Probably the most prevalent question I’m asked in my counseling practice is “Where is love?” Clients want to know why they can’t find a successful life partnership, why a friend or family member won’t respond as they would like, even why they don’t love themselves.In a perfect world, love wouldn’t be something we have to learn — if you believe in a loving cosmos, then we were all conceived in love, and it’s love that created us. But, we live in a human world, and we’re all imperfect beings, falling short time and time again in our attempts to love one another and even to love ourselves. So, we have to learn to love, and even learn to be loved.The more we can learn to think of ourselves surrounded by love, living in love, breathing love in and out, the more we begin to feel it, and the more we attract it. As we understand this, we begin to meld our imperfect, human world with the larger, more expansive world of love, and things begin to happen that we cannot anticipate. Expecting a miracle, as long as we really strive to understand what miraculous means, will actually make it happen. It’s not really magic, unless you believe as I do, that the mind is a miracle in itself.
Think of it this way: every opportunity we have to express love is a course in emotional growth — thinking about love and relationships as a learning experience will make it easier to increase your loving potential. Most of us are quite practiced in taking courses. If you sign up for an algebra course, for example, you know what you’ll face: 10 (or so) weeks of learning new material and homework assignments consisting of more and more complex problems based on the material learned. You may grumble about the homework load, or complain about the teacher, but you never think you’ve been given the problems as punishment.
Problems are a natural part of the educational process. Life, too, is a classroom with many classes. One of the most rigorous courses is Love 101. It’s required, no one escapes it, and the skills learned are useful for an entire lifetime. The syllabus for this class includes love of self, family, and friends. The advanced syllabus includes love of enemies and those who disappoint, hurt or frustrate us. All of the problems presented are to help us stretch and grow emotionally.
Every relationship you have is a learning lesson in love, both of yourself and of the other. By keeping in mind you are a student and problems exist to help you learn, you will make life easier, growth faster, and everything will make more sense. Your homework is to learn about love. This week’s assignment might be some difficulty with a friend or family member.
How are you going to solve the problem of loving that friend who’s not treating you well?
How are you going to turn an abrasive situation into a smooth path?
Or maybe the person who’s not being so nice to you is actually yourself. So, what can you do, when you’re at odds with you, to reconcile and turn the criticism into appreciation and love for self?
Sometimes a romantic partner or spouse is the biggest challenge. What if your partner is not listening to you, or resisting your ideas? How can you love that, and make enough room in your heart to hear him or her first, and help the atmosphere change from hostile to loving?
And what if your assignment is creating a romance where none exists? How can you do that with love for yourself, and with the positive belief that there’s enough love in this imperfect world that you can have what you want?
Once you’ve been disappointed or hurt, being afraid is natural, and it’s even a healthy response to facing a situation you’ve had trouble with before. Your fears are saying, in effect “I’ve had a bad time with this before — I don’t feel prepared to do it again.” Rather than letting that message frighten you away, learn to love your emotions for wanting to keep you safe, and discover a new, slower, safer path to tread. But don’t give up on the goal.