“Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.”

― Louise Erdrich, The Painted Drum

We’re wired to love. We are social animals and we need loving relationships around us in order to feel secure and seen in the world. We also know now from attachment theory that, even as adults, we’re particularly wired to gravitate toward one particular other, someone with whom we can share life’s burdens and celebrate the blessings, someone who has our back and is on our team.

We know this and we gravitate toward love, and yet when the challenges of love show their faces in the form of discord, disconnection, doubt or disillusionment, we want to run. And these challenges will always show their faces eventually; that’s the nature love, especially in a longterm relationship (although they can appear at any time, as early as date one). For where there is love, there is fear. Where there is certainty, there is doubt. Where there is connection, there is disconnection. Where there is fantasy, there is disillusionment. Nobody tells you about the sticky side of the equation of love, which makes its appearance even more confusing and disturbing. Nowhere are we offered a guidebook or roadmap for how to navigate through the flip side of love.

We have to love. We’re wired for love. We gravitate toward love. Yet we don’t know how to love. It’s a phenomenal realization to admit to ourselves that most people don’t know how to love and be loved, especially since we live in a culture that tells us the opposite: “Love should be easy. Love should be effortless. And if you have to work at love there’s something wrong with your relationship.” If I could extract one lie about love that the culture promotes, it would be probably be “love should be easy” as it’s the one that messes with psyches more than any other.

There is nothing easy about love. All we have to do is look around and observe not only the abysmal divorce rate in our culture but also the tiny number of thriving, connected, long-term relationships to know that love is anything but easy. Healthy love is a skill that nobody learns in school. Passionate love is a habit that very few people saw practiced at home. While there is a small fraction of our population who are “lucky in love”, meaning that healthy loving seems to come easier for them, the vast majority of couples struggle to stay connected to each other through the vines and valleys of life and time (and again, this difficulty finding and maintaining connection can show up very early on).

If we don’t know how to love, how do learn to love? Much of it is time and patience. The longer you stick it out with the headlight of curiosity and vulnerability guiding your way, the more you will learn about how to love and be loved. Many couples in longterm, loving relationships will say that it took them at least ten to fifteen years to truly get to know each other and hit their stride. Ten to fifteen years! This is not the message we receive from the media. Time is clearly a key factor is the equation of healthy loving.

But time and patience while practicing habits that create more discord doesn’t serve our aim. We must allow time for an intimate relationship to grow as we learn the intricacies and idiosyncrasies that comprise two humans together and we must find patience for the blossoms of the tree of our unique love to bloom, but if we can do this while following Love Laws and practicing Loving Actions that promote togetherness and closeness instead of following our habitual and inherited laws and actions that lead to separateness, all the better.

That’s what I teach in my course, Open Your Heart: A 30-day program to feel more love and attraction for your partner. I teach the art and skills of love. I offer the roadmap for dealing with the bumps of fear and the pain of disconnection that you never learned in school. Because if we have to love, which clearly we do, how much more fulfilling is the path when we can follow a roadmap and practice the art and skills of love in a way that will lead to what all human beings ultimately want: to feel loved, to feel connected, to feel safe, to feel wanted. We can shoot in the dark and stumble around blindly, following our inherited patterns from generations of ancestors who likely knew very little about healthy loving, or we can proceed with a map.

As both a devotee and a novice at love, I continue to learn deeper and deeper layers about this art and skill myself. While I created this course almost four years ago and have run it nine times, I continue to peel the layers off of my own understanding of how love works. Nobody is a master at love. We are all apprentices, bowing humbly at the altar of the heart, making mistakes, hurting, being hurt, recovering, forgiving, repairing. As I said in last week’s post, I will be sharing my newest revelations from my own marriage in the weekly phone calls and on the forum, and I look forward to connecting with you directly on these calls (I always learn as much as I teach when I run my thirty day courses). So I invite you to join me and a group of passionate learners as we deepen our understanding of this magical mystery we call love, taking each other by the hand as we travel through the dark tunnels of fear and excavate the jewels that live in the most hidden places of our hearts.

This round of Open Your Heart: A 30-day program to feel more love and attraction for your partner, begins on March 8th, 2018. I’ll look forward to meeting you there.

Author's Bio: 

Sheryl Paul, M.A., has counseled thousands of people worldwide through her private practice, her bestselling books, her e-courses and her website. She has appeared several times on "The Oprah Winfrey Show", as well as on "Good Morning America" and other top media shows and publications around the globe. To sign up for her free 78-page eBook, "Conscious Transitions: The 7 Most Common (and Traumatic) Life Changes", visit her website at http://conscious-transitions.com. And if you're suffering from relationship anxiety – whether single, dating, engaged, or married – give yourself the gift of her popular eCourse