(What’s) Love Actually?

Love is the number one most important subject when it comes to relationships. And it is one subject that I am dedicated to like no other. I see first hand how much pain its misinterpretation causes. There is so much misconception of what true love in intimate relationships actually means.

As humans we have a fundamental need for love and belonging. Whether that is with our parents, siblings, friends, colleagues. We will naturally form connections to belong.

But in order to do so, we have to allow a certain level of vulnerability in order to feel accepted as who we are. And revealing yourself with your doubts, your fears and pains, taking down your guard is anything but easy. It challenges some of our deepest fears and takes in fact a lot of courage. We may be judged, rejected or not accepted. Especially when it comes to our intimate relationships.

We have all experienced a certain degree of heartache in the past, some of us have even had traumatic experiences. Yet true love requires vulnerability for the other to also reveal their true self to connect on a deep emotional level. Each fully seeing the other. With the awareness that that love may end or change some day.It seems an insane and contradictory concept. And this is exactly why it challenges us so deeply.

“It seems an insane and contradictory concept.”

I have had many clients that wish for nothing more than finding love, yet they self-sabotage by setting the list of expectations to an unachievable level or they end the relationship before it even started out of fear of losing control and potentially getting hurt. Others pushing their partners away with a constant need for reassurance. Relationship anxiety is a very common problem leaving people caught between the desire for love and the fear of getting hurt again.

The thing with real love is you either take the frightening plunge into the somewhat unknown or it will forever remain nothing but a deep longing. There are all sorts of relationships that are based on social expectations, the inherent need to have someone to validate you, financial security, etc. The desire to really love and belong however lingers below the surface. When suppressed for a long time it will surface as unhappiness, infidelity, rejection, depression, substance abuse, physical symptoms. True love is based on knowing and showing yourself. In order to sustain in a relationship based on external factors, you have to put on an act and will set yourself up for more pain stretched over time than vulnerability would ever cost you.

And however much pain you have experienced in the past, it is vulnerability and authenticity that actually give you the chance of detecting early on whether you and the other person are suitable for each other. Showing up as yourself, sticking to your values, desires, honoring your boundaries and listening to your inner voice gives you the chance to choose your potential partner consciously and carefully. Of course not revealing your deepest secrets all at once. But by noticing your feelings bit by bit. Do you feel relaxed and comfortable in their presence? Do your conversations flow. Do they listen with interest and are you interested in what they are saying? Does it feel effortless to be yourself around them. Or do you feel discomfort, stress, alertness or the need to pretend ?

“… it is vulnerability and authenticity that actually give you the chance of detecting early on whether you and the other person are suitable for each other.”

Do you share lots of values, desires and interests? Do they accept or cross your boundaries? When you feel at ease being yourself around them , feel an emotional connection and a physical attraction you can slowly reveal more, inviting the other to reveal more of themselves. When you feel discomfort, dislike, are being rushed, see red flags, stay true to yourself and let go. Don’t let physical attraction, financial success or the urge to find someone overwrite your instinct, don’t expect any present dislikes to change over time. Go with what is. The dating phase is not a time for compromise. Don’t get me wrong. It is not about finding perfection either. It is about consciously choosing a harmonious bond as a foundation for mutual growth. And while it may sound very theoretical and unromantic it is quite the opposite. But in order to be able to make a conscious decision we first need to understand who we are with our stories, our positive and our negative sides. Knowing and sticking to our values, our boundaries and desires. If we hold those back, we don’t only deny the other person the opportunity to make a conscious choice but we also betray ourselves. So authenticity and vulnerability are both acts of respect and self-love.

But What Is True Love

  Love comes on a spectrum and has different intensities. The love we feel for our friends certainly feels different than the love we feel for our children. Hence there are so many different words used for different aspects of love in Sanskrit or Greek. There are different ways of expressing and receiving it. True love is given in free will and seeks only the best for the other while respecting oneself. It is a profound connection that encompasses both affection and a genuine desire for the wellbeing of the other person. Love is free. It does not seek power, control or dominance. It doesn’t abuse, possess or suppress. It doesn’t exploit or diminish the well-being of the other and it isn’t tied to conditions. When you understand love you will understand what it isn’t.   When I ask clients why they stayed in their toxic relationship for so long they often reply because they „were in love“. It is a hard concept to understand then that it most definitely wasn’t. Toxic relationships are based on a false perception of love. They are based on an unconscious inner lack, manipulation, control and mutual exploitation. Often rooted in a deep inner fear of unworthiness and vulnerability. Love can’t draw from an empty cup however. It requires self-love and self-acceptance to be able to love another.   Of course even a relationship based on true love requires commitment and effort to grow, keeping the communication lines open throughout time and change. This way you allow each other to connect deeper and grow a bond creating a sense of safety that isn’t possible otherwise. As opposed to settling for less out of fear, need, inner or external pressure of any kind. Allow the dating phase to be a natural selection process, effortlessly finding what aligns with you and walking away from what doesn’t. If you notice fear of loss, the need to maintain in control, the need to hold back, put on an act and to keep up your guard up, get professional guidance.   Vulnerability isn’t actually insane after all. It holds the key to the only path aligning with your true self while experiencing one of the most beautiful feelings and allowing the deepest connection. You can learn how to open up yourself to love even after painful experiences. But it takes knowing and trusting yourself, being aware of the root of your fear, navigating it, showing yourself as you are and accepting that love is a transient feeling, given in free will, a loan that may change over time or be reclaimed. And that exactly its freedom makes it the ultimate feeling

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