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People unite in love for many reasons.
Usually, the more reasons, the more secure that love is, but the fallacies of human nature didn’t wire us to be secure, they wired us for survival.
Knee-jerk fight-or-flight responses make sure that it takes as little as one reason to break our bond.
Because while forever love is poetry, life, on the other hand, tends to be bad journalism.
Love is shifting—anything that is alive is shifting—so it seems unfathomable that we sometimes degrade our own love, stifling it with our own hands by not giving enough care, compassion, or patience, and letting it bite the dust as we flee to the next romance, because as one is gone, another will come.
So we let our love be fleeting, as we flee through the lives of others, who are fleeing through the lives of more. We leave shadow after shadow and wonder why ghosting has become commonplace.
Has our love become ephemeral because our culture has lost permanence?
Or have we become our own enemy, making holes for love to slip away when we should be building pillars instead?
Because most of my encounters with romance have been in darker shades, I can tell you that cycles of pain only generate a more shallow and hollow existence. Cycles of pain only carve out a bigger void, and love cannot grow from emptiness.
To love and live in vitality, we must first heal our wounds with light—and as that light illuminates us with a newfound sense of self-recognition, we surrender to the unknown with full vulnerability. To love and live in vitality, I’ve discovered that there are five essential pillars that form the cornerstones of a rewarding and lasting love. Few of us have ever experienced it, but we are all deserving and worthy of it.
Love, by its nature, is about human beings seeking attachment. Love requires attachment. But Buddhist philosophy teaches us that attachment creates suffering, so the finer print here is that we must attach to the right things…because no one wants to be involved with someone detached. Do you truly want to be in a detached relationship?
Taking love advice from monks might not be the smartest thing. So perhaps we could attach ourselves—to something that strengthens us, and strengthens the foundations of our relationships.
Here are five good things to attach to—may this be of benefit:
I use “safety” instead of “trust” because safety resides in a deeper, more vulnerable, more attached, and more intimate place within us.
The two feelings are not mutually exclusive, but there are two words instead of one to distinguish these emotions, and there are reasons why. Trust is opening the door of love, in a new place where we’ve never spent the night—maybe we keep a nightlight on, maybe we limit our time to just one night, maybe we bring a few things that give us comfort—whereas safety is when we can be in that pitch black room with just our partner, for an indefinite amount of time, knowing that no matter what happens, our partner has our back.
Safety gives us a sense of home, a place of longing, belonging, unconditional acceptance, and return.
Love is kind, but love is aggressive, too. Where the possibilities of violence and violation exist, our need for safety also increases. Some theorists believe that humans are fundamentally predatory, and under the spell of romance, we often become quite territorial, because love is a pursuit, one where we long for attachment, and one where we search for what’s missing from our core, beyond ourselves.
What we need in times of distress, just as what we needed when we were infants, is to be soothed. But somewhere along the path of growing up, we traded in the explicitly simple expression of needing safety with cold independence, rejection of emotions, and pride.
More than sex, our dreams reveal our most intimate thoughts.
There is a psychology to love, and this is where it resides—in the architecture of our dreams. Because even more vulnerable than exposing who we are is exposing what our innermost thoughts are. As with our dreams, we share a different texture and construct of our life—what we could be, the unwritten, the brave, the imagined, the future with all its possibilities, and the desire to co-write it with our partner.
Sharing our dreams is an expression of inclusion, of trust, of asking that our partner be along for the adventure, and promising to carry one another as we weather all the potential rewards and risks together. Sharing our dreams is an invitation to our partner to transform with us, as we weave together a richer fabric of our love, with every phase of who we are and who we could become.
Sex can be both powerful and problematic, because sex can be meaningful, dangerous, disorienting, and destablizing all at once, in all directions. As any casual partner will remind us, it doesn’t always point us toward love, but love without sex is a crippled romance, or a platonic friendship. Corporeal passion gives wings to love, and a love that lasts is a love that expands, not a love that limits.
4. Compassionate Communication
Love is as elusive and illusory as communications allow or disallow it to be, through frequency and quality.
Just as how corporeal passion intensifies love, cerebral passion enriches love with a further dimension, because we are thinking beings, and language (in all forms) as an expression is so very satisfying.
Shakespeare wrote sonnets that, to this very day, are studied and repeated in the name of love, but communications need not be so lofty. We are immune to a lot when we are in love with our head in the clouds. But when we are injured, when the high eventually crashes—because anything that peaks will eventually fall—and when we are hurting, our communication disintegrates into anger, and oftentimes violence. Communication void of compassion leaves at least one of us feeling dismissed, devalued, judged, and sometimes even dehumanized.
Be the gracious loser and let your partner win; be the first to ask for forgiveness, and the first to say sorry. And if your partner threatens to leave, ask to be taken with. “Leave? Go ahead! Pack your bags! Then take me with you!”—and see how the pain dissolves.
My life partner and I have experienced fights that escalate and combust so quickly, you’d be sure there’s no turning back. Yet, in the heat of it all, we have often burst into laughter, and it’s those moments that betray our anger with a simple confirmation that we both want and are dying for the same things.
5. Honor, Respect, and Idealization
Honor builds love; a lack of respect punches holes where love will exit.
Love affects us across the spectrum, from primal to higher realms of our being, and since human nature has predetermined an arc forecasting the degradation of love, to prevent its descent into chaos, we must uphold the safeguards of mutual honor and respect, as they co-exist with the idealization of love.
Idealization is what protects love from being degraded. The trinity of honor, respect, and idealization forms a composite layer of protection of love that is stronger than any of the elements alone. Love is complex because human beings are complex, so the safeguarding of our love needs to be a more complex construct than what has the potential to degrade it.
To honor our partner means that they are our number one, in the most absolute terms. Since lasting love is an inside job, honor also means to clear interference and influence from outside noise, so that there are only two voices in the relationship, as external noise both contaminates and adulterates the relationship, creating space for a third person, regardless of physical presence.
Honor esteems love in many ways, as it creates a safe place where exclusivity resides. As Princess Diana painfully described, there had always been three in her marriage, and that made their love doomed from the get-go. In love, and especially from our romantic partners, we each deserve to be listened to, as we are, with no interference that diminishes or belittles who we are and what we feel.
When I was in acting school, we were each given a sheet full of hundreds of objectives to play through a scene, and an accompanying sheet of tactics to arrive at our objectives, whatever they may be. Each combination of objectives created their own layer of subtext that made the same dry script infinitely interesting, and infinitely distinct; the same dialogue started to mean different things, coloured in different tones, and carried out in different contexts.
Yet, the ultimate and universal objective where we could always locate a compelling scene was to love and be loved.
Consequently, distilled to one line, relationships break down when we haven’t been loving or loved enough.
The attack, deprivation, corruption, or collapse of any one of the above pillars will no doubt unsettle us, as it will threaten and degrade a human experience that is inherently complex and risky. But the defense of them, the building and tending of these pillars, will strengthen and anchor our love to grounds deeper and more fulfilling than we’ve ever experienced before.