Love 101

Posted Thursday, April 09, 2015

Years ago I thought I knew what love was. I loved my children. I loved their mother. I loved God.

Then I went to therapy.  And then I started coach training. And leadership training.

And I read some books on love, and God, and other stuff. I was wrong. I didn't know the first thing about loving. So I've decided to give it a try. Again. And again.  So this is what I think I know now:

Love just is. We are all capable of loving at all times. It is doing or being what is best for the object of your love. I'll say that again, it is doing or being what is best for the object of your love. This includes yourself. It has no conditions. It is not a feeling, although it often is accompanied by feelings. 

If it did have an opposite, it would be control.  You can't control love. It's always a surprise. There was a time in my life when I was obsessed with everyone who loved me doing exactly what I thought they should always be doing for me. That meant that the people closest to me lived under a constant judgement cycle of whether they were doing a good enough job at loving me. It got to the point where some of them just gave up. I don't blame them.  

The real heartbreak is my kids, especially my oldest because she bore the brunt of my controlling nature. It was actually in a therapy session when my oldest was around 7 years old that I realized that I was not the amazing "best dad" that I had always thought of myself as. Truth was, I was using my children to feed my ego--to feed my love need. I was absolutely disgusted with myself.  

So I committed myself to real love. No bullshit authentic love. And I didn't get it right. Just better. Sometimes.

My oldest turns 24 this month. Not sure she would say I've gotten better at loving, but I am definitely trying. Doing better means practicing authentic love. Trying it out. We have all learned to try to earn love, make people love us, demand love. The good news is that this authentic love is actually what we were born with--we don't have to learn it--we just have to practice it.

One of the hardest things for me to do was to stop expecting people to love me. I had this story in my head that since they were committed to me as a friend, significant other, or family member, it was OK for me to expect them to care for me. I learned that all the emotional energy I was expending to try to get them to love me was actually counter productive. If they did "love" me as expected, I was happy but I helped make it happen so it didn't totally feel like love. If they didn't "love" me, then I would be upset. It was a kinda lose-really lose scenario.  

With some help from my therapist, I started waiting for love. I didn't expect it. I didn't assume it would come. I simply trusted that I would get what I needed. It was excruciating. One year for my birthday, I didn't tell anyone what I wanted, when it was, or all the usual things I did to make sure I garnered the attention I desperately craved. The result was that there was no big party. No celebration. Most people forgot. However, the few expressions of love towards me that I did receive were tremendously more meaningful.  I also started asking myself the question--"is what I am doing for this person about me or about them." I discovered pretty quickly that almost all of my interactions with others was about what I would get out of it in the end. Although hard to take, it spurred changes and I'd like to think I've grown in how I love.  

You can too. Join me in practicing more love today than yesterday. We definitely need it in this world today.  

Here are some ways you can practice love: 

1. Check yourself. If the love you are about to give is less about them and more about you, stop. Take a deep breath. Breathe.  

2. Give of your time or money completely anonymously. Don't tell anyone. 

3. Ask yourself, what is the best thing I can do for myself today? Do it. 

4. Honor a boundary someone has set with you with lovingkindness. 

5. Think of the 1-2 things you would like to see change about your closest friend or significant other. Honestly commit to letting go of your desire to change them or even to have them change. Don't just love them in spite of this trait or thing, love them with it. 

Check out our last 6 eNewsletters:

November 4, 2016--Crossing the Continental Divide (Both Literally and Metaphorically)

May 13, 2016-Are You Embracing Your Goo?

April 6, 2016--Micromanagement is Good Management

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