Most people have experienced it at least once in their lifetime – the moment when we connect with Love, that force behind the creation of the universe and everything in it. It is so deeply fulfilling, it stirs us up on a cellular level. We feel completely whole: like nothing in our lives is broken, and nothing is missing. We feel like dancing for joy; we are alive, soaked in grace, pain-and-fear-free, filled with passion for Life itself.
We are glad to surrender to it and offer no resistance. Our soul remembers that this Love, this force, is where we came from, and it’s where we belong and where we want to be.
These moments can be experienced in spiritual awakenings (some people also call them ‘encounters with God’) or life-changing events such as holding a newborn in our hands for the first time.
But there is one place where we experience this Love, in the fullest way possible: relationships – friendships, parenthood and especially marriage. Here is where moments turn into a life-long practice of Love. (1 John 4:16 “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.”)
The challenging part, however, is that while connecting with Love (the force of Life that comes from our Creator) is mostly an individual thing, relationships happen between two people who are willing to surrender to the same Love – and recognize the sacred power (and sacred responsibility) behind it.
For most people, it’s not easy to trust another person and let our guard down.
As we go through life, most of us accumulate ‘bad’ and hurtful experiences – when our trust is broken, or we feel abandoned, betrayed and rejected. Some people experience sexual or emotional abuse. Each failed relationship – and each violation – makes us afraid to try to connect on a deeper level. We build protective walls and shields around our heart and end up missing out on ever experiencing the Love in which we were meant to live.
But, when we know that the Love we feel for each other is our human experience of the Divine Love that loves us all the time, we can always access it and allow it to restore us. … We find courage to work through the pain and trust love again.
“My wife left me,” a coaching client writes in an email. “All she offered as a reason for wanting a divorce was that she always felt lonely in our marriage.”
They were married for decades. They seemed happy – they both had successful careers and healthy kids who went to great schools; they belonged to a church community and volunteered together. They took vacations each year and sent out Christmas cards, looking happy and blessed.
He was shocked that she could be lonely. He was always there – faithful, responsible, and didn’t drink or travel extensively.
“I thought we were happy. But I recognize now that there were many times when she refused me and I didn’t try to understand why. I’d just get angry or resigned, and looked for distractions instead of solutions,” he concludes with regret and a sense of deep loss.
I have heard this story dozens, if not hundreds of times, from friends and people I coached to those who have shared with me after my concerts and talks.
We get hurt. When we don’t treat our hurts properly, they heal with big scars. Abusive situations hold so much shame that many victims end up keeping their ‘secrets’ inside without a chance to heal. They hope that, like in the Disney fairy tales, their lover will someday come to rescue and magically wipe it all away.
Instead, the story goes like this: after the first falling-in-love magic fades away – or gets lost between kids, work and home chores – the wife’s unprocessed grief or anger grows into depression and anxiety. Her doctor prescribes medications that numb the feelings of loneliness and put the smile back on her face, but that doesn’t correct the cause of it. It disconnects her even more from her husband, who is somehow still oblivious to the fact that something is going on.
The husband doesn’t know how to connect with her, either. Perhaps he never knew in the first place, because he was told that as a man he has to be in control and not listen to his heart. She withdraws from him; he feels hurt and resentful. Without connection, lovers eventually drift so far apart that they aren’t able to find their way back to each other. They blame each other for their unhappiness. (Men get depressed and suffer from anxiety, too … this example happens with roles reversed.) They distract with work, substance abuse, porn, or superficial internet relationships. The only thing that could bring them back, Love, is the last thing they want to really open up to. It feels too vulnerable and scary. Or futile. It’s easier to simply leave.
I learned from my marriage that the hardest thing to do is to dig in deep and work through the pain. There were times when it was incredibly hard to pull out all the ugly hurts I kept inside and allow them to heal slowly and achingly. Yes, we both thought of giving up many times. But we were both stubborn – and we trusted God’s love to help us make it through. We found our way back to each other, surrendered to Love, and when he got sick and passed away, it was pain all over again.
It’s easy to shut yourself off and say: “I’m never going to let myself hurt this much.” But with shutting off, we also shut off the experience of God’s Love for us. And without that Divine Love, how can we love our neighbor, the stranger, the poor? How can we love all creation?
Here are some things that helped me:
Working with a therapist and a coach. A therapist will help uncover and heal the hidden fears and unprocessed hurts. A coach will help you move forward from the past and give you tools to manage new hurts and anxieties (because new hurts and anxieties will always be a part of our lives.)
Learning about yourself involves not just learning about your hurts and fears, but also about your needs and wants.
Communicating openly and honestly. Express how you feel without putting the blame on the other person. Say: “I feel lonely when I am unable to connect with you” instead of “You make me feel lonely.” Learn to listen to the other person as well. Knowing that each of us have our own struggles and battles we are fighting helps us to communicate with a lot more compassion and understanding.
Making it a point to connect with the source of Love; do this by meditating, praying, going out into nature, or sitting still and silent. Be reminded that Love is a force that created everything you see; a force that supports you and surrounds you no matter what needs healing.