How To “Mindfully” Approach Romantic Relationships – Love as a Bandage
Images like the one above provide us with a somewhat erotic and yet sentimental depiction of love and romance that represents a fairly ubiquitous concept of what most of us have been taught to dream of having someday – a blissful relationship with someone we can grow old with. These are natural inclinations and aspirations of the human heart. After all, who doesn’t love the mouthwatering experience of two entangled bodies rolling around in bed sheets and the exhilarating and highly addictive “biochemical experience” of falling in LOVE?
Those who know me know that I routinely describe the experience of “falling in love” as a socially acceptable form of insanity, or more specifically – Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder; and it is, in virtually every way we look at it. Though we are completely bowled over by the sudden onset of these unexplainable and overwhelming emotions drawing us to this particular person, who we see as a gift from the heavens, this infatuation/obsession emerges from, taps into, and nurtures our vulnerable, timid, and frightened inner child that is always looking for security. It’s a desire that emerges from an emptiness and lack of security we feel that was bore out in us in early childhood.
Research psychologists and clinical-behavioral therapists routinely reflect upon and write abstracts about the disparity that exists between our human logic and emotions. The two are completely incongruent, never occupying the same space in our mind at the same time. This gap is never more painfully obvious than when we “fall in love.” The whole experience is soooooo scrumptious and yet bordering on complete delirium in every way.
If we could stand outside ourselves and observe ourselves objectively, we’d witness how we obsess over this person we only recently met and are now smitten with. We can’t wait to see them again, laugh with them, kiss them, touch them, taste them, have sex with them. They’re the first person we want to receive a text message from every morning and the last voice we want to hear before falling asleep. We love knowing someone is “pining” for us and misses us as much as we miss them. No distance or time that separates us can keep us apart. We will go to extraordinary lengths to be in their presence. We lose sleep, staying up all night just to talk to or be with them. We have boundless energy, we forget to eat, forget to drink, we forget or voluntarily abandon our “to-do” lists entirely. Our priorities are reshuffled and everything on our “to-do” list is now secondary to time spent with our lover. The thought of doing anything with any one else is a negotiation at best, because every decision we make is the one that allows us more time with this person we’ve always dreamt of meeting. We’ve literally “flown the coup!”
When we fall “in” love” we tend to fall “out” of our mind as we trip all over ourselves to be with our romantic partner! We can barely even recognize the person we were before meeting this person that we feel now “completes us.” Indulging in this “biochemical romance” we’re having with another person, as tidal waves of hormones rush through our veins, we will do anything to maintain the ecstasy of it all indefinitely through role playing, and by modeling the observed behavior of our parents, friends, and the expressions of romantic love as depicted in the movies and the lyrical content of songs, to win over our lover. The perilous nature and accompanying risks inherent in repeating these patterns modeled for us, is that it comes with a whole host of predictable behaviors and corresponding outcomes during the relationship. Even more predictable, are the very reactive behaviors and corresponding feelings that are attached to the underbelly of romantic love. These come to the surface when relationships end: feelings of self-hate, jealousy, abandonment, rejection, grieving, depression, anxiety, and fear. But hey, who has time to worry about these when we’re so “in love,” right now?
This scenario doesn’t play out for an awakened individual who has freed themselves from the needless suffering that happens for most following the moratorium and post traumatic demise of a lost romantic relationship. But before you feel sorry for those that don’t suffer this departure from reality, thinking they must have never been in love, we must first understand why it happens to us in the first place and why we find it all exhilarating during the relationship, and soooooooo debilitating after it ends. It says something about a much deeper dimension of ourselves, and is what causes us to seek love from others as a bandage, to cover up our deepest fears and insecurities.
To understand this aspect of ourselves, we need to look at the nature of “falling in love.”
Convinced we’ve found “THE ONE” – that someone that feeds our ego, validates us, and makes us surrender to this bliss – our search is over; we’re ALL IN!!! We see ourselves with this person for the rest of our life and begin plotting the mile markers that will get us there. Talks of marriage, children, having a family, and growing old together are commonplace, and thus, soon the planning begins.
Without even noticing, we’ve now tethered ourselves to this person that we describe as our “soul mate” to anyone who will listen, and import our entire sense of self-worth from them. We’ve now become an unwitting participant in a self-induced, bio-chemical dependence on another person who’s going to help build our own cage. This is because the walls of security we build today, become the walls of our imprisonment tomorrow.
Please understand, what I’m describing is not the “LOVE” that gurus, sages, teachers of the esoteric, and yogic sciences refer to, but rather what the masses have adopted as their concept of romantic love, which is something altogether different, and is anything but loving. What society has adopted conceptually as “love” is something that only appeals to the most superficial aspects of our ego and can actually become a tremendous impediment to developing spiritually and understanding the essence of who and what we are.
Blissfully in love, our lives are now inextricably intertwined with this other person and have become utterly defined by this relationship . . . that is, until they end. When they end, our footing, our falsely bolstered, self-aggrandizing ego and feigned confidence is lost as we spiral downward. This is why so many lovers become enemies after a breakup. With the fantasy we created in our head now collapsing in around us, our ego and our entire sense of self-worth is annihilated and reduced to ashes. We spend days, weeks, even months feeding on the filth of our imagination, and we now vilify the very person who only recently was seen as our ultimate truth, our soul mate, “the ONE.” We ask ourselves, “How did this all go so wrong? How is it, my lover, no longer loves me? What’s wrong with me?” During the time we usually arrive at the conclusion, “I’m not good enough.”
Can you feel the weight of that statement? It’s debilitating…
It’s tragic that we invest so much of our well-being and self-worth into the completely unpredictable choices and thoughts of others, and yet as lovers we do it all the time. The saddest part is how disempowered we become in doing so, because we fail to realize that our pain isn’t caused by our LOVE for the other person, nor is it being caused by the loss of the relationship, but rather because of our “attachment,” codependency, and the destructive internal dialogue we’re having with ourselves. Attachment is the antithesis/the opposite of love.
This is important to understand.
“The only love that exists, is LOVE without attachment.”
A difficult concept for most to understand, because it runs counter to everything we’ve ever had modeled to us. At the level of our fledgling and nescient emotions, what most think of as “love” destroys the essence of everything it projects itself onto. This requires some explaining, because right now my dear reader you’re probably shaking your head, thinking, “love destroys?” That makes no sense…
It’s interesting to note, and may surprise you to know, that the modern word “LOVE” comes from the Sanskrit term, LOBHA which means greed and self-serving. I don’t think of this as coincidental. After all, we never become more greedy than when we fall “in love,” as why try to sequester as much of our lover’s time as we can.
We believe that because we’ve grown so attached to another, this is why we’re so caring towards them. What if I told you we are actually the most uncaring once we become “attached?” Though we believe we care about our lover, (and we do on some level) every choice we make is ultimately selfish and designed to create experiences that provide “US” with a desired feeling . . . in this case, LOVE.
It is not because of our attachment that we have become so caring about the other person. Lacking self-awareness, we don’t see that our caring is only because we believe we’re investing in the other person in a way that will continue to provide us with all the intoxicating feelings we’re currently indulging in with our partner. We want these feeling to last forever, or at least indefinitely. As a result, our caring is nothing more than an elaborate ruse, a means to an end, a transactional exchange, and is completely, utterly conditional. It has been learned by modeling others, and cultivated through positive and negative reinforcement since childhood.
Our caring is entirely contrived, but that’s not to imply that there’s something nefarious or scheming about it. It’s just that we’re not consciously aware of what we’re doing. Guided by entirely sub-conscious patterns of behavior and biological drives, we shower our lover with cards, gifts, flowers, chocolates, love and affection, appeasing them and essentially marketing ourselves as someone that can love them forever. We do this believing that this recently discovered individual, providing all of these invigorating feelings, will continue to do so if we continue to reinforce their behaviors that make us oh so happy. We mirror their loving and romantic gestures thinking we can maintain this infatuation with one another.
This is what I call “emotional bartering” and “transactional love.” Two beggars treating each other like emperors, only to find they’re emotionally bankrupt without the other.
It’s an unspoken contractual agreement and emotional exchange between two people romantically involved and there are severe penalties if either one or the other falls out of compliance. “I’ll love you as long as you love me. Stop loving me? Watch out!!! I will hate you and vilify you, and sadly, pretend that i don’t miss you when in fact, I miss you terribly.”
If you question this outcome, invest yourself in another person, 100%. Hold nothing back! Adorn them with gifts, surprise them, kiss them, love them, be completely intimate with them, and extend to them the freedom to see you whenever they want . . . or not. Give them the freedom to be with whoever they want, whenever they want, go wherever they want, do whatever they want. Then, check yourself. See how much you truly “LOVE” your lover. To what degree can you truly extend “unconditional” love, (a love with no conditions, no expectations, no bartering, no contract, no titles, no agreement, and no commitment) to them? If you can’t do that, you only know Love at the level of the Egoic Mind and codependency. This is what is termed “Eros” love, and although Eros love feels like a bond of love, it’s actually emotional bondage!
Eros love is the intoxicating feelings, the obsessing over another, the butterflies in our stomach, and the romantic fantasies we create about our lover, but is anything but genuine LOVE. Genuine LOVE can only be extended to another person as a product of our own self-actualization, self-awareness, mindfulness, and presence. Self-aware individuals don’t fall “in love” in the first place, because they realize that everything we feel is only a product of the script we choose to write over life, thus determining how we experience every situation we’re in. Eros love, by contrast, is unconscious, impulsive, biological, needy, self-aggrandizing, contrived, and as mentioned before, destroys everything it comes in contact with . . .
Why do I say this?
When we find something or someone that we believe we love, our perceived love for the object or the other person, is often conflated with the idea of how it makes “us” feel, never once realizing that no one can make us feel anything. But because we believe the other person is the source of all these amazing feelings, as opposed to the concept we’ve created of them in our head, we become attached and dependent on this person. Like a heroin junkie hooked up to an IV with their drug of choice, we’ve now tethered ourselves to this person we “can’t live without.” We’re addicted! We cannot fathom what our life would be like without them any more than a junkie can imagine their life without their fix. We want them all to ourself, we want them with us all the time, we want to possess them, we want to “belong” to them, and we want them to “belong” to us. The ultimate expression of this dependency is called “marriage.”
This yearning to secure the love we’re now importing from another person is wrought from a very deep fear and tremendous insecurity about being on our own and being alone in the world. This fear is why we tend to cling to anyone who shows us affection and glob onto any soul that can indefinitely provide us with feelings of self-worth and a false sense of security. But this clinging only impairs and postpones our ability to discover ourselves and love ourselves independent of someone’s constant validation, because beyond the bliss of infatuation, it only reinforces our dependency. Our sense of joy, happiness, self-worth and sense of relevancy, is complete circumstantial and dependent on how our lover feels about us at any given time. Our blissfully loving relationship has now become an exploitative and incestuous relationship, hiding our madness. We leech life from our lover to feel good about ourselves. This is very destructive to our individual growth and theirs. Let me provide an example:
While out on a day hike, you stumble upon a meadow full of beautiful flowers. The intoxicating fragrance and beauty of the flowers compels you to consider them as a centerpiece on your table back home. Smelling the flowers and seeing their profound beauty, you fall in “LOVE” with these flowers!!! Having to have them as your own, you pick the flowers, take them home, and put them in a vase. Within a week to ten days, they die.
Why are the flowers dead? The most common response I receive when positing this question to those I counsel is, “because they were ripped out of the ground?” Well, yes and no. They’re dead because you “LOVED” them. If only you had let the flowers remain rooted, grounded, there in nature, and left them where you found them, in their true “essence,” they would’ve lived all summer long, sharing their beauty and fragrance with so many others who would have come across their path. But, because you “LOVED” them, you had to make them your own, and in doing so, destroyed them.
This is exactly what we do to our lovers and is exactly what love is to the vast majority of humanity. This is ALL learned behavior. We have been taught that if you find someone who makes you happy, “you put a ring on it.” If you’re looking to save money, dog tags, stating “property of . . . [insert name]” is considerably less expensive than diamond rings, but will essentially serve the same purpose.
In doing so, we reduce our lover down to a possession, an object, our drug of choice, that we don’t want anyone taking from us, so we demand – though we ask politely – commitment from them. Once committed we will never see the “essence” of our lover again, but rather see them as ‘something’ that “belongs” to us. We will never know again if our lover is with us, begrudgingly adhering to a commitment they made, or if they’re with us by choice, as we have now removed their “choice” altogether by demanding their commitment.
Once married, our bond of love is now a legal binding contract, an enterprise, a corporation, (albeit, with tax advantages, but still not enough to compel me), and a bondage. And oh how messy divorce is! Where true love exists, commitment and marriage is not only unnecessary, it’s completely unwarranted. Love NEVER destroys one’s freedom, because love is not possessing someone or belonging to someone, it’s simply appreciating the beauty of another one’s spirit with no need to possess or belong to them. It bears no titles, make no demands, has no expectations, no mile markers, and wants for nothing.
Unfortunately, most of the world will never know love on this level. For most, love is framed in the idea of inclusion. In other words, we see something external to us that makes us happy and try to include it as part of our being, part of our day to day experiences. We now see the object of our affection as an extension of us. We develop an attachment, so strong, that we are tortured by the absence of this object (in this case, our lover).
LOVE would never consider “possessing” or “belonging” to someone, because when we possess something, it can no longer been seen as something separate from us, nor can it exist in its natural state as an individual identity, because relationship again, are role playing. We only see a contextualized version of our lover through the lens of what they mean to us.
When we attach ourself to someone else, we’re attaching our identity to something other than “OURSELVES.” We attach ourselves to and identify with another person to create favorable experiences for us . . . We try extracting LIFE out of someone else to keep ourselves going in a positive way, to create a sense of security for ourselves with a certain predictability and continuity to our lives. This is how we lose ourselves and is why we seek “commitment” from others, to make sure that this security is never taken from us.
If we are complete within ourselves, we’re free to give love effortlessly to everyone because there is nothing we seek from another person. There’s nothing we NEED from another person. We have become so complete within ourself, that our existence, our joy, our relevance, self-worth, and happiness is no longer dependent upon anything or anybody. Only then will we be truly wonderful to everyone that comes in contact with us. Otherwise, we are selective about who we’re nice to and who we’re not nice to, because there is always an agenda hidden behind every interaction with others.
So, the way we pursue romantic relationships is not driven by the desire to love someone, it driven entirely by fear. So where did all this fear come from?
The Wounded Child
In early childhood we learn primarily, through positive and negative reinforcement, how to get want we want, which is primarily love, affection, and security. Love, which is the essence of what we are, often becomes a foreign concept to us, because before we can apply any cognitive reasoning to our emotions, we learn very early on, that life is a series of exchanges and compromises. Love is something we receive (positive reinforcement) by pleasing others and something we’re deprived of if we don’t (negative reinforcement). So, love and acceptance become an exchange, something we hope to get from others by appeasing them . . . we learn love is conditional.
When parents berate or abuse their children, few realize that the child doesn’t stop loving them as parents. The child, whose sense of self-worth is defined by the acceptance or the lack thereof that they receive from their parents, stops loving themselves. This is devastating to the emotionally inexperienced child that is trying to navigate their way through childhood, manage complex emotions that are completely foreign to them, and figure out what the rules are in this thing called “LIFE.” In yelling and chastising our children we undermine any sense of security they have in being themselves and erode away at their trust in others. Lacking the ability to love themselves, the child begins, what for most becomes an endless journey, to try and please others in an attempt to receive love and a sense of self-worth from others.
Realizing parents and others can be irrational and unpredictable, this is where the evolution of our ego and personality begins . . .
Our ego is an illusion, a mask, a persona that evolves over the course of a lifetime by comparing ourselves to everyone we’ve ever met. We grow into this mask we wear over our consciousness, the essence of what we are. Though we generally think of “ego” as a bad thing, it’s not. Our ego developed as a product of evolution. It’s a psychological coping mechanism designed to protect us in response to events that as a child scared us and threatened our security. Out of this fear, the need to protect and create security for ourselves, is exactly what pushes us to develop our autonomy and independence.
Our personality is a sophisticated construct and extension of the ego unconsciously developed during our formative years as a child, not only through a series of “wins” we experienced in having our needs met, but also as a way of avoiding and insulating ourselves from painful experiences. Our personality and ego are intimately intertwined.
The mind compartmentalizes and catalogs all of our childhood experiences for life, as either pleasant or painful and in doing so, it employs strategies to help us create a gap between the emotional aspect of our being (our vulnerable inner child) and those painful experiences that were overwhelming, intolerable, or traumatic.
These painful experiences are internalized by the child as “there’s something wrong with me,” but in not wanting to appear weak and vulnerable, we put on our brave face . . . this is our EGO! We venture out into the world burying the pain, the beliefs, and insecurities we cling to, beneath the veil of our persona or personality. These traumatic experiences and the reactions of the people involved in them, say nothing about us and who we are, though they are processed that way. These experiences leave an indelible mark on us in the form of an internal narrative we create about them, which is usually very judgmental and filled with limiting beliefs we have about ourselves. Sub-consciously this creates unhealthy, negative patterns of behaviors that are reactive in nature and work against us as we grow into adulthood.
During our childhood feeling loved, seen, heard, understood, and accepted is paramount to our development. If we are deprived of this, “finding” love and acceptance outside ourselves (since we can’t find it within) becomes our highest aspiration in life.
This is where our endless search to find acceptance in the eyes of a lover begins, but again, this misguided pursuit is rooted in fear, NOT love. The search for love, happiness, joy and relevancy have all become external pursuits for the masses who sadly, are “Looking for Love in all the wrong places.” Some will get that reference . . .
This is a pervasive societal problem where people conflate LOVE and romance, when in fact, romance is based in lust and is a marketing tactic that serves as a divisive prelude to sex. LUST is a product of the body, LOVE arises out of our consciousness. But, people aren’t even aware of their consciousness as separate from their biological drives, so conflating lust and love seems to go hand in hand, and just goes on and on and on – lust is mistaken for love.
Lust and romance really has nothing to do with actually loving another person. It’s simply an ego trip designed to protect our inner child that is seeking security!!!
Moving Past our Pain and Fear . . . The Way Out, Is In
With love as an external pursuit, it will always evade us. Though relationships may initially provide self-affirming feelings, in time all our old patterns, beliefs, fears, and insecurities resurface and rear their ugly head. We become suspicious, distrustful, insecure and afraid our lover may leave us.
If there is one constant in life, it’s that life is permanently impermanent. EVERYTHING is in transition, EVERYTHING changes, and yet, when it comes to the often fleeting emotions associated with love and romance, we expect them to remain the same forever.
This is why most romantic relationships are actually a tragedy in the making and are doomed before they ever really have a chance. This is because our star-crossed lovers are approaching their relationship from the wrong premise – a foundation that doesn’t exist within either one of them.
When our love has an address, it’s not LOVE, it’s role playing. Though this is what society has adopted as “love,” it’s completely conditional and is nothing more than codependency dressed up as “romance.” It’s two people exploiting one another to create all the desirable feelings associated with being “in love” within them, though they can’t see it until the relationship ends.
True LOVE is not addressed to someone or something, any more than the sun intends for all of its light to only reach the Earth and nothing else. In other words, LOVE is simply a radiating outward of the appreciation, honor, and respect we have for ourselves and share with others. It’s something we simply are, not some “thing” we find with anyone else. But lacking love for ourselves, we seek to extract it from others.
Commit this to memory . . . LOVE SEEKS NOTHING!!! It only wants for others what they want for themselves, whether it continues to include us or not.
For most of us, when we say the words “I Love You” we’re really saying, “I love the way you make me feel.” In other words, we’re simply acknowledging the quality of our own emotions in response to another person, and these feelings are not caused by the other person but rather the internal narrative we’ve created about them in relation to us.
At this point, our ego, which always needs validation, applies a story to these feelings; one that see us as “set apart,” unique, or special in the eyes of someone else. And oh, how empowering that is!!! As lovers, just as when we were children, our two individuals appease one another (positive reinforcement) and indulge in one another, never realizing that the only relationship they’re ever having is the relationship they’re having with themselves, within themselves.
Again, ALL of these feelings, we cannot help but indulge in, are the product of the internal narrative we’ve created within ourselves about our lover. In other words, our lover is not creating any feelings within us. It is us, the storyteller in our head, that is creating all of our feelings, no one else. Our thoughts create our beliefs – about ourselves, others, and every experience we are having. We weave these beliefs together into a story, a novella, an internal narrative we’re having within ourselves, and that story or narrative creates ALL the emotions we’re feeling in any given moment.
What we feel in any given moment is only a product of the internal dialogue we’re having within ourselves at any given time. In other words, no one can make us “feel” anything. And yes, this means everyone is off the hook! No one is responsible for the way we feel other than us. I know, I know . . . that’s not very comforting and means that ultimately we have to take full accountability of what we’re feeling.
We create our own experiences through our perceptions and our experience of anything, at any time, is all a creation of our own doing and the result of the appraisal we have of ourself in any give situation. As mentioned in my previous installment on this subject, “the degree to which we possess the ability to love and honor ourselves will determine the degree to which we need to believe others love us.” The quality of every external relationship we’re having is determined by the quality of the relationship we’re having with ourselves, within ourselves.
If we pay attention to the stories we create in our head, the narratives are always commensurate with and validate the beliefs we hold about ourselves. What we see in our lives depends largely on what we’re looking for. In other words, we create these stories and then look for “evidence” to support them.
We have a very empowering, self-aggrandizing narrative or storyline at the beginning of a relationship, and a very disheartening, diminutive, and self-deprecating storyline when one ends. But in either scenario, it’s the internal dialogue we’re having with ourselves, that is creating our feelings. NOT our lover!!!
This “Crazy lil’ Thing Called Love” is highly addictive, and like any other drug, when we indulge in it, we dangle ourselves precariously between bliss and annihilation, because the love and grandiose appraisal we have of ourselves is now shackled to someone that at any moment can walk out of our lives and unfortunately take our imported sense of self-worth with them. We’ve unwittingly reduce our lover down to our “drug of choice” and will subsequently experience withdraw symptoms in their absence.
Robert Palmer, in the most apropos way, described this obsession in his song ADDICTED TO LOVE. In the off chance you’re one of the few people on earth that are not familiar with the mega-hit, you can click here to watch the music video. Something tells me the lyrical content will resonate with you. Click here: https://youtu.be/XcATvu5f9vE
What so many call love, is a complicated interplay between a entire panacea of hormones, biochemistry, neural peptides, emotions, impressions and nuances we’ve been encoded with since early childhood, that all contribute to how we experience another person we are romantically involved with.
As eluded to in my previous article, for a lot of us, our concept of love and romance as adults was more than likely first conceptualized by Walt Disney at a very young age.
We learn about love – or at least the socially agreed upon version of love – by emulating those who modeled love for us, which was hopefully demonstrated by our parents or care-givers. Regrettably, there are so many who have never had unconditional love modeled for them, so love is learned contextually through trial and error, listening to countless love songs, and by what we see portrayed on television and at the movies. What most of us have come to think of as “love” is really lust, codependency, and if we’re being honest, “emotional bartering.”
Because all knowledge begins with self-knowledge, we must go within ourselves to find the way out.
. . . More to come
Love and Light to you in your continued Journey of Self-Discovery!