F*ck, d*mn, sh*t, spam, Merry Loving Christmas!
We all know ‘love’ is a thing, right?
Well many of us do. But did you know that for some people ‘love’ is just another four-letter word!?
I know because I’ve been there, and it made me quite disillusioned with the nature of relationships in the modern world:
- Romantic relationships—I promised ‘forever’, but after 11.5 years I could no longer keep that promise. I then deliberately didn’t promise forever, which got me 7.5 years. Then a couple of much shorter relationships in which we said we ‘loved’ each other, and I certainly felt it, but those relationships didn’t last either. So it had me asking is romantic love really a thing? Or just a social/religious/media/biological construct to keep us pumping out moderately-happy citizens.
- Friends—I had friends who let me down. They said they had my back. But secretly harboured grudges, judgements and resentment. Which eventually meant they drifted away or exploded in my face.
- Acquaintances / everyone else—Civil and often friendly on the surface, but it was clear they didn’t give me a second thought when they needed to pick between their needs and mine.
You don’t need the detail behind all these stories, you’ve experienced much if not all of this before I’m sure. Most have.
This is why it’s perfectly natural and human to become jaded with the idea of ‘love’. Especially at this time of year when we may be feeling obligated to meet with a range of people we don’t see regularly, at precisely the time we are feeling most exhausted.
I had come to the conclusion (as have many of us) that ‘love’ is just a trick of evolution. A cascade of chemicals in our brain that keeps us connected in ways that serve us as a species to survive and thrive. So we form as communities, and tolerate each other with a veneer of civility. Similarly for romantic relationships, it’s well known that the “7-year itch” means many couples question the ongoing viability of their relationships around the 7 year mark. Some research puts this anywhere from 4-7 years. And yes there does seem to be a biological basis for this.
4-7 years is long enough to have a child and raise it to a semi-independent stage where less direct and constant supervision is required. This ticks the box for evolution as the child is now likely to grow up and pass on it’s genes. In fact evolution works better with diversity of genetic combinations, so it’s likely we evolved to feel a very real biological push to move on to another partner at this point.
The other challenge is our language around love is so limited (especially in English). Luckily the Greeks have been onto this for thousands of years (gotta love mostly-forgotten ancient wisdom), they had a bunch of words for different types of love. There’s a summary in the image below, I’m not going to go through them in detail because there are great articles online that do that already.
As we can see, there are so many different ideas, beliefs and expressions of love, it can get quite confusing. And then we get weird about it with social constructs like:
- You can’t say “I love you” in a relationship for the first couple of months, that would be too scary.
- You can’t say “I love you” to some friends or even family (depending on how you were raised and the cultural context).
- You can’t be seen to be too loving, or people will think you’re a fruitcake (the official collective noun for hippies, the mentally ill, and those on drugs).
The truth is, the jaded beliefs I’d formed about love said more about me and what was going on the inside than it did about the reality going on around me.
Here’s the thing, the idiom’s true… You can’t love others properly till you love yourself.
That’s where I was going wrong.
Without self-love it’s very easy to get pushed into one or the other ‘less healthy’ sides of the spectrum (see infographic below).
It’s not easy to stay in the middle. It’s not easy to always love yourself. But these are definitely goals worth striving for and working towards.
Why is this so difficult? Well, ultimately, there are really only two emotions: Fear and love
When we live with fear, it’s impossible to love (properly) and we get pushed to one or the other side of the spectrum. Either ‘avoiding’ or ’needy’ and away from the healthy love in the middle. Whether we end up more ‘needy’ or ‘avoiding’ depends on our attachment style (developed in childhood) and our experiences of love over the years. So it can change over time and it’s not entirely black and white (ie we can act ‘avoiding’ and ’needy’ at the same time, because these are both… that’s right: Fear.
Thanks to work I’ve done over the past 5 years with coaches, therapists and healers, I’ve been able to shift many of the fears, doubts, emotional baggage and limiting beliefs that were keeping me living in fear, and in that cynical place.
Today I whole-heartedly believe in love, in many healthy forms. With friends, family, acquaintance, and even the feeling of love and connection for the whole of humanity. I’m also in a love-filled romantic relationship and believe that ‘forever’ can be promised and fulfilled.
And being able to feel love feels good. It doesn’t have to be over-the-top saccharine, exploding with rainbows, lollipops and butterflies (that may indicate you’ve hit “mania love”). It can be a warm, gentle acceptance, peace and connection with others for no reason other than it feels good to feel connected and it feels good to feel good!
Most importantly this all starts by making the shift to loving yourself unconditionally (and allowing yourself to believe it and feel it at a deep, embodied, emotional level). I’ll be honest, it’s a journey, some days it’s easier than others, and I’ll be continuing to work on it. But it is possible.
And if you find that difficult to fathom or believe, I urge you to reach out to a coach, therapist or healer for advice on how to get started. This kind of work doesn’t pay off overnight, but it’s well worth investing in. At least I believe so, you make up your mind, the prize is only eternal peace, love and happiness.
This Christmas I wish you all the love in the world. And more importantly the ability to feel love for everyone without shame or cynicism. And most importantly of all, feel deep unconditional love for yourself, because you’re perfectly imperfect and incredibly loveable, just for being you.
Oh, and let me know how you’re feeling about love this Christmas? Are you feeling a bit jaded? Or are you ready to explode like a love-bomb? Or somewhere in between? (As always, no wrong answers here, where you’re at authentically is perfect).