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An old myth relates this tale. A handsome young man, with dark and curling hair, stood beneath the window of his beloved, strumming softly on his lute. The music beckoned her to the window. He raised his song of love in a clear and strong voice: "Dearest love, thou art more beautiful than the newly budded rose or a brilliant sky." By now his lovely lady was leaning from the window, soft lips parted as she longed for him. He sang on: "I love thee truly, from the deepest well of my soul, I pledge my heart and my very life to thee. Happily would I die for thee. I pray only that God grant that I love thee still more."
As the story goes, years later, when this young swain met with death and he reached the heavenly throne, the master asked him, "Did you love me while you lived on earth?" The young man cried, "Oh yes! I loved my beloved with all my heart and soul. Through that love divine I touch thee my lord."
Through love you touch the divine in yourself. Love can bring out the best in us. The ennobling, transforming power of love is often overlooked these days. We certainly don't think of love as 'the spiritual path that the troubadour in the story recognized. The lovers of old committed deeds of daring and courage to prove their love. They refined their basic instincts as they opened themselves to the uplifting qualities of the finest human sentiments. They strove to express the beauty of their heartfelt experiences through outpourings of song, poetry, and prose.
Is it possible to claim some of the magic and radiance of the old tradition of romantic love in today's world? At this point, when half ofall unions dissolve in divorce, and economic and career concerns stamp out the joy and poetry of loving another, it is difficult. More baffling still is how, even when we really try to make our togetherness hold, we find we lack the skills and understanding to do so.
To form a lasting and growing bond of love there are several threads that must be simultaneously woven together. The first thread recaptures the beauty and magic of love, thereby lifting us above cynicism and jaded attitudes. Consistently maintaining a positive view of our partners and celebrating what is wonderful in them can keep a marriage vibrant. It is so important, in fact, that I have developed a set of exercises to help you bring the best forward in your relationship. The second step clears the blocks to our ability to love freely. Those blocks of course come from the bad examples we followed and earliest lessons we learned -- and must unlearn -- in relating to others.
The people who raised us taught what they knew about love and what they knew had been passed on from their parents. When you fell in love, all that was passed down to you Was brought to the fore. If there were gaps in the way you were nurtured or wounds that remained unhealed, they all come into play. But, if you allow it to, love can motivate you to heal those wounds and close the gaps, help you acquire greater maturity. You can become kinder, more generous, patient, and playful.
There are specific behaviors and methods of interacting that can hurt or enhance our ties with others. We have to recognize what they are. This may seem obvious to some people but a mystery to others. Most of us don't have any routine way of investing in or addressing our partners' or our own emotional needs. In a recent interview published in the San Francisco Chronicle, Professor David Olson of the University of Minnesota summarized the problem: "We assume that if people are going to do well in a career, they're going to invest time and money in education. But we don't assume that with marriage.... We shouldn't be surprised [that so many marriages are unhappy]; if you don't invest anything, what can you expect?"
Most of us know that couples counseling or marital therapy is readily available, but relatively few couples find their way into a professional's office. In large part this is due to the old stigma attached to therapy, the notion that it's for crazy people. Many people do not view therapy as a way of cultivating love. Instead, they consider it a sign of failure. An important and unique feature of Love Lessons is the inclusion of verbatim dialogue between couples and therapist. For many of you, this may be your first opportunity to see how therapy works and it will demystify the process for you. I hope it will inspire you to give yourself some Love Lessons with a qualified professional.
Most couples, including those who share their life stories with us in Love Lessons, find themselves feeling stuck at some point in their relationships. No matter what they do, it seems, they continue in a vicious cycle of anger and hurtful behavior toward one another. You will see that one of the techniques I use to assist our couples in moving forward involves releasing pent-up fury in a safe and productive way. Often the emotions expressed date back to childhood and involve the parents of each spouse. I cannot emphasize enough that simply getting in touch with repressed feelings and venting them does not lead to resolution of the issues. (But it does help free up misdirected feelings. The energy it takes to keep them locked up can now be used to enhance healing.) We must be careful not to fall into the "blame game," where we conveniently excuse our behavior by saying, "It's my parents' fault that I'm this way." Many people believe their family patterns can't be broken. Yes they can. To break out of your negative family legacy you must go...Love Lessons. Copyright © by Dr. Brenda Wade. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.