How current is your love? Recently, after facilitating a series of what I call "Couple's Labs," I was struck with one barrier to love that no one mentions. Now, it should be added that the people who attend are exceptional. They realize that they have allowed their love to go stale or, at the very least, become humdrum, and they want to correct the situation. One man shared the following: "I know all about my wife. After 5.5 years, what is there new to share?" She joined in: "Really, I know everything about Shawn, from the way he drops his socks, instead of pitching them into the laundry, to his favorite shows, and punch lines to his jokes." Both of them agreed: "There must be more. What are we missing?" Another couple, married for more than 42 years, grinned. "You think you know him now," smiled Ralph. "Wait another 37 years! No more empty pages to turn."
Oh, really now? Tell that to couples who operated like Georgia O'Keeffe and Gregory Bateson, or Joseph Campbell and his wife, Jean. In these exceptional cases and others I know personally, love was kept alive because it was treated as a verb, not a noun. True, it is rare for a marriage to transcend the pedestrian and arrive at the level of sacred marriage, in which a dimension beyond the mechanical is reached, and the mystery of life and love is explored together.
Expanding love gets down to appreciating that love must be current, electric, pulsating, fresh, flowing, spontaneous. Hard to have it this way when you believe you "know all" about that person who is "numero uno" in your heart. Self-limiting beliefs are the trains of thought that muffle the wisdom of the heart, yearning for exchange with others. All I know is that the nanosecond I believe I know "everything" about my husband or daughter, my grandbaby, or friend, then it is time past due for me to open up my thinking, clear away garbage like, "there's nothing more to learn," and become a willing student.
Doing so means asking questions without assuming you know the answer. It means giving up the need to "know the answer" and take notes to discover theirs. For example: Consider the person most in your heart this very moment. How would they answer the following:
1. What's your favorite taste?
2. What's your favorite color you saw today?
3. What's your favorite scent today?
4. If you could hear any sound, this minute, which would make you happy, what would it be?
5. If someone could say something to you that would touch you most, what would it be?
The answers can be anything. Questions needn't be profound. We are simply going for "real." In my husband's case, his were: "the blue of the sky at the shore, the taste of a peach, the smell of the sand and water, the sound of a cat purring and hearing our granddaughter say 'Papa,'" (her name for him).
Every time we take the time to "get current" with the one we love, the love we feel expands. Showing interest today is the gift that keeps on giving. Priceless. Believing we know all the answers is more a concern over the love of power than the power of love.
Who does not want to know love more and doubt it less? Who wants to become love's stranger? To do so would go against love's very nature and our own. Letting our own best self reign produces big dividends in relationship.
Who's interested in spicing things up?
A Practice to Enrich Love:
1. Record the name of someone you love. It need not be romantic love, although it might be. The name could be that of a friend, a child, a parent, a coworker, a mentor, or a neighbor. Do this before reading further. If you were going to celebrate this person, so they would feel cherished, what experience would you like to create? Forget your wallet. Simply dream. The sky's the limit. Write it down. Do not skip this step! Nobody's looking. This is just for you.
2. Reread what you have written. What is the essence of the experience? Inspirational? Adventurous? Romantic? Surprising? Funny? Beauty? Gratitude?
3. Circle the adjectives that best describe it.
4. Pretend someone were to give you this same sort of experience. For example, say for you said for your partner, your fantasy would be to fly the two of you to Paris, share a loaf of French bread, a slice of Brie, dark red grapes, a bit of ripened pear, as you sipped wine alongside the Seine, beneath the Eiffel Tower, as strolling musicians serenaded. Oh, yes, perhaps you added that there were artists painting nearby. Imagine that this really happened. What might you feel?
5. Let's say that your answer comes up as: outrageous, creative, and just darn happy. Alrighty then. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to look into the mirror, beginning with you. First things, first. Have you sent yourself a love letter this week, from your own best self? I'm serious! Ask yourself: What can you do for you, first, that would leave you feeling outrageous, inspired, and so on? Pick the first thing that pops into your head. Maybe you've been thinking about visiting that zoo this spring. What if you went now, in winter? What if you gave yourself permission to step aside from the heaviness these days and went out to play? What if? Anything will do, as long as you come up with some activity that fulfills the feeling tone of #4.
6. Now, turn to your loved one. Write down the fantasy experience you wish you could provide. Give them your written expression. If hopping on a jet is not in your budget (meaning you are not in that league), no worries. There are other ways to express your heart's delight. In the Paris scenario, you could consider visiting a little local Bistro. Put on some French music at home. Light some candles. Omelets, anyone? What people long for is the experience of giving and receiving. This need not be fancy. Love can express itself as "simple as pie," or as complex as the Taj Mahal. It really doesn't matter. All that counts is you expressing love through you in a way that is real, that delights your heart, and that reminds you of the much for which you are grateful. That's it. It only gets complicated when we stray outside the gate from who we really are.
A Love Letter to the One Who's Willing to Know Love Even More:
Bravo for you! You are the kind of person that makes my feet do the happy dance. Most "humanoids" assume they know pretty near everything about those they love. We assume. We project. We forget to keep love current, to explore. We fall into the trap of believing that what was so yesterday about the person we love is static.
Of course it takes clear intention to be a steward to the heart. It takes time to inquire, to demonstrate interest, to listen sincerely. What an honor and joy it is to have someone like you cross my path, because you are that rare sort of person who understands, at the end of the day, our greatest achievement all gets down to love.
I want you to know that you do make a difference. I see that special beauty in your heart that makes you the wonder that you are. Sometimes, people just forget to tell you. That doesn't mean it is right. It only means that we human beings can get so darn distracted that we forget to communicate, "I see you. I hear your heart." I am so glad you are here with us. I want to hear so much more from you. You matter. Imagine that beautiful valentines are coming to you every single day from love itself. Because this is true: Every flower you see is smiling because you are here. That may seem silly. But I know it is so when I see winter pansies, who most certainly smile. When you see frolicking puppy dogs, you will see that a smile is coming your way, too. In fact, the smile is all around you in ways you haven't noticed. Begin to notice. Meanwhile, get ready. The stars are winking at you while you sleep. You are loved, for you are love.
Your turn: What helps you stay current with love? What would you do to bring fun alive? I'm listening!
New: For those who have asked, the first copies of "The Love Project: Coming Home" are now available in first printing. Contact me, below.
For more, see carabarker.net. For updates, contact me at carabarker.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. To save time, click on Become a Fan.
For more by Dr. Cara Barker, click here.
For more on conscious relationships, click here.