The Definitive Meaning of Romantic Love
Written By: Mark Smith
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In our culture romantic love is seen many times like so sort of cosmic mystery - something that is so complicated that very few people ever truly understand it. Love seems to be especially mysterious to the clients I work with you have just recently been flattened by a marriage that blew up and by my single clients who are so bruised from past relationships that they go through life fearful of ever risking love again. So, I have great news. I'm going to definitively clear up the mystery by giving you THE most accurate definition of love that you have ever heard! I promise you that I will deliver on this rather grandiose sounding claim.
The definitive meaning of romantic love is #1 not at all what the vast majority of people think it is, #2 sounds extremely negative but it actually isn't negative at all and #3 is almost impossible to argue against if you come at the material with an open mind.
We all get wounded in our childhood. Don't give me that 'I had a wonderful childhood' malarkey because that is true for only a very few people. You might have had some good times but if you are honest you will admit that at least one if not both of your parents had more than their fair share of issues and they did hurt you by things that they did or things that they didn't do. Were both parents really there for you? Did either of them have an addiction or rage or was one of them overly controlling? Did they give you a voice? Did you have deep conversations with your parents?
Thankfully kids are blessed with powerful defense mechanisms that help us to cope and that help us to survive our childhoods with the least amount of felt pain. But here is the thing - nature heals Itself. If I were to cut my finger nature would heal that cut in about a week. Nature or God, if you prefer, would like to heal the deep wounds in our souls but can not because as young people we are all walled off like Fort Knox. So nature created a very wonderful and a very wicked device called love and marriage for the very purpose of ripping down our emotional defenses and exposing our tender inner wounds. Once our defenses are down we can know and connect with ourselves. We have an opportunity to heal. So, THE PURPOSE AND MEANING OF LOVE IS TO HURT YOU AND RIP YOUR GUTS OUT AND MAKE YOU MISERABLE SO THAT YOU ARE FORCED TO TAKE A LONG HARD LOOK AT THE DYSFUNCTIONAL STUFF AT THE ROOT OF YOUR INEFFECTIVE MANNER OF LOVING AND BEING LOVED. Has this not been your experience? Haven't the partners you have loved the most also hurt you the most? We are only attracted to people who are a cleverly hidden version of the people who hurt us the most in our childhoods. I know that sucks but it is the truth.
Take a piece of paper and write the words Dad, Mom, Spouse #1 and Spouse #2 across the top. Then make an objective list of each person's characteristics and how they have treated you. Now compare Dad and Mom with the Spouses. Do you see it? Study your lists. This is what romantic love is to you. The only people we are really attracted to are hidden versions of our parents' most hurtful and damaging qualities. No wonder people have marital issues, huh? Love isn't about the failures of the other person. It is about who we picked and why we picked them. Your rotten former spouse is actually your teacher. They were a gift to to teach you and to help you to heal. It is all good.
For you single people this has important implications. If you really dig someone they are the right person for you but they are also extremely dangerous. Go slow. Open your eyes. Risk love, but know that they are a version of your parents' worst qualities. Therapy should happen during almost all of the three plus years of courtship. Coming to therapy after a marriage is all but destroyed isn't the best time to build something healthy.
If you are married and you really get this it will change everything for you. You now know that you were never victimized by your spouse. There are no bad guys. It was all set up by you and nature for your own growth and healing. If you both do the work of healing the freshly exposed childhood wounds then you can rebuild your marriage into something more fulfilling than you have ever had before. If you are divorced you can now let go of all bitterness and begin the trust love again. No one had the power to hurt you without your full cooperation. Love is all good all the time. Just keep your eyes open and take responsibility for your own stuff.
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