Falling In and Out of Love

In the words of the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke it appears that ‘for one human being to love another is the most difficult of all tasks’, and this is true for parents and children, friend and friend, lover and lover and husband and wife. For the purposes of Valentine’s Day I am going to focus on adult relationships. In the USA, 60 per cent of marriages breakdown and, poignantly and significantly, 80 per cent of second marriages end unhappily. Those statistics do not take into account the high percentage of intact unhappy marriages. It is a real conundrum that if, on the one hand, love is the greatest power on earth – the force that sustains human life – how, on the other hand, is it that many relationships are a near-certain prescription for unbelievable pain and emotional devastation?

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Baby Speak

Infants are born with hopes and expectations. Their need to be loved, nurtured and safe are innate and they can intuitively sense when their essential needs for love and security are being met or not being met. While these set of expectations lie at an unconscious level, the baby hopes her cries will be heard, that she will be fed when hungry, allowed sleep when needed, that her gaze will be lovingly returned and smiles reciprocated.

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Tough Unconditional Loving of Children

There is a notion I frequently encounter that to unconditionally love your children means letting them get away with murder! Actually, the opposite is the truth – to not unconditionally love children either means you let them get away with murder or you ‘murder’ (in the metaphorical sense of the word) them in order to keep them in line. To unconditionally love children automatically leads parents to model and guide their children step-by-step to taking responsibility for self and for all their actions. The difference between the parents who are unconditional and those who are conditional is the way they carry out their parenting responsibility to rear children to become separate and independent. 

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Please Hear What I’m Not Saying

The greatest gift you can give to another is an unconditional acceptance of his or her unique presence. Another wonderful gift that brings hope is to hear what a person is not saying or what a person is not doing. The reality is that we all wear masks – masks that hide the truth of our individuality and of the deep hurts that we have experienced. The number of masks that we create depends on the frequency, duration, and intensity of the hurts experienced. Masks are defensive creations against having to re-experience the traumas of emotional abandonment, sexual violation, of ‘not being good enough’, ‘of having to prove myself all of the time’, of living under a tyranny of ‘shoulds’, ‘have tos’, of ‘having to do everything perfectly.’

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Relationships are Hard Work

Experts frequently say and everyone goes along with it that relationships are hard work. That is certainly true when two people who are insecure, fearful, defensive come into contact. However, even though it appears that it is the relationship between a couple – and all relationships are couple relationships – whether that be lover with lover, parent with child, employer with employee, teacher with student – is what is hard work but the harder work within each individual is what needs to be done. The reality is that the difficulties in relationships mirror more serious emotional issues within each person and unless that inner turmoil is addressed the relationship will continue to be troubled. Whenever you find yourself working hard to resolve anything in your relationships – meanness, hostility, rigidity, irritation, disagreements, aggression, passivity – your work would be better placed within. When you work at resolving the conflict between you, you won’t be relating, you will be negotiating. What needs to be realised is that relationships that are not hard work exist in the experience of wholeness within. When you are at peace with yourself you are at peace with another; when you belong to self you bring that belonging to another, when you inhabit your own individuality you embrace the individuality of another; when you experience a deep inner solidity you don’t have to look for, demand or negotiate change in the other person. Relationships are best held by each person taking responsibility for self and his or her own actions. Once individuals commit to deepening their consciousness of their own unique being; their wholeness, their innate goodness, their power beyond measure to be responsible for their own lives, their individuality, relationships automatically improve, because they are sending new energy along the invisible strand that connects us all – unconditional love.

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