29 September 2011

The Most Important Things I've Ever Learned (About Love) - #1

how to show love

what it feels like to be in love
i love you graffiti
This is some graffiti art in Park Slope.  One of these tags used to be across the street from my apt.  Photos of us, above, by photographer, Saydi Eyre Shumway.

Part 1 of a series.  Click to read Part 2 and Part 3

OK, I'll be pouring my heart out to you on this one, because....
This was the biggest wake-up call of my life...(and I share this with hopes that it can help you.)

Back in the day (when I was married to my first husband), I wanted a baby because of the so called "love" that I had in my heart for my unborn children or for my husband.  All that "loooove" & desire & nurturing instinct that I felt was so "strong" that when I wasn't able to have a child, the disappointment made me feel hopeless, depressed, unhappy, miserable, worried, & so sad.  Oh, the drama!  Ha!  Believe it or not, I never saw where I was going wrong here.  I thought my behavior was NORMAL.  In fact, every one I knew thought it was normal, too.  I actually would have thought then that my sadness was actually even a display of my love for my husband and unborn children!  Hahaha.  Oh my.  How wrong I was

Well, I was lucky enough to have a wise woman (my acupuncturist) point out to me, that  REACTING IN A NEGATIVE WAY IS NOT HOW TO SHOW LOVE!!!  It's called dysfunction.  Oh man, this kicked me in the butt.  You see, if you are reacting negatively and with so much misery & drama, you are actually poisoning the world around you - including the world of your spouse and children.  That's such an awful thing to do to someone!  Especially to someone that you claim you love. 

The BEST KIND of love requires that you think more of someone else's needs instead of dwelling in your own misery & selfishly bringing everyone down with you.  So even if your spouse is doing anything from being short with you to cheating on you,  instead of biting back and being just as dysfunctional & spewing all that poison around, remain still.  And in those trying moments, out of REAL love for them, you are actually able to think of their needs instead of your own, and you can actually help them, as they clearly need it.  This made so much sense to me!  When I figured this out, I was shocked.  I had totally misunderstood what it means to truly show love to someone.  Immediately I wanted to adjust my ways.  And I did.  It was hard at first.  But I did it deliberately.  And I haven't stopped doing it since.


  1. i remember visiting you in Brooklyn and you telling about this firsthand. It left a big impression on me then and it is just as powerful of a message here. Thanks for sharing it!

  2. Wow! Light bulbs are going off in my head! I need this! Thank you for being so open in such a public forum. I admire you!

  3. Danny and Mara! Thank you for starting this blog. Your sharing has really bolstered me up - three times now, in precisely the three most transitional moments in my marriage, your story and wisdom have come to me and have been just what I've needed to move in a positive direction. You've helped me more than you know. Thank you. Just knowing the two of you, and seeing how happy you are together, gives me hope for life after divorce... and just life in general! You guys are super cute! :)

  4. this is such a great reminder! you are so good at expressing yourself, I have learned this too, but could never quite express it so perfectly.

    I really like the line about reacting negatively and POISONING the world around you, which effects your spouse and children. Such a true statement!

  5. Ladies - you are so kind. Thank you for the lovely comments! xo

  6. Erin / Melissa Taylor - I am so happy that I was able to share this stuff with you when the divorce was so raw. Those conversations & realizations I had then were the most powerful of my life, as I was living and breathing these truths & seeing firsthand how powerful they really could be, even in the darkest hour of my life. After 30 years of not feeling/knowing any truth at all...it was an honor for me to be able to share all of that with you.

  7. I know that I already left a comment today, but I am shocked at how much of what you write about it what I really need to hear. Thank you for being so open about such things on your blog. You are right on.

  8. Meg & Sara, I couldn't be happier to hear that some of this is resonating with you. When I first learned it, I felt the same way. And when I started applying it, it was life changing. That's when I knew I had to open my mouth and share it with everyone I could. I have shared it in person many times, but feel grateful that I can write all this on a blog and reach more people. Thanks so much for writing !

  9. I LOVE this post, and your perspective. I have blogged a little bit about infertility and I couldn't agree with you more. The only thing we can control is how we react to all of the changes, misfortunes, blessings and unexpected circumstances our lives bring. Thank you for your openness. I love what you have to say. Keep saying it! The world needs to hear it.

    Here is a post that I wrote about my own infertility. It took me getting through all that stuff to have the perspective you already have gained! You are amazing.


    Melissa Nelson

  10. I love this post so much, and NEED this in my life. My husband and children deserve to receive this from me as well. Here is my struggle in finding a way to implement this... I get it, and I hear it. But I am a VERY VERY emotional person, and I cannot stop myself from feeling. So i can learn to "be still" and not spew anger and hatred back in the face of adversity, but how do i deal with still having feelings about things? I mean, I can choose to not create drama and hate, but things happen that make me feel sad or angry. How do I move past that? How do I let it process and find a way to accept it and move past it without the drama? I just do not know how to pretend like my feelings don't exist. I have to be able to feel still, because I can't stop that. Words of wisdom? :)

  11. T&S - I suppose this is easier to explain face to face, but I'll try doing so in this little comment.

    This isn't about stopping feeling, it's about embracing better feelings. The only thing you're diminishing is the negativity, sharpness, anger, sadness and frustrations. In turn you get to chanel all the energy that would have been spent in that ugly state towards MAGNIFYING and MULTIPLYING compassion, real/selfless love, patience, kindness.

    Pretend you've got a finite amount of emotional energy you get to spend each day. Let's say it's 100 Emotional Energy Units. If you waste 60 of them being angry or creating drama, not only are those 60 gone but now you've only got 40 left for something good. Problem is, the way we spend energy is habitual (especially if you already feel like a very emotional person), so if you already spent 60 being angry or sad, chances are you're going to fester and stay wounded and squander the remaining portion and have a pretty bad day.

    What's worse, is if you are squandering your emotional energy, you are now making it more difficult on those around you (husband/children) - your sadness or sensitivity or anger breeds the same in those around you, draining their daily emotional energy units. That becomes a real ugly cycle...creating the dysfunction Mara mentioned above.

    What if you're emotional nature actually means you are capable of even deeper and more meaningful, drama-free love? Wouldn't that be cool. You are describing your emotions like they curse you with occasional sadness...but what if you chose to chanel it elsewhere and instead experienced deeper joy. And by expressing joy, love, and patience, you increase the likelihood those closest to you will also react in similar ways (or at least pull themselves out of their funks faster).

    Realize that bad things are always going to happen, but you don't have to react badly to them.

    Let's take a simple example. Your spouse comes home in a bad mood and says something stupid/offensive that hurts you. Here are your options - you can get angry, defensive, sad, take it personally, and begin fighting back...furthering the negative energy expended and practically encouraging them to stay in the ugly state they came home in, because now they'll be angry defensive, sad, take it personally, and fight back.

    Or, when they say something hurtful, instead of making it about you...you be patient and still. You realize something must have happened today that caused them to get to this point. Instead of reacting/mirroring their emotions - you become the calming agent that helps chanel them elsewhere. In doing so, your capacity to love increases...you are now experiencing compassion and a desire to help heal them. And instead of fueling their negative fires...you are stopping the cycle, if not for them (since they get to choose to come out of it or not) at least for yourself. Now you have extra energy and attention to focus on making the problem better. And you'll be filled with patience, love, joy, and the satisfaction of using your emotions for good instead of drama.

    Long answer, much more to say, but it will have to do for now. Seriously, go pick up Eckhart Tolle's "A New Earth". The whole book is a giant answer to your question.

  12. A quick follow up to further the analogy...there's something about negative energy that seems to make your emotional energy units disappear even faster. Whereas positive energy seems to actually replenish itself.

    It's kind of like the difference between going into debt and investing. When you go into debt, not only are you spending money, but you have to keep paying interest, and the more debt you go into the higher the interest payment and the less actual disposable income that you have.

    Whereas when you invest (in positive energies generated by choosing patience, kind words, compassion, etc.), you may be spending emotion energy units, but instead of paying interest on them, those units earn interest and give you more energy to spend.

    I hope I didn't take the analogy too far or make it sound hokey. That really is the way that I've personally experienced it, and it's the way I've seen it work in just about everybody else I've ever encountered. Good luck, and report back!

  13. Just found your blog and have already been moved greatly with new insights. Thank you both for sharing your journey and lessons.

    I want to gobble up every post immediately but think I'll hold myself to one or two a day to let things have a chance to soak in.

    Here's to blooming in Truth!

  14. This rings so true and dovetails perfectly with some things I have known/believed for a long time and yet am just beginning to really grasp. Thanks. Have you read M. Scott Peck's "The Road Less Traveled?" One of the ideas I'm referring to is his definition of love: the will to extend one's self in order to encourage one's own or another's spiritual growth. Because it is an act of will and a choice and it is an effort to act consciously for the benefit of the loved one. It includes self-sacrifice but doesn't equate with it. Just 2 cents worth.

    1. Paul - LOVE THIS SO MUCH! Thanks for sharing. This is so beautiful. In fact, it goes along perfectly with a post that I have in the works. I may use this quote for it. Thank you!

  15. I would appreciate it if one day you'd write a post about how to apply this philosophy to something more disastrous, like finding out that your husband cheated on you. I'm not sure how to react with love, kindness and patience without getting run over in the process and without honoring my own need to be sad/hurt/angry for something that justifies a non-positive reaction.

  16. Agreed. We all have a need to express things as we feel them - and that's what friends are FOR.

    Anyway faking a smile when your heart is broken is not showing love, it's just hiding pain. As someone who trudged through years of depression wearing a smile, I have learned the hard way that doing so not only does nothing to further strengthen a relationship, but it can be devastating to your health.

    As for infidelity, the emotions that pour out of that situation are completely natural and warranted. Those emotions told me what I didn't consciously know at the time and if I had listened to them sooner I would have saved myself a lot of heartbreak. It was even those emotions that told my ex that I DID love him, so much so that it hurt me that badly. And once I was in a place emotionally where it was safe to do so, made sense to do so, I was "still". And because all that "poison" had already left me, I was in a place to mend and heal and talk to my ex civilly without all the meanness coming out at a time when it would be far more hurtful.

    I don't disagree with the author, but feeling "hopeless, depressed, unhappy, miserable, worried, & so sad" is COMPLETELY OKAY. It is justified. And friends are there to help you deal with those emotions, resolve them, and move on. So SHARE them! Not with your children, no, but your spouse is not a child. That's why you HAVE a spouse!

    And if you have a spouse who can't handle that, maybe you should work on that.

    1. I have to agree with this comment. You can make a choice to be kind to a person who cheated on you, sure, but you do not have to continue loving them. A friend of mine, who is Mormon was told that it was her fault for being cheated on because she wasn't being desirable enough. I think that's where this kind of flawed thinking comes from. I feel that the author masks a lot of damaging messages in "love!" and "happiness!" to get sad women to flock to whatever she is selling on this blog (or ad revenue). It's had to be trusting of someone with ulterior motives. I wish people were more questioning. It is possible to be happy and intelligent. You don't need to lose yourself to these self help people.

    2. I was in an emotionally, physically and sexually abusive marriage and experienced first hand what Mara said. At some point in all of the bitterness and trying to get my husband to see how much he was hurting me, I felt the answer within that I just needed to learn how to love and not return poison with poison. I felt at first like that was somehow a betrayal of all the pain that was very real, but I decided to do it for my sake, if not for him. I was by no means perfect at it, but the funny thing is, that while it didn't change him, it changed me. I was refusing to let him victimize me by not going in to victim mode. My self-love and confidence, even in the face of all that criticism and pain, grew and I was finally able to have the strength to take my daughter and leave (best decision of my life.)

      I also wanted to second what anonymous and others have said above. You don't want to push down the feelings or ignore them. To this day I practice an emotional healing meditation. I get in the bath. I tell my emotions that I am ready to hear what they have to say and I LISTEN, even though it sometimes scares me to death. I sob with pain or I scream, or I just let my heart break and when that emotion is finally tapped out and fully expressed, I recommit to my decision to be happy and whole and loving. I then listen to my inner voice to know what the appropriate thing is to do (sometimes it means doing nothing, sometimes it means big things like leaving your husband.)

      Blessings on your very difficult path and on finding the balance between honoring the messages your emotions are trying to tell you, while choosing love and joy.


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