I always seem to get a little cynical around Valentineâ€™s Day. Maybe itâ€™s the over-consumption of flowers, chocolates and balloons, but I have trouble getting in the spirit of love when it feels forced. As most of you know, my view of things most often comes from what I call an inside out perspective. I am always looking for whatâ€™s beneath the surface; I delve down into the darker more remote parts of emotional life. I look for the meaning in experiences with the intention of gaining insight and wisdom from what we endure on a daily basis as human beings.
My draw toward finding meaning in lifeâ€™s experiences was greatly inspired by the work of Viktor Frankl. His emphasis on meaning and the value of suffering speaks volumes in a culture that focuses more on the outcome than the process.
â€œEverything can be taken from a man but one thing, the last of the human freedoms-to choose oneâ€™s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose oneâ€™s own way.â€ â€“ Viktor Frankl
With Valentineâ€™s Day just around the corner, I couldnâ€™t help but ask myself â€œWhat have I learned about love through suffering?â€ This wasnâ€™t a hard question to answer having been through a divorce after 20 years of marriage. Today I share with you my bits of wisdom from experiencing heartbreak in the face of love.
I learned thatâ€¦
Vulnerability is a prerequisite for love.
I have found that itâ€™s hard to make love last when vulnerability is lacking. When we are able to be vulnerable, to share our needs and desires in a relationship, love deepens and endures.
Love is not a guarantee of fidelity.
Infidelity can happen even in the most love filled relationships. Many people who cheat will report that they deeply love their partner in spite of their actions. Infidelity is a much more complicated issue that needs to be thought about in a broader context to be truly understood.
There are many kinds of love.
Obsessive love, unrequited love, and brotherly love are just a few. One can also confuse lust or sexual desire with love. The truth is that love has to be uniquely defined for each individual, in every different context of life. The beauty is that when one kind of love fades, another re-surfaces or a new kind of love gets discovered.
Heartbreak doesnâ€™t eradicate love.
No matter how painful heartbreak can be, it rarely wipes out the true love we have in our heart. When our heart has been cracked open like an egg, it can feel like all the love we ever had is gone. Unless we choose to shut ourselves down to love out of protection, we can love again even more deeply.
Love hurts as much as a broken arm.
When we think of love we associate it with warm and fuzzy feelings. If we thought about how painful love can be, none of us would every allow ourselves to experience it. We live with a healthy sense of denial about the pain of love, but heartbreak reminds us of how much it can hurt. Remembering this may help us to cherish the love we have, to treat it gently and tenderly so it remains true to us.
Loss can strengthen the capacity to love.
Itâ€™s true that we can forget how much we love someone or something until we lose it. This sense of loss can strengthen or love going forward as we can learn a greater appreciation for the love we have while itâ€™s still in our embrace. The awareness of how painful it is to lose love can enlighten us to the importance of loving more deeply.
Love is not an inoculation against heartbreak.
Sometimes we think that if we are in love we cannot be hurt. We associate love with strength, protection and security but it can also be vulnerable, risky and dangerous. Seeing love in its entirety, not just in the way that makes us feel comfortable provides a more honest and authentic relationship with love itself.
Loving and hating someone at the same time is possible.
Anyone who has been betrayed or rejected knows how quickly feelings can turn to rage. The dichotomy of love and hate has been around for centuries, and they are actually intricately linked in the brain. It can be crazy-making to have these simultaneous feelings, but itâ€™s perfectly normal.
Love isnâ€™t enough to sustain a relationship.
No amount of love can save a relationship that isnâ€™t working. Itâ€™s hard to separate this out sometimes, which leads us to saying things like â€œif you really loved me you would stayâ€. If it were only that simple; relationships require much more than love.
Love is more of a verb than a noun.
Showing love is equally as important as feeling it. When we donâ€™t show how much we care about someone through action, we run the risk of losing love. Sustaining love in a relationship is work. and when people get lazy or forget, love fades and risk of heartbreak increases.
Dr. Andra Brosh February 12th, 2013