A New Definition of Love

By Joeel A. Rivera, M.Ed.

What is love?

Well, I would love to tell you my answer but it may not fit your reality or your definition of love. I don’t recommend looking to society, as a whole, or the media or the movies for an answer either; we have all been sold a false-dream of what relationships are supposed to encompass through contradictory images and unhealthy representations. Is it any wonder that most people who are single are dying to be in a relationship but when they get involved with someone they are then dying to get out of it?

How many people do you know who are truly satisfied with their relationships? Probably not many. We all want that human connection, but we also want the independence to grow. The misconception is that we can’t have both. This belief creates a conflict because what our spirit truly wants is to share the journey of growth with others, especially with someone in an intimate way, but when we do we often lose ourselves and our freedom. Trapped either avoiding relationships or feeling disconnected within them, many people today seek to meet their needs through social media, becoming addicted to checking their Facebook and Twitter accounts, only to remain ultimately unfulfilled. What we are all really seeking is enlightened relationships and deeper connections, but we settle for surface relationships and disconnection.

More and more people have reached the point at which the status quo of being in a relationship because it’s the “thing to do” just won’t cut it anymore. If you’re reading this, chances are you are one of these people. We want to live a truly fulfilling life with someone—a relationship in which even after 20 years the same joy and passion we had at the outset is still there. Is that possible? YES.

In order to live this reality, we must embrace this new movement toward an enlightened relationships. We must question all our assumptions, expectations, baggage, and belief systems. We must redefine our roles, change the way we communicate, and develop strategies for handling stress.

The true journey to an enlightened relationship comes from within.

Enlightened relationships are created by the joining of two whole souls—not from fragments of two broken ones. Enlightened relationships are based on want, not the feeling of need. The critical mistake that many people make is looking for a relationship to fill their empty cups. Only once you learn to take care of yourself, and keep your own cups full, will a relationship truly add to your life without taking away from it.

True intimacy is possible in relationships when we are willing to be vulnerable enough to expose the parts of ourselves that have been kept hidden, even from our own awareness.

For example, I once had a student that was having difficulties understanding why she had a lot of resistance to her boyfriend wanting to live in the same county as her, talk to her over the phone every day, and see her often. In her perspective, this was not necessary and was overwhelming, while for him it seemed a normal part of a functional relationship. As we discussed the situation further, I asked what her dad did for a living when she was growing up. She replied that he had his own business and traveled most of the week; therefore, he was only at home during the weekend. As she told me about her father and mother’s relationship, due to the traveling, the light bulb turned on and her eyes became wide. She smiled, finally understanding why she had the resistance. The reality is that many of our expectations and roles in a relationship have been defined in our upbringing. We are often unaware of the baggage that these experiences create and the shadows they cast on our lives. When we are vulnerable with ourselves and we allow these shadows to surface, they present opportunities to release old patterns and create true intimacy.

If you want an enlightened relationship, you must first recognize that your emotions in relationships—especially those that pop up often or feel extreme—serve the purpose of alerting you to what programs you have hanging out in the shadows of your unconscious mind. Once you expose them to the light, you will be able to make the conscious, enlightened, decision to change your patterns.

Practice being aware of how you feel in your relationships. Notice what triggers you. Observe how you feel and consider what may be the hidden cause. Catch yourself when you react out of “habit” and question where you learned that pattern. Take your power back by studying your own emotions. This will allow you to pull the weed out from its roots, instead of cutting it off just to watch it grow back.

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