For a love relationship to work, partners need to be able to connect hearts and minds with each other.
That's easy when we first meet. Physical attraction can bring you together, and hold you together for a while even if there is not much else in common. But after a while, the relationship will fail unless there is more.
Yet even when there is much in common relationships can faulter. This is because the partners haven't learned key Skills of Loving that bring people closer together and build trust to create a love relationship.
I believe these skills can be learned and developed into a life
long process of growing love. This is the basis of my work as a
psychotherapist, meditation teacher and retreat leader.
The biggest obstacle to loving is the idea that love is a feeling. Love may contain feelings, but it is much, much more. If we rely totally on our feelings of "being in love" our relationships will be in trouble because feelings change moment to moment and we can find ourselves falling out of a love relationship as quickly as we fell into it.
Genuine love is not so weak and out of control as that. It is much more than a feeling. Our culture may emphasize the idea that love is a feeling--all those pop songs and TV shows and movies--but it is much more. It may begin as a feeling, but can grow and grow, if we tend to it, nurture it, choose it.
True love is a choice, an intention. An act of will: I choose and will love this person.
Love is a moment by moment act that involves our senses, our feelings, our thoughts and our actions.
I've explored two skills of loving involving the senses here. (All these "Skills of Loving" were formulated by Jerry Jud who created retreats to help people love more deeply. I incorporate these skills in all my work.)
Let's focus on the Skill of Loving that supports our mental and emotional love relationship the most:
Honoring of Feelings and Ideas: I recognize your right to think and feel as you do.
I'll take a moment to "unpack" this skill so that you can bring it right into your life and relationships.
Many of us learned to close down our feelings and brains when we were young because our feelings and thoughts were not encouraged or acceptable. It's possible to become a "perfect little boy" or girl and lose our self.
Now may be time to find ourselves again and come fully alive.
When I was a child, for example, many of my feelings were not honored--they were criticized, ridiculed and banned! My grief, in the form of tears and crying, was not acceptable to my parents. I was repeatedly told "boys don't cry!" and "don't be a cry baby!"
I learned to suppress my tears and hide my grief. Eventually my grief and sadness went so far underground it was even hidden from me. As I got older I felt empty and cut off from feelings and cut off from others. I was in a desert.
To learn more about grief go to my Grief Page. There were other messages I received as a boy that shaped me. I had a lot of energy and often my joy was not accepted..."Children should be seen and not heard" was one of my father's expressions. I learned to suppress my enthusiasm, my natural joy of living.
Others are silenced by "Don't raise your voice at me!" and other expressions. What about you?...What messages did you hear?
I've worked with many people, particularly women, who learned to deny their anger when they were young as their anger was not acceptable in the family system. "Don't you talk to me like that!" is a warning some of us learned to heed because it was backed up by physical and or psychological punishment. Only certain people could have anger, and it often wasn't us...that is until we were in control!
Many of us are so cut off from our anger that we don't even realize we are carrying it around! We deny it even to ourselves until we one day wake up.
To learn more about anger go to this Anger Page.
When I finally discovered Breaking Free of the Old Story Retreats (sometimes called "Shalom Retreats"), I did my work of reclaiming myself and began to feel again. I came alive in the present moment again. I discovered how to trust in a love relationship as I trusted in myself. And if you've stuffed a lot of feelings down, or are caught up in big feelings that take you over, so can you!
Having Goodwill: I will you good and not evil. I care about you.
This Skill of Loving includes the idea mentioned above that love is much more than a feeling, it is a choice. In the heat of the moment it can be easy to wish ill of our partner and even to try to score points by pointing out their weaknesses.
When we know someone intimately we know how to rile them up and push their buttons. We know how to escalate the war of words.
And sometimes we do!
This skill of loving is to do just the opposite. It is to pause, take a deep breath perhaps, and wish our partner good will.
Having Goodwill is an essential support to love, it holds love steady, strengthens it and grounds it in daily action.
Practicing good will actually breaks down the old patterning that is destructive to relationships of all kinds. It creates love.
There is so much ill will in the world...criticism, contempt, projections of hostility. Wishing goodwill, and actually choosing goodwill over ill will is not easy, but it can change the course of your life. You can override the old patterns, and create new patterns based on conscious choice, on goodwill.
And that is the power of true love.
And when you choose goodwill, good feelings often follow. When you choose ill will, bad feelings can linger for a long, long time!
For more information about healing a love
relationship through Skills of Loving, you can reach Jon Terrell through
the form below. He leads retreats and offers couple and individual
counseling sessions in Northampton, Massachusetts (serving the Pioneer
Valley), California, the Catskills and New York City.
Jon Terrell, M.A., L.M.T.
25 Main Street, Suite #342
40 Exchange Place
New York, NY 10005
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