t get it. 

Now this is important, because as children we usually don’t have very good skills for coping with this.  But as adults we have other tools we can access.  The main tool is to recognize what’s happening, that we are retreating to a place in our lives and in ourselves where we need love.  And the best thing there is to stay aware of this process, and to find a way to sit with ourselves, to be with our thoughts and feelings in a safe, open, accepting, and loving place and space.  This is what I encourage you to do at this time.  After you fill your own cup with love, you will be in a better place to evaluate this situation.

Regards,

Lisa