Love Beyond Expectations
Romantic love can deepen when we let it. At first it is a kind of idol worship. It can come with idealism, possessiveness, jealousy, and need. Our songs and movies and dreams are full of idealistic, romantic love, the eros of sexual desire. You see another person who matches enough of your inner image of “the desired one” and your heartstrings resonate and you are intoxicated, not only by his or her looks and wit and charm and strengths, but by how the person fits your own template of the one you want to love.
The other person becomes, like Beatrice was for Dante, the ideal that awakens your own loving heart. You transfer onto the other person your longings, so he or she represents and carries beauty, strength, courage, intelligence, and steadiness. These qualities are also in you, but you don’t always know it. They are unconscious, so your beloved becomes the carrier of your own golden qualities, and being with her or him helps you feel lovable, complete, whole.
You know the rest of the story. Placing your beloved on a pedestal works for a time, but slowly you look down from the golden glow and encounter the clay feet. They burp, belch, pout, get irritated, withdraw or cling, are too messy or too controlling. They become human. Of course then you might discard the fallen lover and look for a better one, but this would be never-ending. Instead, when your idealistic love has been disappointed, a deeper, freer love is available. If you and the other person are a good-enough match, you can stay with the relationship and let it deepen and lead you to fuller, truer love. This is an invitation to love beyond expectations, clinging, or attachment.
Still, attachment, clinging and expectations will arise along with love, and there will be times when your love is mixed with need and fear. Here is what you learn. When you cling to how your partner (or your children or anyone) should be, you create the circumstances of long-term suffering. Your partner does not want to be controlled; he or she wants to be loved, seen, accepted, held in your heart and honored and respected and blessed by your love.
You might ask, if our love is not based on attachment, what holds us together? Care, commitment, and dedication. Commitment isn’t about loving another person only when he does what you want, meets your needs, or when she fulfills your ideas for her life. You commit to love them as they are and dedicate yourself to their flowering. They will change and grow and explore, and sometimes they will do what you want and sometimes they won’t. This is the paradox of love, that it does not grasp. Love is generous, spacious and free to bless. We love best when we let go of expectations, just as we pray best when we don’t expect a certain outcome. As T.S. Eliot instructs, “teach us to care, and not to care.” “To have loved one soul is like adding its life to your own,” said Meher Baba. True love, given freely, blesses the one you love and frees you at the same time. This is love that is open-hearted, spontaneously offered, and caring no matter what. Your commitment is to love, and your dedication is to honor the heart’s connection.
Step out of the limitations that stop your love. Start where you are. Honor every form of love as a movement toward connection. Love mixed with desire is still seeking wholeness. Romantic love opens your heart to gaze upon another without fear or judgment. With love you see the beauty of the one before you, and shine upon them. Then you can learn to shine the light of love back to yourself as well, not in a narcissistic, self-centered way, but treasuring yourself with respect and abiding appreciation. Love yourself.
This excerpt is taken from No Time Like the Present: Finding Freedom, Love, and Joy Right Where You Are