The Malady of Love vs. Mature Love
Author: Lynne Namka, Ed. D.
What is a mature, healthy, loving, relationship? For the first time in history, we are beginning to understand what is the true nature of loving. Information from the addiction field has given us a clear understanding of what love is not. Virginia Satir believed that the crux of most of our dysfunctional behavior was a misguided attempt to find love. Underneath that learned way of coping that sets up barriers for intimacy is the cry for help. Underneath the romance and relationship addictions is the cry, “I just want to be loved.” We are all seeking mature love, not the malady of love.
When you are in the malady, love hurts! The malady of love happens when we do not remember that we are a loving individual capable of loving and being loved. Co-dependency is not who you are! Narcissistic self involvement is not who you are! Romance and relationship addictions are not who you are! Dysfunctional behavior is not who you are! These coping styles are merely patterns that you learned from your dysfunctional family. As learned behavior, poor coping styles can be unlearned. Think of your neurotic behavior as an enchantment that you have been under for a long, long time. Who you truly are is someone who is quite different, beautiful and loving.
Early on in our life we knew that we were totally lovable. Shortly after conception we knew our essence. Our essence was our true and unique nature that was Godlike in quality. It was spontaneous, curious, creative and loving. It was pure spontaneous being. We could live in the moment and be consciously alive.
Then we began to forget who we were. With the constant barrage of the critical and negative messages of the world, our little child forgot her essence. She learned to operate out of fear as that was what was modeled for her. She learned to develop distancing coping strategies in order to survive. She began to feel separate, alone and isolated setting the future stage for addictive behavior of some sort or another.
The future that we defined for our self during moments of early shame, fear and trauma is not only the future. It is only one possible future. As many of us are finding out there are other futures. We are being offered opportunities to learn new ways of thinking and acting. We are given therapies, self help books and groups and twelve step programs to help us achieve this. The help is there.
Becoming yourself and letting go of unhappiness is the most important thing you can do with your effort, time and money. The resources to learn communication and true intimacy skills are available like no other time in history. Gaining the skills to interact on a high level with other members of our species is a necessary part of the spiritual journey. Overcoming the separation and gulf that we feel from others is a major task in the learning of how to be real.
It is true you may have to pay in terms of your energy, time and money. The cost may lie in facing those aspects of yourself that you find most despicable. The fear of paying for help stops many people who have low self esteem because they have a misbelief of “I am not worth it.” Fear of not being lovable or being able to love in the right way is at the center of the problem. Some people refuse to recognize the extent of their problem and the possibility of change. They focus on their unworthiness instead of recognizing what other possibilities are waiting for them.
My Most Important Relationship is With Myself
If you have a challenge of knowing that you are of value, use daily affirmations to remind yourself that the price that you must pay to get help to overcome low self-esteem is a minimal cost indeed. Put these affirmations on your bathroom mirror, over your kitchen sink and on your dashboard of your car so that you can practice them daily.
- I am worthy of being a loving person.
- I am worthy of great change and growth.
- I am worth whatever it takes to stop the pain of dysfunctional living.
- I choose to take my destiny in my hands and do what I need to do to gain inner peace.
- I am worth whatever money and time resources that it takes.
- I choose to have a loving relationship with myself first and foremost.
- I am worth it.
On Doing It Right The Next Time
If you have had a series of devastating relationships, it would be to your advantage to spend time developing a functional relationship with yourself before becoming involved in another romantic relationship. You can only have a happy relationship with another human being when you first learn to love and respect yourself. The field of addictions talks about abstinence from the drug or activity of choice being necessary for recovery to break the pattern of self-destructive behavior. In co-dependency, it is not feasible to give up relationships on a permanent basis. However, it would be helpful if you gave yourself a respite from romantic involvement for a while. The time and space will give you the opportunity to reexamine your former patterns of thinking and actions and sort out what is important to you in life.
Understanding the true meaning of love will help you change your life to have a loving relationship. Mature love is not hearts and flowers and fireworks all of the time. It is about living up to the strength of ones’ own values while choosing to be in a partnership. It is the commitment of really being there for another individual while retaining one’s own sense of self. It is about hard work.
The true meaning of love is for two mature, independent people to come together in equal partnership to celebrate their growth both as individuals and as a couple.. “Love consists of this, that two solitudes protect and touch and greet each other.” said the philosopher, Rilke. Spontaneity and authenticity as well as letting go of protective walls are the hallmark of the mature adult. Intimacy can be achieved only when the man and woman are complete within themselves and are comfortable with their identity.
Psychologist Abraham Maslow’s early work on self-actualization has sparked looking at healthy relationships as opposed to studying what is wrong with people. Drawing from the work of others, Florence Kaslow, marital therapist, wrote on the dynamics of healthy couples. The healthy couple recognizes that they are a unit in which both their relationship and their individuality are important. They have a systems approach, which recognizes each person’s need to grow and change while giving priority to the relationship. There is a commitment to their individual growth as well as their “coupleness.”
In mature partnerships, communication skills are open and authentic with few double bind messages, which say one thing and mean another. The two people are straight with each other. They remain there for each other expressing their vulnerability, following Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s definition of love “…. to approach each other center to center.” They own their own feelings and actions and use frequent “I messages.” They stress equity in the relationship, individuality and happiness rather than the need to be in control. They understand that conflict is inevitable’ they do not try to avoid it but view it as a challenge. They have techniques for conflict resolution and do not allow issues to build up. They are working through their own issues of power. Their coping style in dealing with stress is based on negotiation and problem solving not defendedness and withdrawal.
Healthy couples have fun together and express a wide range of emotions. With a strong sense of self, they draw from their unique spiritual nature and have meaning in their lives. Kaslow says, “When one is privileged to be in the company of a compatible couple, their well being and harmony is apparent. They seem to exclude tranquility, a kind of inner peace, and liking of their place in the world. They may be quiet or effusive, but their confidence in loving and being loved and valued is unmistakable. They have an unselfconscious desire to please one another because there are sufficient shared paths, goals and values. It is realized that when they as a couple benefit, so do each of the partners individually.”
Living in partnership can become an art form of life. We now have models for loving relationships. We have models for healthy communication techniques that allow for the development of mature relationships. In the past we have been caught in the addictive longing for another human being. We have viewed love as taking care of others or in being taken care of. This type of love spoke of insecurity, control and domination.
Now we are gaining a new meaning of the concept of love. It can be viewed as a free and equal exchange of energy. Love is open and spontaneous. Mature love does not claim for its own. It does not need to put forth defenses and walls of protection. It speaks through the open heart of acceptance of the self and the other. Loving without qualification, without conditions is the hallmark of those who are seeking self-actualization. Continuing to work on yourself to become the most loving individual that you can be is the best means for developing a healthy, loving partnership with another person.
We humans are like gems in the rough that are in need of polishing. Pain, chaos and friction are the grit that allows the polishing so that we can show all of our facets. Relationships provide the nitty-gritty of daily life; they allow the polishing process to take place on a grand scale. Day to day interactions with another person who is important presents us with the basest aspects of ourselves, which we can then choose to face.
We grow through our love experiences. Love is the most powerful teacher. The quest for the mystical journey can supersede the previous negative emotions as balancing of the energy and emotions takes place. For the committed seeker, there can come a time of peace and joy as the emptiness within is gradually filled up with a sense of self. There is a deep understanding that the Zen saying of “The obstacle is the path.” is true. Surrender and letting go of that which no longer fits you are the ways to remain true to your path.
The true test of a life on earth is the ability to love. At the end of a life, success, fame, money, material goods and possessions do not matter. How to express ones’ self in terms of loving behaviors and intimacy can become one of our best and highest goals. The balance of a successful life is loving both others and self equally.
With practice you can seek partnerships where equality is the norm. As you face your shadow self and learn to balance your emotions, you no longer will be “needy,” and dependent upon the love of another person to define your life. Nor will you have the need to control him or her.
You are a human being who is loving and capable of being loved. You are worth it. You are worth whatever it takes to break though the patterns of destructive and addictive behavior into joyful living. As the Course in Miracles reminds us, the opposite of fear is love. Love is a stronger emotion than fear and can displace it. Your continuing to develop your loving can gradually replace your negative emotions that represent the underlying fear. Love always wins over fear.
As you evolve in spiritual growth and opening your heart, you can live mystic, Julian of Norwich’s imperative: “And all shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.” Your Higher Power will nudge and jostle you to become who you are meant to be. The call from your Soul will pull and push you forward to become a whole, complete person.
An Affirmation For Becoming a Truly Loving Individual
My work is to keep striving for my growth and maturity, by examining my conflicts, values, expectations and neediness. My work is to understand how I limit myself by refusing to see that which is evident. My work is to let go of denial. I face those dark shadows within myself to find out who I truly am. I examine my need to clutch, cling and hold fast to other people who are not right for me. My work is not to change another person to meet my own desires but to take responsibility for my own behavior.
I watch how my expectations, desires and projections carry over to love relationships . I let go of my need to hold on to any person with whom I express unhealthy behavior. My work is to open my heart beyond that which holds on. I let my old model of love ,which has been unproductive for me all away. I develop healthy communication skills, which will draw healthy people to me. I need only to seek and find my true loving Self.