I know it may not be popular to say, but real love can be terrifying.
When I say real love, I mean the kind that shakes you to your bones. I mean the kind of love that causes the heavens to pause in wonder.
We know it when we see it.
It’s the couple that has been married for 25 years but still light up when they see each other at the end of the day. It’s the new couple whose delight in each other is palpable from across the room. It’s the love that causes the heart to soar, the pulse to race and the stomach to tighten. It’s not lust—it’s far deeper. It’s the person who has reached in and touched your soul.
This kind of love is the one that stirs the deepest, wildest nature of our soul. It makes us want to leap over mountains, dance in the streets and shout from the rooftops. It’s that good.
As with all things, there is a shadow side to this type of love.
Along with stirring up our dormant desires, it also brings up our hidden pain and fears. If our psyche is a pond, a new love relationship is a rock tossed into the middle. Whatever rises from the bottom of what was a calm surface now demands attention.
This is why some people run from love when it appears. They are terrified of what is stirred up when they start to feel deeply for another person.
They want to believe in the illusions they have created or bought into, and the closeness of another person shakes their convictions. Love brings to the surface our fears of endings, of being hurt, of being rejected and of being exposed, and often people will run from a relationship right when it starts to challenge them.
They give into the terror, but in order to truly become that which we are meant to be, we must face the terror.
Clarissa Pinkola Estes, in her book, Women Who Run With the Wolves, describes it like this:
“But in love, everything becomes picked apart, everything…What dies? Illusion dies, expectations die, greed for having it all, for wanting to have it all beautiful only, all this dies.”
Real love challenges us to look at ourselves in a new light. What do we really want? What does our soul crave? How are we living, and is that who we choose to be?
After the initial blaze of romance dims and we are faced with another person who is just as flawed as we are, we may think, “Maybe I can do better.” Estes goes on to say that this is,
“…a real opportunity to show courage and know love. To love means to stay with. It means to emerge from a fantasy world into a world where sustainable love is possible, face to face, bones to bones, a love of devotion.”
Real love is not all glitter, rainbows and sunshine days. It’s sitting in the hospital by your husband’s side when he has heart surgery. It’s holding your wife tenderly as she labors hard with the birth of your child. It’s long nights up with a sick toddler and trudging into work the next day. It’s doing life together and allowing the love of each other to bind up past wounds. It’s allowing space for what is present to emerge.
This sort of love is not what we see in romantic comedies. That is not to say it is hard, or that it should be difficult. But it will be terrifying, because it will challenge us to become a deeper, more soulful person. It will require us to trust another person, to leap out in faith, to be willing to risk. It will require us to allow our hearts to break wide open—and to allow ourselves to surrender.
If you’re in this place, the best thing you can do is not to run away.
You’re not running from love or the person; you’re running from what is being stirred within your soul.
You may have to dig deep into your courage, but plug your nose and take the plunge. Let love transform you.
Author: Lisa Vallejos, PhD
Editor: Toby Israel
Image: tacit requiem/Flickr