Response to a “Relationship Coach’s Advice”
Ah, relationships! As Jimmy Buffet once said in his song, FRUITCAKES, “We all got ’em, we all want ’em. What do we do with them?”
Recently, a friend wanting my perspective, shared with me a short video of a relationship/dating coach being interviewed. During the interview, he dispensed what was his formula for keeping “loving relationships” alive and vibrant, sharing with the audience his checklist of “how to’s” in making love last. If only it were that easy. If I’m being honest, and I will be, it’s very difficult for me to listen to the orations of so called “experts” when they trivialize the complexities of human emotions and reduce LOVE down to a commodity as if it’s all so academic.
The interview of course, received thousands of comments lavishly praising him for his genius, thanking him for his insight, and for providing a “to do” list of how to reinvigorate their dead marriages and romantic relationships.
Here’s the thing. I disagree with virtually all of it! My perspective may not be popular, but I promise, it just might be the one that heals you and fills the perceived void that so many feel if they’re not involved in a romantic relationship. Over the years, I’ve met so many along my path who feel like lepers if they’re not romantically involved with someone. This is truly a tragedy. I know this feeling all too well, because growing up I was constantly picked on as a child. I too suffered from the self-deprecating thoughts that can only being described as the “ugly duckling syndrome,” and lived with the debilitating belief that I was somehow horribly flawed and ultimately unlovable. It took decades of introspection, a divorce, which was the greatest catalyst in discovering myself, though excruciatingly painful to go through at the time, and an exhaustive spiritual journey to undo the traumatic influence of my childhood experiences. But, I wouldn’t trade all those experiences for the world. They taught me so much even when I didn’t know I was learning, and I certainly wouldn’t be who I am today if I omitted even one of them from my past.
Videos like the one sent to me gather soooooo much attention because society has us . . . well, “looking for love in all the wrong places.” Cue the music! Some will get that reference . . .
Sadly, what most “relationship/dating coaches” find themselves unraveling, in helping couples navigate the emotional landscape of their relationship and providing instruction to their clients, is not “LOVE,” but its imposter . . . “romantic relationships.” You may have experienced one of these. When we occasionally brush up against them, we discover that they have a tendency to stick to us like velcro . . . granted, we’re the ones providing the velcro. Lovers get under our skin, but their choices, level of commitment, understanding of themselves, and time they spend invested in us are entirely out of our hands. Relationships are for a reason and a season, as they are always teaching us something about ourselves.
When relationships are peeled away from us, the continuity, predictability, comfort, security, feelings of self-worth and relevancy go with them and leave us with a profound unimagined emptiness. Oh how it hurts. Deeply wounded, all we can focus on is our pain. But, oh how quickly we stop focusing on our pain and what it has to tell us about ourselves, and instead circumvent it altogether by finding another soul to glob on to. We don’t learn the lesson, so we’re doomed to repeat the lessons over and over until we learn that pain is our teacher if we’re willing to sit with it long enough to let it illuminate us.
“When the student is ready the teacher will appear. When the student is truly ready… The teacher will Disappear.” – Tao Te Ching
Few are gifted with the insight to understand that this pain we experience is not because our lover has left us. Rather, it’s our return to the baseline appraisal we have of ourselves without our lover; which for most, without the feelings of relevancy we were “importing” from our lover, is pretty self-deprecating and therefore creates copious amounts of pain within us.
Romance, like any other drug, plays with our biochemistry and has a funny way of taking us to another place in our minds . . . fantastic, magical, enchanted places! Inebriated and completely swept away by the biochemical romance we’re having with this person we believe to be the end all be all for us, romance makes us forget about ourselves indefinitely, and frankly, how we really feel about ourselves when someone’s not validating us. Romantic endeavors provides us with a way to become what we see as the “idealized” version of ourselves . . . a magnanimous, amazing, wonderfully loving and thoughtful person. They provide a canvass we get to project our dreams onto. We internalize all our romantic gestures as evidence of how “loving” we are. Being “in love” and believing we are this “loving” person feels amazing! In romantic relationships, we give ourselves permission to feel good about ourselves. “After all, the world can be a pretty ugly place at times, isn’t it good that I’m so loving? A true beacon of light in a dark, uncaring world.” This is why falling “in love” is so intoxicating. It’s empowering!
Most of what people would describe about their relationships – the ups and the downs, the dramas, the fights, even the thoughtful, romantic gestures that are oh so delicious and we love sinking our teeth into – have nothing to do with LOVE, and everything to do with our ego, even when we believe we are in a “LOVING” relationship.
It’s unfortunate, but most will pass through their entire life never knowing what “LOVE” is, but rather only the Walt Disney version of what we think love is or at least should be. We learn at a very early age, LOVE is transactional. We conflate the idea of being “in love” with someone, with LOVE. The two have no relationship and should not be conflated.
So, let’s take a rational look at being “in love.” Being “in love” is quite literally, a temporary state of complete self-absorption, derived entirely from an overactive ego that’s puffed up with all the validation one can receive without bursting. Those I counsel have heard me say, “when we fall ‘in love’ we fall out of our minds.” That sounds so negative but it’s not at all, I assure you. One might ask, “How could it be “self-absorption,” when I feel so strongly about another person?” And therein lies one’s blindspot. It’s about how “I” feel inside about another person, and that is entirely a projection of my beliefs about who the other person is and what they mean to me. It’s all a script we’ve been writing in our head and then acting out.
Pay close attention to the stories you weave together at the beginning of a relationship, and the stories you tell yourself when a relationship ends. Two entirely different narratives. But what fundamentally has changed about YOU? Nothing, other than the internal dialogue you’re having with yourself.
This is why the experience of being “in love” (almost entirely biochemical in nature) is essentially a form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, a topic explored in more detail in my series called “HOW TO MINDFULLY APPROACH ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS.” A link to that series is provided at the end of this article.
Being “in love” with someone is us simply acknowledging a sweetness to our emotions that we in a very misguided way believe our lover creates within us. But in truth, no one can make us feel anything. What we feel is predicated entirely on our own thoughts, NOT our lover’s. Our thoughts alone create our beliefs about ourselves, others, and situations (in this case, relationships) we find ourselves in. Our beliefs are then woven together into an internal narrative, a story we create within ourselves and project on to others (in this case our lover), and that romantic story we’ve created, creates ALL of our feelings. In other words, our internal narrative, NOT our lover, is creating all our feelings. Knowing this is to develop true “self-awareness.”
Most of those reading this won’t like it, because in accepting this premise, everyone in our lives is off the hook! No one is to blame. I, and I alone am 100% responsible for how I feel at any given moment. No one can make us feel loved any more than they can make us feel rejected or abandoned. That is all our own doing. All these feelings created within us, are merely a product of “OUR” thoughts, no one else’s.
Those I work with are surprised to find out that the modern word LOVE comes from the Sanskrit word Lobha, which means greedy and self-serving. I don’t think this is a coincidence. After all, we never become more greedy than when we fall “in love.” We obsess over our lover. We think about them incessantly. We can’t wait to be with them again. We want them to be the last voice we hear before we go to sleep and the first text we receive every morning. We want our lover all to ourselves as much as humanly possible.
“The love most people know is nothing but a biological urge. It depends entirely upon your chemistry and your hormones. It can be changed very easily. A small change in your chemistry and the love that you thought was the ultimate truth, will simply disappear. What most people have been calling love is simply lust. The distinction should be remembered.” – OSHO
Real love says to another person, “I love you, I am concerned with your well-being, your thoughts, and I care about the way you feel.” Being “in love” says, “I love the way you make me feel.”
The world doesn’t know what love is, and it’s evident everywhere. We look to these misguided formulaic approaches to untangle our convoluted human emotions, from so-called “Leadership” or “Relationship/Dating” Gurus . . . that dispense advice on love and romance like it’s a cookbook recipe. “If you do A + B + C, you’ll get D.” What they’re describing is called courtship, which, if we’re being honest with ourselves, is really marketing ourselves to get our lover’s buy in, and in doing so, is followed by the already eluded to, “biochemical romance,” that usually leads to life-changing decisions while each lover is in a socially acceptable form of insanity. We don’t make rational decisions when we fall in love with another person because we are so intoxicated with the idea of being” in love,” which is nothing short of being obsessed with the idealized version of another person we’ve created in our heads. If it was rational 2 out 3 marriages wouldn’t end in divorce. These are enormous decisions made on an entirely emotional and frankly, irrational level.
As mentioned earlier, in teaching “mindfulness” I share with others that when we fall “in love” it’s because we’ve fallen “out” of our mind. Our entire focus is outbound, as we import our sense of well-being, importance, and relevancy in a very parasitic way from another person. Why do I say parasitic? Because when the relationship ends, we collapse in on ourselves and feel lifeless without our lover. Why? Because we’ve been cut off from our host.
This is codependency. Codependency is defined by “Rules of Engagement,” quid pro quo, and employing so-called “methodologies” for making someone fall in love with you and what, in theory, should create and make a long-term relationship work. This is a very childish and anecdotal perspective of “relating” to another person. It’s based entirely in ego and self-gratification, and conflates love and romance, love and attachment, love and commitment, love and sex. None of those are based in LOVE.
Love is not a formula, love has NOTHING to do with another person. Can you not by your own nature be loving? Love requires no recipient. It’s a quality we possess and the essence of what we ARE, not what we find.
“The quality of ALL of our relationships is determined by the quality of the relationship we are having with ourselves, within ourselves.”
What most relationship/dating coaches describe to their clients is not love, but rather the same emotional bartering, everyone is already practicing in their relationships. When life coaches and dating gurus reduce love down to a formula, it’s a patch. This approach will never create a loving relationship.
“And, if you’re just consistent enough, and continue to do this and this, you can live Blissfully Ever After.”
Can we not see how in doing so, we’re relying on “another” person’s choices, decisions, reactions, expressed feelings, or lack thereof, and actions to make our lives work for us?
As a life coach, I would never give this advice to someone… but instead would teach an individual how to identify “patterns” of unconscious behaviors learned in childhood that have fashioned the lens they see love through, undo their social conditioning and media programming, to cultivate within themselves a loving relationship with themselves. Then and only then can we truly LOVE another person. Until then codependency is all we’ll ever know or be capable of knowing.
“If we make friends with ourselves, we are never alone.” – Buddhist proverb
Because society teaches that love is an exchange, these are the rules that the world was taught to play the game of “LOVE” by and this is why almost all relationships are doomed from the start. They are ALL conditional. What we tell one another, either directly or indirectly is, “I will love you as long as you continue to love me. Leave me, and I will be so deeply wounded that I will vilify you for the rest of your days.”
We’re told “Relationships are work! It’s never giving up! It’s hanging in there even when you don’t want to! That’s why LOVE is commitment! This is the rhetoric of the living dead.
LOVE IS EFFORTLESS AND REQUIRES NO WORK, BECAUSE “LOVE SEEKS NOTHING!!!”
Codependency by contrast, is work, and a lot of it!!! Commitment, which we are taught is a virtuous choice, is billed out to us as the ultimate expression of love between two people. This is in fact, the antithesis of LOVING another person. When LOVE is present no commitment is needed. But when LOVE is lacking, commitment, guilt, shame, keeping up appearances, and a tremendous fear of the alternative…are all required to keep us where we no longer wish to be.
Sadly, that means love for most people is and always will be a ruse, something we give with the hope and aspiration that the love we extend to our lover will be reciprocated. It’s completely transactional, conditional, and contrived. As long as they remain in compliance with our expectations of them, we remain “in love” with them. We have effectively reduced our lover down to our drug of choice, providing us with all the desired biochemical endorphins and feelings of validation we long for to keep emotionally buoyant and maintain a positive view of ourselves.
Everyone dreams of receiving unconditional love from their lover, but unfortunately, almost no one has the courage to extend it to another. Because loving someone with, “NO CONDITIONS” is terrifying and takes far more bravado than most will ever be able to muster up. It means the object of our affection has total freedom. They can walk out of our lives at any point and we give them the freedom to do so.
Love requires no commitment, because commitment is an abomination to love. It’s the antithesis of LOVE.
For most, love is a spoken or unspoken contract. People like the idea of commitment, because it creates continuity, predictability, and a false sense of security for them. But commitment, has nothing to do with loving another person because “commitment” tethers you to another person as an obligation, a promise once made, and is supposed to be adhered to independent of any feelings you have about it. What about “you made your bed, now you’ve got to sleep in it” sounds loving?
To awaken is extend to our lover the freedom to do whatever they want, whenever they want, with whomever they want, as often as they want. An awakened individual feels no need to vilify their ex’s because their happiness was never dependent upon them.
Love never destroys another’s freedom and never seeks to possess anything.
LOVE SEEKS NOTHING!
What we end up grieving when a relationship ends, is not the departure of the other person from our lives, though that may be part of it, but rather the fact that we can now see in painful detail, we never loved our self in the first place and were exploiting the other person to bolster our sense of self-worth to make our life work for us. It’s evidenced by the fact that most of us are devastated when another person breaks up with us. We were simply exploiting them like a drug and importing our sense of love, joy, happiness, and self-worth from another person.
Again, LOVE seeks NOTHING!!! It’s not contrived, it’s not calculating, it doesn’t count the cost of giving it, it’s not strategic or divisive, it sees no mile markers or destinations to arrive at by employing a “formula” to get what it wants. LOVE doesn’t seek “relationship,” only “relating.” The minute we define our ability to relate to another person as a “relationship,” it is the beginning of the end of the “relating,” because each person brings their own mental template of what a relationship looks like, acts like, behaves like, chooses, feels like, and the rules that the two lovers will play by to the relationship, which are conditions fashioned by Society and emulating others. As long as our lover remains in compliance with the expectations we have of them, the relationship flourishes. But, fall out of compliance, and the relationship is in jeopardy.
This is because most lovers are empty vessels with no real love to extend to one another. They are like two beggars treating one another like emperors only to find out in time that they are both emotionally bankrupt without the other. Their relationship was predicated entirely in posturing – the constant emotional validation of one another through romantic gestures designed to make deposits into the bank account of their tragically flawed ego. They remain oblivious to the fact that they’ve merely been exploiting one another to compensate for the lack of love they feel for themselves. This sound harsh, doesn’t it? It isn’t meant to . . . it’s meant to awaken you. Each person we meet only mirrors back to us the beliefs we hold about ourselves.
When we can look objectively underneath the surface of what we call love, “love” on an emotional level (Lobha) is the most selfish human emotion. By contrast, LOVE on a spiritual/mindful level is an intimate relationship we have with ourself and LIFE, not one person. It is expansive and is realizing our connection with all of existence, not the narrow and confining tethering of ourselves to an individual. If love is addressed to another person, it’s not love.
The only TRUE love that exists is LOVE without attachment. The minute we become attached, everything we do is to seek out and solicit the love, affection, and attention of our lover which will create within us a feeling we desire to have, but always carries with it the fear that it can be taken away. This is where the roots of attachment and codependency find fertile ground.
Once we step into attachment, anxiety is sure to follow. Once anxiety comes, fear follows. And once fear comes, madness follows. It is only because conditions have been conducive that we are able to hide our madness and our dependency. The minute a situation threatens us, our madness is exposed. Once we step into attachment, madness is only a few steps away. There is no way to avoid it. – Sadhguru
Only when we love without attachment, are we truly capable of loving another human being. Everything else is codependency, fear, and insecurity.
Love is something we ARE, NOT something we find. I can feel the resistance to the weight of that statement in my readers.
Most will defend the idea that love is something we find and share with another person. So, convinced of the truth they speak of, that they are even willing to conflate the idea of LOVE causing pain, which is an oxymoron in and of itself. LOVE and pain are mutually exclusive…it is impossible for one to create the other.
“He who looks outward dreams, he who looks inward awakens!” – Carl Jung
If one truly believes love is something found with another person, then they have not yet discovered within themselves the foundations of their own being, or what in eastern mysticism is referred to as Samadhi. Still convinced that love is something we import from another person is the delusion that just about everyone suffers from. We’ve been taught this view of love as an external pursuit. Anything that is sought out as an external pursuit, that is, external to us, is a drug and is a departure from the essence of what we are.
How so? Well, let’s ask ourselves some questions. What is the difference between the intoxicating feelings of invincibility that partakers describe in doing a line of cocaine and falling in love with someone? Drinking alcohol and having sex? Shopping? Going to a concert? These questions sound absurd, I know.
The point is, we can never have an experience outside of ourselves. Everything is happening “within” us. Being averse to pain and biologically programmed to seek pleasure, what most do is seek people out just like any other drug, to provide them with experiences that they believe will provide them with a desired feeling. We call this Love . . . Sanskrit Lobha – Selfish!
To import our sense of joy, happiness, security, and feelings of love from another person is to reduce that person down to a drug that we exploit, so as to provide ourselves with a desired feeling just like any other drug. After all, falling “in love” is entirely biochemical in nature. A tidal wave of hormones rushing through our veins. It’s intoxicating!!! Just like any drug!
What if you are so full of love, so completely intoxicated with the relationship that you’re having with yourself and LIFE that you no longer search for a relationship outside of the one you are having with yourself to provide you with the love, happiness, and security that you already possess? The LOVE you possess for yourself, becomes a wellspring of appreciation you have merely for the experience of being alive, a natural outpouring to others, with no need to “belong to” or reduce another person down to something that “belongs” to us. LOVE truly becomes a free gift we extend to everyone and everything within our individual experiences with no conditions whatsoever.
People will argue this perspective by rigorously defending their co-dependency. It’s primarily because most people never learn to love themselves and therefore lean heavily and rely almost entirely upon others to provide them with just enough validation to think that they can now love themselves. But in doing so, they dangle themselves precariously between bliss and annihilation.
ALL KNOWLEDGE begins with self-knowledge
In developing our self-awareness we begin to cultivate a relationship with very deep roots within ourselves to the extent of even learning to love ourselves independent of the need to like everything about ourselves or the desire to import it from others. When people meet such a high-vibrational person (as love is one of the highest vibrational energies) that has created such an intimate relationship with themselves, within themselves, their ego feeling the need to justify and defend the lack of love they feel for themselves, usually rears its ugly head. The idea that one could actually learn to love themselves is sooooooo foreign a concept to them, they write the grounded, loving individual off as fake, or arrogant, or a “know-it-all,” or say to themselves, “oh, they just think they’re better than everyone else,” never realizing that all they are doing is reaffirming their own insecurities and emptiness. They abandon even the thought of taking the inward journey to loving themselves by convincing themselves that it’s too arduous of a pursuit, so they seek the path of least resistance . . . and glob on to the next soul that can validate them. This is compulsive pathological behavior predicated in fear, not LOVE.
It’s one of life’s greatest paradoxes but, the well traveled “path of least resistance” is in fact, the path of most resistance, because as we dip in and out of relationships, we contend with all the feelings of inadequacy we hide behind underneath this outward persona we wear and project to the world. It’s exhausting. When we go inward and discover ourselves, we will know true peace of mind, true love, and will stop the tiring pursuit to find a sense of worthiness in the eyes of another. We rest!
Life is never happening to us it is only going on within us. Light and darkness happen within us. Joy and sadness happen within us. Love and hate happen within us. – Sadhguru
LOVE never hurts, but co-dependency always does! That’s because it’s based in fear.
When one understands life at its essence and realizes that we are not living a life, but rather LIFE itself – that we don’t possess a soul, we are a soul that temporarily possesses a body – and that we are not humans that will someday inherit a spiritual experience, but rather intangible, immaterial spirits having a temporal Human Experience – the perspective of life is not narrow, but rather all-encompassing.
Understanding that life is a dynamic process where everything, yes, EVERYTHING, is in a constant state of transition, we realize that everything is permanently impermanent. Realizing this allows one to celebrate the Journey of Life without becoming attached to it. This is what allows us to make a “bond” of love, not a “bondage.”
To trivialize love as possessiveness, as “belonging” to another person, as commitment and being dedicated to another, are nothing more than expressions reflecting the narrow scope of cultural programming as we replace authenticity with role playing.
For more on HOW TO MINDFULLY APPROACH ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS, you can click here for the first article in that series: https://shiftethos.com/2019/11/02/crazy-little-thing-called-love/
Love and Light to you in your continued journey of self-discovery!!!