At the beginning of a relationship, it is easy to love. You don’t have to do much to receive love. Both of you give and receive, like in a wonderful dance. We believe that love should remain like that forever. In reality, love is a continuous state of being.
Love is not something that we have or don’t have. Love is something that we do. Love is not something that comes to us, love is something that we give -or refuse to give- every moment of your life. Most people know moments of mercy, when their hearts simply open up and love flows. This love can be of a spiritual nature, it can be love for God, for a child, for a friend, or for a lover. Ours hearts may also open when we hear a wonderful piece of music or see a great piece of artwork.
These inspired moments are testimonies of our inherent ability to love. The practice of intimacy challenges us to keep our hearts open also in difficult moments. It is not about getting love and keeping it. Love is what we are and what we do, when we keep our hearts open. Every moment of our lives, we either separate ourselves from others and from the world, or we stay open in connected in our relationships to others.
In order to practice love, as a first step simply stay in the relationship with people in difficult situations and observe your tendency to run away and to withdraw from love and from life.
Do you withdraw when your partner says certain things? Are you shutting yourself off when he/she treats you in a certain way? Do you turn away from him/her when he/she withdraws from you? Intimate relationships are a special opportunity to practice love, but all relationships are a test with regards to love, and a chance to give love.
The more experienced you become in the practice of love, the more you will find yourself in relationships, be it with your intimate partner or with your friends or colleagues. Ultimately you will be able to stay open and not shut yourself off even when you feel hurt. This open relationship is love.
When you fall in love, your heart opens up and you love everybody you see. Do you know this feeling? In difficult times, remember this feeling and exercise it to open your heart. It is not always easy, but if you want to overcome the difficult times in your relationship, you need to practice your ability to love.
That does not mean that you have to be in harmony all the time. You might even fight or cry, but always remind yourself of the love that is inside of you, that has always been inside of you.
Where was your love before you met your partner? Did it hover around somewhere above you or in front of you? And then when this partner came did he/she place this love inside of you? No, this love was always inside of you, it is there now, and it will be there in the future. Your partner is only your personal trigger that unleashes this love. You yourself are responsible for reconnecting to your love and for giving it out also in a moment when your partner is not lovable.
Make some time each day to connect with the love that is in your heart. Meditate on this love, feel this love and relax your body in the energy of this love, especially in times when your relationship is difficult.
Remember that a perfect relationship is not a relationship where everything goes smoothly, but a relationship that grows constantly. There are times in any relationship where you can’t stand your partner; this does not mean that it is a bad relationship.
Intimate relationships are action. They change over the course of time. You don’t have a relationship – you daily practice relationship. In painful moments, remember what it was that attracted you to be with your partner: love. Reclaim this love, even if you are angry or feeling hurt or rejected. A ‘perfect’ relationship is a relationship that gives you and your partner the opportunity to practice love.
Even if your relationship becomes formal, and you get married or decide to live together, you will continue to experience the dynamics of feeling close at one time and then again alienated at other times. The measure of a good relationship is not ‘When will this finally stop?’, but rather how open you stay in the dance of dynamics. Do you stay connected to the love in your heart? Are you able to continue to give out your love, even if your partner hurts you or withdraws from you?
It is an illusion to believe that the cycle of positive (harmony) and negative (disharmony) will stop. Instead of waiting for this to happen, observe how you react to this cycle. How do you react when your partner hurts you or withdraws from you? Do you practice love or do you withhold love? Instead of interpreting his/her behavior as a personal offense, stay open in your heart. Even if you are hurt you can still be open and give out love.
When you shut yourself off and withhold love, you are sending your partner a message: ‘I will love you only when you show me love’, implying that love can be acquired. If you convey each other such messages, both of you need to do something to acquire ‘love’. You are no longer lovers freely giving each other love. Such ‘love’ is not true love, as true love is always a gift – it cannot be acquired.