Stop looking for love in all the wrong places, and wake up to a new experience of enjoying love. Marci Shimoff, author of Love for No Reason: 7 Steps to Creating a Life of Unconditional Love, shows you how.
Myth #1: The Myth of Romantic Love
Whenever I told people I was writing a book called Love for No Reason, they’d invariably smile and say, “Oh, a relationship book.” People automatically equate love with romantic relationships.
It’s no surprise that romantic love steals the show. It’s part of our survival wiring, necessary for humans to continue as a species.
Romantic love has long been humanity’s favorite drug. It triggers the brain to serve up a powerful hormonal cocktail including dopamine, norepinephrine, adrenaline, and oxytocin guaranteed to send us soaring. World-renowned biological anthropologist Dr. Helen Fisher has spent over thirty years studying the physiological basis of romantic love. She’s concluded that romantic love is “one of the most addictive substances on earth,” with the same characteristics of any other type of addiction, including obsession, craving, and distortion of reality.
Her research shows that when we fall in love, primitive parts of the brain associated with euphoria, craving, and obsessive thinking become active, including the ventral tegmental area (VTA ) at the base of the brain, which is a part of the brain’s reward system. In fact, it’s the same brain region that lights up when a person feels the high of cocaine. No wonder we’re addicted to the rush that comes with romance. This addiction has created a collective preoccupation with romance and everything connected to it — our ability to attract a mate, the ups and downs of courtship, and, of course, sex.
If you’re a love junkie, it’s because you’re addicted to that love high and are craving that amphetamine-like rush of love chemicals. When your body builds up a tolerance to these chemicals, you begin to require more and more of them to get that same high. You may go through relationship after relationship to get your fix.
While romance is certainly part of the whole love equation, our obsession with it has taken our attention off a bigger, more fulfilling love, the real brass ring. Many of the Love Luminaries told me that while they enjoy romantic love, it pales in comparison to the state of Higher Love they live in.
We look outside ourselves thinking that romantic love will complete us. This is the underlying message of every chick flick ever made. (I confess, I watched Pretty Woman at least a dozen times, and for years I waited for Richard Gere to come and sweep me off my feet.) But it distracts us from the greater love we have inside.
What can we do to break free of this myth? The answer is a 180-degree turn in our approach to love, which means overriding our societal conditioning and making a habit of connecting with the love inside ourselves, the foundation of the Love for No Reason program. Relationships based on this inner love are naturally more fulfilling.
One of my Love Luminaries, Amely Greeven, told me a great story about her own turnaround with romantic love:
When I was twenty-five, I worked at Vogue magazine, New York City’s bastion of image, luxury, and desire. Despite all the “beauty” and “romance” we sold as a magazine, there was very little beauty or romance in the environment. Instead, it was a hectic place with lots of pressure and competition.
I was a stressed-out editorial assistant and I quickly befriended one of the other young assistants, a beautiful woman named Tish. She was African American, petite and sexy, with a tribal headwrap and funky Adidas sneakers. (Can you imagine how she stood out in the world of Manolo Blahniks?)
Like many twentysomethings in Manhattan, what Tish and I wanted in addition to our hotshot jobs was a super-duper romance, a blow-your-mind boyfriend. Candidates for this job were few and far between, especially in the headquarters of fashion!
Yet when we’d talk about our desires, I was always surprised by Tish’s attitude. She wouldn’t join in on my loop of “Where is he? Life’s a bummer without him (boo-hoo),” about our inability to find “the one.” Quite the opposite.
Any time I started going there, like a little songbird Tish would start to trill, “I don’t need a man to feel love. Life is my lover!”
Then she’d grab an imaginary microphone and sing a Stevie Wonder song or something equally upbeat, getting me to join her.
I had never heard anyone say that before. I remember thinking, Yeah, right… But at the same time, my deeper self knew instinctively what she meant and it tickled me. How fun it must be to go through life like that, I felt. What adventures might I have? I started jumping on board with that attitude — or at least aiming for it. Life became a
Tish introduced me to a new way of looking at the world — through a much bigger lens of love. Today, although Tish is happily married with two children and I haven’t found my super-duper romance yet, we both still feel that “life is my lover.”
To get a jump start on debunking the myth of romantic love in your own life, try using Tish’s motto “Life is my lover” several times each day — especially when you’re looking to someone else to fill you up with love.
Myth #2: The Myth of I’ll Love You If . . .
Another common misunderstanding about love is that I need to agree with you, approve of you, or like you in order to love you, and vice versa. When someone doesn’t match our template, we call the whole love deal off.
Some of the conditions we place on love are I’ll love you if:
- you share my values
- you give me what I need
- you remember my birthday
- you’re not too fat or too skinny or bald or __________ (fill in the blank)
- you love me in return.
It takes a lot of energy to try to control others so they’ll give us what we want or need. And still, no matter how hard we try, we can’t get them to do it perfectly, so there are always times when we withdraw our love. In these situations, both sides lose.
Loving people doesn’t mean you have to enjoy their company, want to see more of them, or even respect their values. It means you’re willing to keep your heart open to them, show them compassion, and accept them for who they are.
I once heard an anecdote about how the spiritual teacher Ram Dass has worked to overcome this myth in his own life. His goal is to love all people unconditionally and to view everyone as a part of God or the Beloved. To this end, he’s placed a picture of a politician he intensely disagrees with on his dresser along with pictures of Buddha, his guru, and other saints. Every morning he stops to look at the pictures for inspiration and he notices how different he feels when he comes to the photo of the politician. It serves to remind him of his intention — and how far he has to go. He says, “Mother Teresa has described this as ‘seeing Christ in all his distressing disguises.’ ”
This is a great exercise for anyone. Find a picture of someone who really pushes your buttons; it could be a politician, a certain type of person that you judge, or someone you know personally whom you have difficulty accepting. Put the picture somewhere you’ll see it every day and let it serve as a reminder of the ideal: to love more unconditionally.
Myth #3: The Myth That Love Makes You Weak
Everybody knows that nice guys finish last, right? We tell ourselves, I can’t go around being loving to everyone. I’ll get hurt. People will think I’m wimpy. I need to protect myself. This is how fear tries to talk us out of opening our hearts and going for love.
We believe that love will make us sentimental and that people who live from the heart are somehow vulnerable and weak. We’ve lost sight of the enormous strength of love. Because something is gentle and soft, we think it’s less powerful. But the Tao Te Ching says, “The softest of all things overrides the hardest of all things.” The softest thing in the world is an open heart. The hardest thing in the world is a closed, constricted heart. The open heart welcomes everything and, in doing so, grows in power.
Writing about this myth in his book The Power of Unconditional Love, Ken Keyes Jr. says we think “unconditional love requires going along with everything a person does.” But it doesn’t mean being a doormat or pushover or allowing people to mistreat you. It does mean being anchored to the state of love while you take appropriate action — which could be standing up for yourself, holding boundaries, righting wrongs, ending a relationship, or saying no.
Open-heartedness may not always mean being loving in your manner. But when you’re being love, you’re strong and able to do whatever is right in the moment while staying connected to your heart.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Marci Shimoff, author of Love for No Reason: 7 Steps to Creating a Life of Unconditional Love (Copyright © 2010 by Marci Shimoff), is a celebrated transformational leader and a #1 New York Times bestselling author. In addition to authoring the worldwide bestseller Happy for No Reason, she is the coauthor of six of the top-selling titles in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series and a featured teacher in the international movie and book sensation The Secret. President and cofounder of The Esteem Group, Marci delivers keynote addresses and seminars to corporations, women’s associations, and professional and non-profit organizations. Over the past 28 years, Marci has inspired millions of people around the world, sharing her breakthrough methods for personal fulfillment and professional success.
Carol Kline is co-author of Love for No Reason: 7 Steps to Creating a Life of Unconditional Love (Copyright © 2010 by Marci Shimoff) and Happy for No Reason: 7 Steps to Being Happy from the Inside Out with Marci Shimoff. She also coauthored five books — with over 5 million sold — in the best-selling Chicken Soup for the Soul series, including Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover’s Soul and Chicken Soup for the Cat Lover’s Soul, and the #1 New York Times bestselling Chicken Soup for the Mother’s Soul 2. She is also the coauthor of The Ultimate Dog Lover and The Ultimate Cat Lover. In 2006 she cowrote You’ve Got to Read this Book: 55 People Tell the Story of the Book That Changed Their Life with Jack Canfield and Gay Hendricks.
- Read Chapter 1 of Love For No Reason
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