THE BLOG
07/02/2013 06:06 pm ET Updated Sep 01, 2013

What Does it Mean to Be in Love?

A significant portion of my work is dedicated to dismantling and deconstructing the pervasive and dysfunctional messages our culture propagates about love, myths most people have absorbed by osmosis since the first time they were exposed to the wonderful world of Disney and Hollywood. The basic messages about love are:

  • The point of life is to meet "The One."
  • When you meet this fabled "One," you'll know it immediately and never suffer a moment of doubt.
  • If you do experience doubt, he or she is not "The One." You must have gotten something wrong as we all know that doubt means don't.
  • Love is a feeling characterized by butterflies and skipped heartbeats. If you don't have those feelings or if they fade away, something is terribly wrong and it's time to leave because clearly you're no longer in love.
  • Your "One" will complete you (Jerry Maguire) and make you feel whole, alive, sexual, and fulfilled. He or she is the missing piece to your puzzle and once you meet him or her everything will make sense. If things stop making sense, there must be something terribly wrong and it's time to leave.
  • You're either in love or out of love. You can fall in or out of love like falling into a puddle. Sometimes you just fall out of love and then it's time to leave. Said another way, falling out of love is a valid reason to end a relationship.

Sound familiar?

Let's douse these incendiary lies with a big dose of truth-water:

  • The point of life is not to meet "The One." The point is to become your own one, to learn and grow and evolve your mind, heart, and body, and to express your gifts and be of service in some way. From that place of fulfilled aliveness you may or may not choose to share your life with another person.
  • Very few couples actually lock eyes across a smoky room and "just know" that they've met their future spouse. Perhaps you had a sense early on that your partner was someone with whom you could forge a fulfilling shared life, but perhaps it took some time for that knowing to take hold. Perhaps you were friends first. Perhaps you stumbled through your first dates and only continued because there was something different and you were tired of choosing the same unavailable partners.
  • Doubt is a sign that you're an introspective, thoughtful, intelligent person considering making a lifetime commitment. As Bertrand Russell said, "The trouble with the world is that the stupid are so confident while the intelligent are full of doubt." And with a bit more softness Tara Brach says, "Like investigation, healthy doubt arises from the urge to know what is true -- it challenges assumptions or the status quo in service of healing and freedom. In contrast, unhealthy doubt arises from fear or aversion, and it questions one's own basic potential or worth, or the value of another."
  • I've written about the difference between real love and infatuation extensively in other posts and in my Conscious Weddings E-Course, but the nutshell version is that love is not only a feeling; it's a choice, a commitment, and an intention. When you commit to learning about what it means to give and receive love in an intimate way, you will, at times, experience the feelings that we normally associate with love. When you learn the Love Laws and take the subsequent Loving Actions that grow your feelings of love and attraction, you will experience more in-love feelings.
  • You are whole; you do not need a partner to complete you. Where partnership feels like completion it's not real love but codependence. Two whole people create a third body of the relationship. You are responsible for your own aliveness, creativity, and sexuality. It's not your partner's job to be your muse or your inspiration. If that occurs on occasion naturally that's wonderful, but it's not a requirement of a healthy relationship. If things stop making sense, it's time to look inside and explore what unrealistic expectations, fears, and false beliefs have been unleashed.
  • Attraction, sexual connection, and the feeling of being in love ebb and flow in cycles and are largely a function of how open your heart is and how open your partner's heart is. My definition of being in love is: Two open hearts giving and receiving to each other. There are so many ways that our hearts shut down, fear being the most common. So if you're struggling with fear and anxiety it's not likely you're going to feel sexual or in love with your partner. Is that the time to leave? No! It's the time to become a fear-warrior so that you can soften the fear walls and slowly open your heart back to love.

After the initial honeymoon stage fades (and having a honeymoon stage is not a prerequisite for a healthy relationship), feeling in love is an experience that is cultivated primarily through the intersection of two actions: 1. Flooding your relationship with loving actions and 2. Feeling connected to your own aliveness, creativity, and sexuality. In other words, when you're feeling filled up and alive within your own self and you bring this aliveness to your partner who is also filled up, the two of you will meet in a place that can feel like magic. There's nothing dramatic about this real in-loveness. It's not borne out of longing or the chase. It's real, present, honest connection. It's two sparks meeting each other and creating a fire together.

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Sheryl Paul, M.A., has counseled thousands of people worldwide through her private practice, her bestselling books, her e-courses and her website. She has appeared several times on "The Oprah Winfrey Show", as well as on "Good Morning America" and other top media shows and publications around the globe. To sign up for her free 78-page eBook, "Conscious Transitions: The 7 Most Common (and Traumatic) Life Changes", visit her website at http://conscious-transitions.com. And if you're suffering from relationship anxiety - whether single, dating, engaged, or married - give yourself the gift of her popular E-Course.