Marriage Boot Camp – Week 5: Endurance Training for Love How the past can transform your views and set you up for a loving future. BY WENDY STRGAR
Love is not a sprint, but a marathon, which means it needs ongoing attention and consideration.
“ Love is a visceral experience that wakes us up.”
"Love doesn’t sit there like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; remade all of the time, made new." ~Ursula K. LeGuin
Almost anyone can fall in love; our biological imperative to mate kicks in opening our hearts and flooding our nervous system with the euphoric experience of idealized connection, but many loving acts coming toward us everyday are not received at all.
We question the intention of those loving us—whether it be our spouse, our family or the platonic relationships we share with friends. We refuse to believe we are worthy of love at all. I witness this every day—this unwillingness to be loved that permeates our culture like a virus. If we cannot believe we are worthy, even the most loving acts don’t have a chance to penetrate us and do their most powerful work, which is not in the exchange, but in the exquisite transformative act of holding love inside of us.
Love is actually a renewable resource that can be called upon during challenging emotional times to buoy us and help us find solid ground again. The idea that the affection we have exchanged within our intimacies ever ends is the most poisonous cultural myth we perpetuate.
What The Past Can Teach Us
Jon and Stacy had met in high school. He knew he loved her for months before she would look at him. The beginning was rocky; Jon had never felt this way before about any girl and it was so unnerving that he got angry and sullen when she said small insensitive things or forgot to meet him somewhere.
But there was something real between them, so real that when it came time to decide what to do about college, Jon decided to go to the local university instead of taking off as he always thought he would. Things changed for him in the dorm though and he couldn’t quite keep up the time and energy that Stacy still wanted. They broke up in his first year and not because he didn’t love her, she knew that. He just needed time. Still, whenever either of them was sad or sick or low, the first person they would call was each another. Their friendship dug deep into the love they had built throughout high school together.
By the end of his first year, Jon realized that all the partying and new girls didn’t amount to much compared with how strong and good he felt with Stacy. Their renewed love relationship grew even more from their time as just friends. Annoying as Stacy could be with her endless shopping days or thoughtless remarks, Jon could see how much their time together changed things inside of him. He bent further than he ever thought he could to listen to her and have her hear him.
Stacy was changing though. She was growing up and leaving high school now, too. She wanted to see the world, but mostly she wanted to find herself. She loved Jon more than she thought she could love anyone, but she needed time now, too. When Jon realized how serious she was about leaving after all the work they had been through, his heart broke. He questioned everything between him and Stacy. He couldn’t believe she wouldn’t want to stay here, with him. All the love that he had relied on seemed like nothing but air slipping out of him.
Stacy reached out to him, but he couldn’t respond. He couldn’t love her and let her go. But worst of all he couldn’t feel any of the love that had grown so rich and deep in him.
"It was a waste of time, all these years with you…" he said one late afternoon. Stacy was heartbroken, too. How could this first true love ever be a waste of time?
Moving Into The Present And Beyond
Consider a story of love that ended badly in your own life. What were the long-term benefits of that relationship? In what ways did affection you felt in the relationship work inside of you and change you? Did you become kinder, more generous with others? With yourself? With your spouse?
Close your eyes and picture a beautiful container inside of you, filling your chest or pelvic region, or both. Check to see if the container has any cracks or holes. If so, shore them up. Imagine yourself as a container that is worthy of affection. Now remember some kindness or physical kindness you experienced and imagine putting that and all of the warmth you felt into that container. Sit quietly with your own love. Feel the movement inside of you. Each day, retrieve another moment of this feeling and store it in your container. Notice how this changes your ability to receive this wonderful feeling.
When love works, it is a transmission of goodness. It awakens the seed of goodness that lives in each of us and transforms us into our best selves. Love is a visceral experience that wakes us up. Receiving the love coming towards us is a practice of gratitude and gives us a direct line to the abundance of what’s good that surrounds us. This is the key to sustaining affection in our lives: recognize, honor and cultivate the love that lives within you and you will begin to see how easy it is to transfer it to the ones closest to you.
Wendy Strgar, founder and CEO of Good Clean Love, is a loveologist who writes and lectures on Making Love Sustainable, a green philosophy of relationships which teaches the importance of valuing the renewable resources of love, intimacy and family. In her new book, "Love that Works: A Guide to Enduring Intimacy," she tackles the challenging issues of sustaining relationships and healthy intimacy with an authentic and disarming style and simple yet innovative advice. It has been called "the essential guide for relationships." The book is available on ebook. Wendy has been married for 27 years to her husband, a psychiatrist, and lives with their four children ages 13-23 in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.