8. ROMANTIC LOVE
"There is no love but God's."
'There are no different categories of love. There isn't one kind
of love between a mother and a child, another
between lovers, and another between friends. The love that is
real is the love that lies at the heart of
all relationships. That is the love of God and it doesn't change
with form or circumstance.'
A girlfriend of mine remarked to me recently, 'Your relationship
with your baby must be showing you a
whole new kind of love." "No, it's not," I replied. "But it's
showing me a new depth of tenderness, which is teaching me more
about what love is."People ask, "Why can't I find a deep, intimate romance?"
The question is understandable, because
people are lonely. An intimate
romantic love, however, is like
taking graduate work toward a Ph.D.
in the ways of love, and many of us are hardly out of elementary
school. When we're not in a relationship, the ego makes it seem as though all the pain would
go away if we were. If the relationship lasts, however, it will actually bring much of our
existential pain to the surface. That's part of its purpose. It will demand all of our skills at
compassion, acceptance, release, forgiveness, and selflessness. We might tend
to forget the challenges involved in a relationship when we're not
in one,, but we remember them clearly enough once we are.
Relationships don't necessarily take the pain away. The only
thing that "takes the pain away" is a healing of the things that cause the pain. It isn't the absence
of other people in our lives that causes us the pain, but rather what we do with them when they're
there. Pure love asks for nothing but peace for a brother, knowing that only in that way can we be
at peace ourselves. How many times have I had to ask myself, "Do I want him to be at peace, or
do I want him to call?" Pure love of another person is the restoration of our heartline. The ego,
therefore, is marshaled against it. It will do everything it can to block the experience of love in any
form. When two people come together in God, the walls that appear to separate us disappear.
The beloved doesn't seem to be a mere mortal. They seem for a while to be something else,
something more. The truth is, they are something more. No one is anything less than the perfect
Son of God, and when we
fall in love, we have an instant when we see the total truth about someone.
They are perfect. That's not just our imagination. But the craziness sets in quickly. As soon as the light
appears, the ego begins its powerful drive to shut it out. All of a sudden, the perfection we glanced
on the spiritual planes becomes projected onto the physical. Instead of realizing that spiritual perfection
and physical, material imperfection exist simultaneously, we start
looking for material, physical perfection. We think someone's spiritual perfection isn't enough.
They have to have perfect clothes as well. They have to be hip. They have to dazzle. And so no one gets
to be a human being anymore. We idealize one another, and when someone doesn't live up to the ideal,
Rejecting another human being simply because they are human, has become a collective neurosis. People
ask) "When will my soul mate get here?" But praying for the right person is useless if we're not ready to
receive him. Our soul mates are human beings, just like we are, going through the normal processes of
growth. No one is ever "finished." The top of one mountain is
always the bottom of another, and even if someone meets us when we feel "on top" of things, the chances
are good that very soon we'll be going through something that challenges us. It is our commitment to
growth that makes this inevitable. But the ego doesn't like the look of people when they're "going through.
things. " It's unattractive.
As in every other area, the problem in relationships is rarely that we
haven't had wonderful opportunities or met wonderful people. The problem is, we haven't known
how to take the greatest advantage of the opportunities we've had. Sometimes we didn't recognize at
the time how wonderful those people were. Love is all around us. The ego is the block to our
awareness of love's presence. The idea that there is a perfect person who just hasn't arrived yet is a
major block.Our vulnerability to the myth of "Mr. Right" stems from our
glorification of romantic love. The ego uses romantic love for its "special" purposes, leading us to
jeopardize our relationships by overvaluing their romantic content. The difference between a
friendship and a romance can be illustrated with the image of a long stemmed rose. The stem is the
friendship; the blossom the romance. Because the ego is sensation-oriented, our focus
automatically goes to the blossom. But all the nourishment that the blossom needs in order to live)
reaches it through the stem. The stem might look boring in comparison, but if you take the blossom off
the stem it will not last for long. I shared that image in a lecture once, and a woman then added a
lovely thought: A long-term romance is like a rose bush. In any given season, a blossom might fall
off. But if the plant is well nourished, then the season will come around again, and new blossoms appear.
The disappearance of romantic fervor doesn't necessarily spell the end of a wonderful
relationship, except to
the ego. The Spirit can see the seeds of rebirth in any pattern of decline.
A Course in Miracles says it is 'not our job to seek for love, but to seek for all the barriers we hold
against its coming.' Thinking that there is some special person out there who is going to save us is a
barrier to pure love. It is a large gun in the ego's arsenal. It is a way the ego tries to keep us away
from love, although it doesn't want us to see that. We seek desperately for love, but it is that same
desperation that leads us to destroy it once it gets here. Thinking that one special person is going to
save us tempts us to load an awful lot of emotional pressure on whoever comes along that we think
might fit the bill. We don't have to remind God that we'd like wonderful relationships.
He's already clear about that. A Course in Miracles teaches us that a desire is a prayer.
The most enlightened prayer isn't "Dear God, send me
someone wonderful," but, "Dear God, help me realize that I am someone wonderful'' Years ago
I would pray for a wonderful man to come and take my desperation away. Ultimately I
said to myself, "Why don't you try to deal with that before he gets here?" I can't imagine any man saying
to a friend, "Get, I met a fabulous desperate woman last night!" Looking for Mr. Right leads to
desperation because there is no Mr. Right. There is no Mr. Right because there is no Mr. Wrong.
There is whoever is in front of us, and the perfect lessons to be learned from that person.
If your heart's desire
is for an intimate partner, the Holy Spirit might send someone who isn't
the ultimate intimate partner for you, but rather something better: someone with whom you are
given the opportunity to work through the places in yourself that need to be healed before you're
ready for the deepest intimacy. The belief in special love leads us to discount anything we don't see
as "ultimate relationship" material. I've overlooked some diamonds that way, failing to take
advantage of situations that would have only served to speed up my growth. We sometimes fail to
work on ourselves in the relationships that are right in front of us, thinking that "real life" begins
when they get here. This is just a ploy of the ego once again, making sure that we'll seek but not
find. The problem with not taking relationships seriously if they don't feel like "Mr. Right" is this:
Every once in a while, Mr. Right gets here-he sometimes even appears as Mr. Wrong transformed
but we blow it because we're not in practice. He's here, but we're not ready. We haven't been
working on ourselves. We were waiting for Mr. Right. A Course in Miracles says that one day
we will realize that nothing occurs outside our minds.
How a person seems to show up for us is intimately connected to how we choose to show up for
them. I have learned that my most productive responses in relationships come not from my focus
on the particulars about another person, but rather from my commitment to playing my own role in
the relationship on as high a
level as I'm capable. Love is a participatory emotion. In a holy relationship, we take an active role in
creating the context in which the interaction can unfold most constructively. We actively create the
conditions of interest, rather than passively waiting around to see whether or not we're interested.
No one is always gorgeous. No one is always sexy. But love is a decision. Waiting to see
whether someone is good enough is childish, and it is bound to make the other person feel on some
level as though they're auditioning for the part. In that space, we feel nervous) and when we're
nervous,, we're not at our best. The ego is looking for someone attractive enough to support. The
mature and miracle-minded among us support people in being attractive. Part of working on
ourselves, in order to be ready for a profound relationship, is learning how to support another
person in being the best that they can be. Partners are meant to have a priestly role in each other's
lives. They are meant to help each other access the highest parts within themselves.
I've been with men who never seemed to think I was good enough. I've also been with men who
were smart enough to say, "You look beautiful tonight" often enough for it to bolster my self-
esteem and help me show up for life in a more beautiful way. None
of us are really objectively attractive or unattractive. There is no such thing. There are
people who manifest the potential for sparkle that we all share, and those who don't.
Those who do are usually people who some
where along the line, either
from parents or lovers, were told verbally or nonverbally, "You're
wonderful and beautiful." Love is to people what water is to plants.
Examining the past can help clarify many of our problems, but healing doesn't occur in the
past. It occurs in the present. There is practically a mania these days for blaming the events of our
childhood for our current despair. What the ego doesn't want us to see is that our pain doesn't
come from the love we weren't given in the past, but from the love we ourselves aren't gi giving in
the present. Salvation is only found in the present. Every moment we have a chance to change our
past and our future by reprogramming the present. Such a view is blasphemy to the ego and we are
judged harshly for espousing it. Although we might have learned the ways of lovelessness from
our parents, perpetuating their patterns by denying them love now is hardly the way out of the
problem. We don't get to the light through endless investigation of the darkness. After a certain
point, the discussion always becomes circular. The only way to the light- is through entering the
fight. "My parents didn't tell me I was beautiful. Poor me." is not a miracle-minded thought. Rather,
it supports a feeling of victimization. The miracle-minded attitude here would be, "My parents
didn't tell me I was beautiful. The value of knowing this is that now
I'm clearer about why I don't have an easy time letting
anyone else tell me that, and I understand why I haven't developed the habit of saying it to others. I
can develop the habit now. The choice to give what I haven't received is always an available option."
A man mentioned to me recently that when he was a child, his father never gave him presents. I
suggested that a heal- would come from his sending his father lots of presents now.
I used to worry too much about whether or not I was supported, and not enough about whether
or not I was actively supporting others. Romantically, I realized that I needed a man
feel more like a man rather than spend my time worrying about whether or not he was
enough of a man. We help another person access their highest by accessing
our own. Growth comes from focus on our own lessons, not on someone else's. A Course in
Miracles teaches that "only what you have not given can be lacking in any situation. " I spent years
waiting for a man to make me "feel like a real woman." Only when I realized that my feminine
energy was not a man's gift to me, but rather my gift to myself and to him, did the men around me
start to demonstrate the more masculine energy I craved. The fairy tale called "The Frog Prince"
reveals the deep psychological connection between our
attitudes toward people and their capacity for transformation. In the story, a princess kisses a frog
and he becomes a prince. What this signifies is the miraculous power of love to create a context in
which people naturally blossom
into their highest potential.
Neither nagging, trying to get people to change, criticizing, or
fixing can do that. The Course says we think we're going to understand people in order to figure
out whether or not they're worthy of our love, but that actually, until we love them, we can never
understand them. What is not loved is not understood. We hold ourselves separate from people
and wait for them to earn our love. But people deserve our love because of what God created them
to be. As long as we're waiting for them to be anything better, we will constantly be disappointed.
When we choose to join with them, through approval and
unconditional love, the miracle kicks in for both parties. This is the primary key, the ultimate miracle