My boyfriend is mean to me sometimes but I love him anyway—it shows how good I am.
My girlfriend stays with me even when I’m mean—it proves I’m no good and that feels right to me. Other guys think my wife’s sexy—it shows I‘m man enough to handle a sexy woman. Everyone admires my husband, and I’m lucky to be with him—when I’m with him, I feel like I matter in the world.
What all these relationships have in common is that the lover is being used as a prop. But I want a lover. I hate being alone, and I think I know what I need to be happy. I think I know what role I must play. I grab the partner who helps me create the role that feels right.
And that is exactly the problem. The partner is being used for my ego’s purposes. It is exploitation, and it always destroys love.
When you and your lover are using each other, deep love, holy love is impossible.
Why do I really want a lover? It’s fine to want a life companion. But until I know how I might use someone else, I am doomed to fail at love.
Tradition does not agree with this. Many—probably most—traditional marriages are based on centuries-old values that are ugly.
Martyrdom has always been a favorite. Think of the sweet grandpa married to the cold, judging grandma. “But he never complained,” we sigh happily. And that’s good? Maybe Grandpa couldn’t get a divorce years ago, but wouldn’t it have been kinder if both of them had found a life that nurtured them?
Trophy partners are another centuries-old favorite. The stereotypical meaning of “trophy wife” is the old geezer married to a buxom young wife. But the deeper meaning of this pattern is a partner who marries someone as a status symbol, regardless of what the relationship is like inside. Think of the successful doctor, businessman or politician with the faithful but lonely wife at home. “She and her children were always comfortable,” we sigh happily. But she was using him for security and status, and he gave up intimacy for his career. He was gone all the time and she got her emotional fix from her children; there was no real partnership. He was lonely, and so was she. It’s a traditional pattern but an unhappy one.
Today we have the luxurious freedom to choose our partners freely. But it’s really hard to know how to do it. Millions of us screw it up again and again.
In her book A Return to Love, author Marianne Williamson says you can tell you’re ready for your greatest love when you’re no longer interested in what your lover can do for you. You’re just interested in your lover, period.
Here are three steps that lead to deep and lasting love:
1. I have to do what it takes to know myself and heal myself so that I don’t need props any more.
These are my emotional sit-ups. They’re not fun, but they have to be done. I just have to get it over with. I need to see my own warts and my fears. Everyone has them, and that’s okay.
I can do this with self-help books, therapy and meditation. I want to know myself as perfectly imperfect.
I’ll have to dig into my childhood and come to see the exquisite child I was. I’ll have to look at my life and come to see my own repeated patterns. I’ll have to meditate and come to see how I play out mistaken and hurtful thoughts in my head.
I’ll have to do these things until I know in my deepest core that the only thing I deserve is love.
2. I have to open to possibilities I have never before imagined.
Whatever I thought I needed in a lover is obviously wrong because it has not worked. My old ideas were based on faulty beliefs. My images of love came from old traditions, from glossy, fake media and from what I used to need as an unhealthy person.
What are the possibilities I never even imagined? Maybe I don’t really want to be married at all. That’s okay. Maybe height and career and wrinkles don’t mean anything. Maybe dozens of sex positions really matters to me…or doesn’t matter at all. Maybe all I want is one person who supports and believes in me.
3. I have to be love—which means loving others and loving myself.
I just am who I am. My imperfection is perfect. I am whole right now, exactly as I am. In my growth, I have discovered that I am a deeply kind person. I want everyone in the world to have love and kindness.
This is my turning point because everyone includes me. I deserve all love and kindness.
That means giving up relationships where my friend or lover hurts me. It means standing on my own feet emotionally. I tell myself I am good so no one else has to be a prop for my goodness. I carry my own emotional weight. I understand and manage my own patterns, and my lover doesn’t have to be my therapist.
Who will come towards me as a partner, as a spiritual best friend who only wants the very best for me? I am ready to be one of two strong partners. I am ready to receive the love I deserve, and I am ready to give my partner the support and nurturing he or she deserves.
I am ready to be love in action… and that includes towards myself.
My arms open. I reach out to the whole world with kindness. And someone walks toward me in love.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Jean Gendreau
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Leo Hidalgo/Flickr