HOW DO WE KNOW WHAT “REAL” LOVE IS?

Couple in love on the beach

Over the years, I have become something of an expert on the topic of ‘love’. Through my own discovery of falling out of love with love, or at least the love that the media, Hollywood and romance novels would have us believe. Working as a psychotherapist and guide with hundreds of women, men and couples the same thing comes up.

How do we know when love is real?

This question has shaped my life since I was a small child. I knew that something was very off in the lives and behaviour of the adults around me, that I made it a personal quest to dig deeper. This digging has never stopped and in this piece, I share with you a little of what I have found, in the hope of igniting your own desire to know, for yourself, what is real.

Many of us find ourselves in relationships that we call love, but they seem far from loving. So, if it isn’t love, what is it? Much of what we call love is co-dependency (excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner), rooted in family dynamics of various flavours. There is also one’s culture to take into consideration.

During a year in India, I was immersed in a culture very different to mine. How does a culture know and learn about love? In India there are the epic movies of men and women, singing and dancing to each other across meadows and other idyllic landscapes, which have little to do with the ordinariness of life. We are fed stories of love, loss, loneliness and longing, but the love that we seek seems to slip through our fingers whilst at the same time imagining that everyone else is getting it right.

Let’s return to co-dependency and family dynamics…

Are you dating your wounded family members in disguise?

For those of us that are attracted to unhealthy people, there’s a good reason. Sometimes, these people resemble our most troubled parent. We are perpetually trying for a different outcome from the same situation, just a new person! The feeling we get when we meet these people feels deep, feels familiar, it somehow ‘hits home’. They must be a soul mate!

This is so confusing because it feels so good, so natural that it can’t be wrong, and yet if we have unhealthy patterns with love, it most probably is. It can be easier to see this in others. You will scratch your head as you watch your amazing friend, putting up with treatment that seems completely out of character.

If we scratch a little below the surface, we will see that most of our relationships are the old stories we are reliving to try and resolve painful events that our childhood psyche never resolved. The good news is that once the adult psyche resolves the incident, we will not feel the pull to re-create it, and we will be free to have a new and better experience. For example:

  • - Are you picking people who can’t take care of themselves so you can heal them?
    (like you tried to heal your _____)
  • - Are you picking people who suffocate you so you can t and find your freedom?
    (so you can finally break free from your____)
  • - Are you picking flaky, unavailable people because you are too scared to have real intimacy?
    (so you never get hurt again like your ____ hurt you)

How real is your love? 

Learning our past lessons involves a seeing where we ‘twist’ love to give more energy to the old ideas we have about it. If we see where we do this, the freedom for a love that is more real becomes possible. If we don’t, the same lessons will continue over and over again. I notice in many clients a reluctance to give up the dramas and ‘hooks’ that seduce us back into the familiar themes of love that we’ve learnt.

What are your core beliefs?

Core beliefs motivate our actions. It’s vital to know what they are so we can live a life of choice and freedom. Core beliefs can look like the following:

  • - I am responsible for my partner’s (mother’s, father’s, sister’s) feelings
  • - Love is forever
  • - When a relationship is over, it’s a sign of weakness
  • - I must pretend that I am okay, even when I’m not feeling this way

What negative childhood core beliefs are you holding onto?

Digging deeper into the unconscious will reveal the main beliefs from your childhood or ancestral line. It is these beliefs that keep you cycling in a relationship pattern with no seeming resolve, whilst often feeling helpless to change it. Here are some examples:

  • - No one can take care of me like I can
  • - All men are abusers and need to be punished
  • - If I deny my needs then you will love me
  • - I have to keep loving you even though you hurt me

We all have some of these beliefs within us, and there is nothing wrong with you for having them. And by digging around and looking to see what we believe about love and relationship, then we can place our commitment into a healthier direction.

Working on negative core beliefs

Invest some time discovering your beliefs and ask yourself what you would like to replace them with. If you are a woman and think all men are abusers, you will have to find the place inside you that feels like a victim and love her fully.

If you are a man and think that all women need to be controlled, you will need to find the place inside you that is terrified of being overtaken by the feminine and love him.

It is not enough just to find the belief, you must go deeply into your subconscious to find where you hold the opposing or complimentary energy, admit it (which may be challenging), love yourself in that place, and then choose to no longer give energy to this old pattern (Emotional Freedom Technique can be a helpful supportive technique).

Resolving old trauma

What kind of old trauma are you trying to resolve in your relationships? For example, are you picking people who bond deeply with you, but have patterns of abandonment? Do you then spend the entire relationship trying to make them not abandon you?

This doesn’t make conscious sense of course, but it is how the psyche of the traumatised child works. The child thinks, ‘if only I could just love them more, if I could just please them more, then they won’t leave me’. The healthy adult says, ‘I will choose someone who doesn’t abandon me and I will develop a relationship slowly, honouring myself in the process.’

What are your inner child’s unmet needs that keep you bonded to these patterns, and how can you get the inner resolution you need? The pain of these unmet needs, need to be felt, so you can break the cycle. This will take time and understanding, and it is very deep, often uncomfortable work.

Don’t be afraid to use a therapist or guide to help you traverse these areas; and you may only uncover deeply buried beliefs through life experience itself. Unmet childhood needs often show up in relationships as demands and expectations of what love should look like, how our partner should behave, according to us. Our partner is not responsible for making us feel good.

‘Love is who we are, not what we do’

Kimaya Crolla-Younger is a psychotherapist, guide, group facilitator, and a sensual body worker on Shh… retreats. She has worked for over 10 years in her private practice in London and internationally with individuals and groups.
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