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Why Is Love So Hard?

The Fear Guide to Lasting Love

Divorce. Heartache. Gut-wrenching arguments. Marriages filled with hurt feelings and repressed resentments. Sound all too familiar? You're not alone. Many of us find ourselves bewildered and dismayed by how difficult and painful "love" can be. We yearn for relationships that are better, more rewarding and just plain easier. In our hearts we know that love isn't supposed to be this way. So what are we doing wrong? And more to the point, what can we do to make our love relationships more, well, loving?

"So many of us unknowingly base our relationships on selfish love, which is a product of the ego and creates a need to control one's partner and to 'get' instead of 'give,'" says Susan Jeffers, author of The Feel the Fear Guide to Lasting Love (Jeffers Press, 2005). "People don't do this maliciously, but rather from a sense of fear. The good news is that when you realize this truth – that your anger, blame and judgment are really fear in disguise – you can turn your relationship around. You can start practicing real love. And it's OK if your partner doesn't want to work on it with you – you can do it all by yourself."

So how do you begin? Here are just a few of Jeffers' many suggestions from The Feel the Fear Guide to Lasting Love:

  • Expand the purpose of your relationship. As I see it, a relationship has two important purposes – a Practical Purpose and a Higher Purpose. The Practical Purpose of a relationship is to have someone with whom to share our lives.

    Traveling the road together can be a joyous experience. But sometimes problems with money, sex, children, work and the like can make the journey together very difficult. It is for this reason that we need to have a Higher Purpose. The Higher Purpose of a relationship is to learn how to become a more loving person – despite what problems come up. It is our using all the problems as a vehicle for seeing what we need to work on within ourselves to keep love in our hearts. In this way, problems become a plus instead of a minus. We learn, we grow, we are filled with creativity, we take responsibility, we feel strong and we ultimately experience the exquisite beauty of real love.

  • Handle the neediness. Neediness is an emotion created by fear and is one of the prime destroyers of love. Neediness causes us to protect ourselves at the expense of our mates, to close our hearts, to judge our mates and blame them for our unhappiness. But when we feel strong and whole, we can be "safely vulnerable," always knowing that no matter what happens we will handle it all. In this way, our neediness disappears and our ability to love with a sense of confidence and joy radiates throughout our beings. We become a magnet to a truly wonderful relationship.
  • Pick up the mirror instead of the magnifying glass. What does that mean? The magnifying glass represents our symbolically pointing a finger and blaming our mates for our unhappiness. The mirror represents looking inward and taking responsibility not only for our actions but also for our REACTIONS to what is going on in the relationship. The mirror is self-awareness, and self-awareness is the first step toward positive change. A few examples:

    The magnifying glass: I am angry he is not making more money.

    The mirror: Why am I blaming him? It's my own fear that is stopping me from creating money all by myself. I have to work on my fears.

    The magnifying glass: I am angry because she is taking time away from me to spend time with her friends.

    The mirror: Is my life so limited that I can't function without her for a few hours? It's time for me to take responsibility to create more balance in my life so that I don't feel empty and needy when she is not around.

  • Become the mate you want your mate to be. First, make a list of all the characteristics you want your mate to have. It could look like this: loving, thoughtful, warm, considerate, caring, appreciative, romantic, generous. Now for the big challenge – pick up the mirror and begin developing these qualities in yourself. You may be someone who resists this challenge. But how can we ask our mates to be something we have been unwilling to be ourselves? Trust me when I tell you that incorporating all these loving qualities within our own beings can dramatically alter the thoughts and actions of our mates.
  • Validate your mate. We have to learn to notice and openly express thanks for the beautiful things our mates do for us. (And if you can't find anything to thank him or her for, then why are you there?) It makes our mates feel so good when we let them know the things we appreciate about them. And it encourages them to continue doing beautiful things. Remember that every relationship has its good and every relationship has its bad. By focusing on the bad, we starve. By focusing on the good, we thrive. So don't let another day pass before you say, "Thank you. I love you." Say it today – and say it often.
  • Commit to one romantic act a day. Yes, love is an emotion, but it's also an action. Regularly ask yourself, "What am I doing to keep love alive?" Then commit to doing something every day that will make your partner feel good. Say "thank you" a lot, send a loving e-mail, buy flowers, light some candles at dinner, plan a surprise weekend. Action is a way of keeping us conscious of how blessed we are to have our partners in our lives. It may take time to push through any resistance that you feel, but keep pushing. Eventually you will get yourself on the side of love.
  • There are times to "lie" lovingly. You sit down to dinner together and you want to complain about the fact that your mate was late coming home from work. Knowing that he or she is in the middle of a lot of pressure at work at the moment, it would be irrational and punishing to say, "It really makes me angry that you came home late today." Instead, with clenched teeth, if need be, let what comes from your mouth be loving, even if you are not feeling loving. Say something like, "I'm so happy when we are together. I love you." You will most likely get a loving response back. And the miracle of such an approach is that your own tension will melt and you will feel the beauty of the moment instead of being the one to destroy it.
  • Stop gender bashing. You've probably been guilty of telling (or at least laughing at) jokes about members of the opposite sex – even when your mate is in the room. Don't. What seems like "harmless" joking may actually be working against your efforts to move out of the realm of selfish love and into the realm of real love. When you participate in the bashing of members of the opposite sex, you are behaving in a hurtful and unloving way. Remember, if you don't love, respect and admire the opposite sex, you won't, by definition, love, respect and admire your mate.
  • All of the above is about learning how to move ourselves from a "selfish" love to "real" love. It is also about radiating a positive and loving energy. Why is this so important? As mentioned above, science is proving that feelings are contagious. This means that if you think and act lovingly, your partner will actually "catch" that loving energy. You become a model that evokes love in your mate. And the whole nature of the relationship begins to move in the direction of love. Radiating a positive and loving energy can make all the difference in the world.

    The best news of all, says Jeffers, is that when you commit to moving beyond "selfish" love and into "real" love, something truly amazing can happen. You may actually wake up one day and realize that you're sitting across the dinner table from that being you didn't really believe existed: your Soul Mate. "If you want to 'find' your Soul Mate, you have to become someone who lives in your soul, what I love to call the Higher Self," she writes. "We can all make the decision to live our lives with dignity, love and caring and to push through the inner fears that keep us from being loving people. We all have that choice."

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