A couple weeks ago an attendee at our annual Think Better, Live Better conference asked me an interesting question:
What’s something real love never does to you?
And just now I received almost the exact same question in an email from a reader. So this seems to be a topic worth discussing…
Over the past decade, Angel and I have coached hundreds of incredible students who were struggling to find real love in their relationships, and we’ve also spoken to hundreds of happy couples that were willing to share their “real” love stories with us. All of this has given us keen insight into the beliefs and behaviors that both help and hurt people’s relationships.
So today, I want to publicly reply to both our conference attendee and reader (with their permission of course), and take a close look at one key thing real love absolutely never does to you.
But before we get to that one thing, let me tell you a quick story about a happy couple that’s still together, and deeply in love, nearly twenty years later…
The Girl in the Mirror
She looks at herself in the full-length mirror that hangs from her bedroom wall. Completely naked and exposed, yet confident. She’s older than she was five years ago, but feels much younger. And she thinks momentarily about the different men who held her in front of this mirror.
They thought they possessed her. They thought she was theirs. Because she was in their arms, so delicate and sweet. But really she possessed them. Because she possesses the space in front of the mirror. And the moments that occur there too.
She gazes down at the man lying naked in her bed. But he’s not just another man. For the first time in years, this one sleeps differently. With a subtle smile, a dash of poise, and a history free of envy. And she smiles and giggles to herself.
Just then, he stirs, slowly lifts his head, squints his eyes, and looks at her standing across the room, naked in front of the mirror. His movement startles her and she jumps. Not because he sees her naked, but because she isn’t ready for him to be awake. Not yet.
This is her time, the early morning, when the world is quiet and she can hear the sound of her own breathing. It’s a sacred time when answers and insights aren’t as hard to come by. A time when her mind is at peace and her heart beats slower. And it begins beating slower again. Because he closes his eyes and falls back asleep.
She slips on her robe, tiptoes into the kitchen, pours coffee grounds and water into the coffee maker, places two slices of bread in the toaster, and opens the window curtains. The warm, early morning sun floods into her home. A few minutes later, the toaster pops. She spreads strawberry jam on the toast, pours a cup of coffee, opens the front door, and sits down on the doorstep.
And she thinks about how happy she is. Happy to simply be. To be free. To not be tied down by another person or have another person tied down by her. She stares up at the morning sky for a prolonged moment and smiles.
“I’m in love,” she says aloud.
The Guy in the Bed
He hasn’t fallen back asleep. When he lifts his head, squints his eyes, and sees her standing naked in front of the mirror, he senses that she isn’t yet ready for him to join her. So he closes his eyes and pretends to sleep.
He listens as she giggles, slips on her robe, tiptoes into the kitchen, and rattles the toaster, the coffee maker, and the curtains. He loves these little noises… Noises he calls music.
Like the music of last night, when they talked and laughed for hours over a bottle of wine. Until unexpectedly, she kissed him. And then he kissed her back. Because of her philosophy and her beauty.
She took off his shirt. He took off hers. And it went on like that for what seemed like hours until they were together in bed, naked. He thought he could love her. He wondered if he did love her already. And he wondered if she felt the same way.
When the kitchen noises stop, he gets up, slips on his boxers, and tiptoes into the living room where he sees her sitting peacefully on the doorstep. She’s completely bathed in the sun’s light. As she eats toast and drinks coffee, she seems to be laughing… a sweet, silent laughter.
He wants to bother her. To tell her that he’s hungry too, and that he wouldn’t mind sharing a slice of her toast. But he doesn’t. Because she seems so happy and free… the way it should be. So instead he stands in the doorway and admires her from a distance. And he thinks about the fact that she isn’t his… that she will never be his. And that it’s OK.
Because she just said, “I’m in love.”
The Thing Real Love Never Does to You
Perhaps the story above makes it clear, or perhaps not, but in either case it’s important to remember that…
Real love never limits you… it doesn’t restrict you… it doesn’t try to change you… it doesn’t entitle you, or anyone, to anything.
People are sometimes led to have a sense of entitlement because they mistakenly believe they are owed something based solely on the social role they have chosen. For example, if someone has accepted the role of being a person’s friend, girlfriend, boyfriend, wife, or husband, they feel entitled to get certain ‘favors’ from this person. If someone has accepted the role of being a parent, they feel entitled to being respected by their children. If someone has accepted the role of being a customer, they feel entitled to be served to their unique needs.
But, as it turns out, there are no hard-wired entitlements in life. And this is especially true of love.
Too often we associate love with limitations…
- “If he loves me, he will change.”
- “If she loves me, she will do what I say.”
But that’s not real love. Not even close.
Real love is un-limited.
Real love is freedom.
In fact, it is only by letting each other be free, that two people can be completely each other’s. When we are not forced, or tied, or pressured in a relationship, we can more easily see and remember the most perfect parts…
You might spend time with the person you love and catch yourself thinking, “He (or she) is perfect for me!”
Not perfect in their behaviors, or in their beliefs, or in their looks. Rather, perfect in the way they fit into your life, the way their rough edges fill the gaps between your own, the way their body rests against yours, the way both your voices flow together in harmony, the way you make each other feel complete, even when you are apart.
And this completeness ripples through every aspect of your lives. You both feel alive and full of incredible joy. And you are eager and excited and can’t wait to find a hundred little things that will make you feel even more alive, now that you have felt how deeply you can breathe the fresh air of freedom. You can clearly see that there are no definitive limits, and you laugh together about the fact that you both once thought there were, and then you laugh again simply because you are free to BE… together, or apart.
In this freedom, you choose to find divine perfection in each other’s humanness.
In this freedom, your happiness is vital to each other, and sacrifices are made.
And, that may not always mean you are part of the equation.
And that’s perfectly OK.
For you, that is why it feels so incredible to love, and to be loved.
Because the love you feel is a choice.
Because real love gives you that choice.
You both know deep down that to bind each other or tie each other or try to own each other in any way would be to minimize – to even kill – something within yourselves that is divine, and human, and soars and sings and keeps you both alive and free… and asks for nothing, yet gives everything.
You both know that the moment you try to own each other is the moment you both become something else, other than what was sought, and desired, and loved in the first place.
So you choose to set each other free – completely unattached – even when you’re deeply connected.
This form of non-attachment does not mean not caring. On the contrary, it means, among other things, caring so deeply that you both honor each other’s space and freedom… to simply BE. (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Relationships” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
Afterthoughts… On Real Love and Freedom
All details aside, the deepest craving of human nature is the need to simply be appreciated as is – to be free to BE. Sometimes we try to be sculptors, constantly carving out of others the image of what we want them to be – what we think we need, love, or desire. But these actions and perceptions are against reality, against their benefit and ours, and always end in disappointment, because it does not fit who they really are. The foundation of love is to let people be unapologetically themselves, and to not distort them to fit our own egotistical ideas of who they “should” be. Otherwise we fall in love only with our own senseless fantasies, and thus miss out entirely on their true beauty. So save your relationships from needless stress. Instead of trying to change the people you care about, give them your support and grow together.
It’s important to note, too, that differences of opinion (even major ones) don’t destroy relationships – it’s how two people deal with their inevitable differences that counts. It comes down to mindful communication and compromise. (Angel and I build mindful communication rituals with our students in the “Love and Relationships” module of Getting Back to Happy.)
Truth be told, some couples (and friends and family too) waste years trying to change each other, but this can’t always be done, because many of their disagreements are rooted in fundamental differences of opinion, personality, or values based on their upbringing or distant past experiences. By fighting over these deep seeded differences, all they succeed in doing is wasting their time and running their relationship into the ground.
So how do two people in a relatively healthy relationship deal with the disagreements and differences that can’t be resolved?
They accept each other as is. These couples understand that problems are an inevitable part of any long-term relationship, in the same way chronic physical difficulties are inevitable as we grow older. These problems are like a weak knee or a bad back – we may not want these problems, but we’re able to cope with them, to avoid situations that irritate them, and to develop strategies that help us grow through them. Psychologist Dan Wile said it best in his book After the Honeymoon: “When choosing a long-term partner, you will inevitably be choosing a particular set of unsolvable problems that you’ll be grappling with for the next 10, 20 or 50 years.”
Bottom line: Acceptance of one another is of vital importance to every relationship – it is a big part of the foundation – the freedom – from which real love grows.
If you’re feeling up to it, we would love to hear from YOU.
Which specific part of this article resonates with you the most today, and why?
Anything else on your mind?
Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.
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Marc and Angel,
I found your blog, joined your happiness course, and even attended one of your live events, all within the past 18 months. Your ideas and strategies for living have absolutely changed my life…one day at a time. And I am incredibly grateful.
One of the things your course and included coaching helped me with is with the detachment you so eloquently mention in this article.
Truly, this article is beautiful in every conceivable way. Your points are on point, and the story perfectly depicts the essence of love that is so rarely discussed and experienced in our modern society. Insecurity, and all the unhealthy attachments it supports, floods over so many lives that the love many people feel has become akin to a hoarded possession. “You are mine and I am yours” is the motto I used to hold the relationship with my husband. But I’ve learned a healthier way, and as I gradually eliminated the restrictions I was placing on our relationship, I felt a renewed love between us that I though was lost forever.
Anyway, I could go on, but I’ll just say that we need more examples of love like this in all of our lives.
Thank you, again.
Valerie carthy says
Hi Marc and Angel think for your word sometimes I’m lost when to .my children And husband is let them walk all over me but stop me feeling bad because you guys send me up lifting word thank you and I love you guys God bless xx
Jason Daily says
I opened my email inbox a few moments ago and decided to read this post…
And just like that my mindset today has been changed for the better!
What a amazingly moving story! It really struck a chord with me in a very emotional way that I didn’t really expect, so thank you for making me feel something special today. I especially love the lines in the story where the girl says how great it is to be free and not to be tied down and vice versa. Love is indeed freedom!
Valencia Ray, MD says
I think my heart just skipped a couple beats. Seriously, Marc, this post reminds me of the thoughtful short stories you and Angel wrote in your 1,000 Little Things book. I often use your book for daily reflection, and I’ll just skip to a section or story and give it a quick read. And I resonated so deeply with this post that I may print it out and tape it into your book for future reference and reflection. 😉
As for my favorite part, I love the story, and I also deeply connect with these lines at the moment:
“You both know that the moment you try to own each other is the moment you both become something else, other than what was sought, and desired, and loved in the first place. So you choose to set each other free – completely unattached – even when you’re deeply connected.”
I found your article very eye opening! I can see the many ways myself as well as my husband – steel our freedom to be – from each other. I have felt for a long time that we are NOT good for one another but perhaps if we each choose to be “free” while at the same time bestowing the same courtesy to the other – we will find true freedom – together.
Thank you – your articles are always so helpful. You are the best!
Amazing!!! This post has impacted me so deeply that my life will change for the better after today. I am a firm believer of true love. This article just opened my eyes, heart, and soul to a new perspective. I believe that I have found my soulmate, and I want that person so badly, that I have tried to change him and possess him. He has been asking for that kind of “freedom” since day one. The freedom of just “being”. And I thought that his request meant insecurity and lack of love. From now on, I al going to set both of us “free”.
Stephen Cohen says
I agree with all of the above–your article and the three comments, so far, above mine. This entire entry, along with the comments, is beautifully written and very profound. It captures the essence of healthy connection and should be seen as the holy grail, the north star, that each member of a couple seeks, and by which we , as individuals and as a couple, set our course.
I will check back here for more comments. I hope there are more that add to, amplify, and provide personal insights that embellish and bring to life these very important , very profound insights, beautifully and succinctly gifted to all of us from Marc and Angel.
I plan on printing it out, along with the comments, and, with my partner, review it from time to time. If followed, it could restore and reboot many a relationship. Those things that prevent either member of a couple from enacting these words–those are the things that define the kind of individual therapy and work that challenges and impedes any of us from being a better member of a relationship.
Marc and Angel’s words should be part of every wedding or commitment ceremony that occurs. As mentioned, they should be reread periodically by anyone in a relationship with another person. They apply not just in our home life, but in our work lives also.
In the end, it is a description of a way of living that would do much to tikkun olam–heal and repair a broken and hurting world–if more people, and nations, didn’t just read it, but committed themselves to breathe life into its simple, but often challenging goals.
Thank you and bravo for putting this in front of all of us.
Once again awesome job this is so true the letter I’ve been recently feeling a lot of these feelings and truth be told you can’t change love real love is acceptable in its own form of nature needs no reboot. Thanks for sharing peace&blessings
My son & his wife indeed have the relationship you describe & watching them interact is so heartwarming. Me, on the other hand …married twice (I’m 58), and have been is so many “attachment” relationships I can’t count them. The part of the article that talks about a couple’s “differences” is the part I relate to most. In my last relationship (which ended about 3 mos ago) we had such differences of opinions that I just saw no reason why we were together (a year & a half). We had NO common interests or common opinions – it bothered me A LOT! I just couldn’t “accept” it so I made a choice to let go knowing there’s someone out there who shares my interests & opinions…at least MOST of them.Thanks for this article…I’m looking forward to meeting someone with whom I can be “deeply connected yet completely unattached & free.”
Hi Marc & Angel
Your posts inspire and uplift me during a very troublesome time in my life. My partner of 5 years ended things unexpectedly recently and even though deep down I know we probably weren’t right for each other, a huge part of me is riddled with self doubt and second guessing. I keep thinking that I should have been more accepting of his issues with drink and drugs and then maybe he would have overcome them in his own time, without pressure and arguments from me. I feel incredibly low and unsure how I’m supposed to ever trust anyone again. Any advice would be really appreciated.
Your comment resonated with me as I felt the same way after reading the article. What if allowing each other to be free is accepting behaviour that is harmful to one or both of you? I don’t want to ever have to ask my partner from going to certain places like a stripclub for example but if he was to go, I would be deeply hurt and I don’t want to waste my time with a man that would want to burt me like that but if I don’t tell him what hurts me, how will he know? What if he wanted to go out and take drugs with friends, I also don’t want to date a person like that but if I don’t tell him what I do and don’t want, how will he know? I’m all for freedom as long as it’s not hurting anyone. I know if there was something I was about to do that would possibly hurt my partner that I cared for, I would want to know.
Dear Helen, Don’t abuse yourself. I am divorced from a 25 year marriage of drinking. My former husband never decided to stop drinking, he never decided to get healthy for himself, which would have made our marriage healthy. I don’t think he liked me or himself. Alcohol and drug addictions are totally different creatures than normal people. You are amazing, remember that!
Lois Thorpe says
What a beautiful piece. I am not young. I have had 2 long term relationships in my life. The first was when I was in my late teens. As we grew up, we grew apart. He wanted to possess me. He took away my strength; and as he grew up I realize I had become his strength and he suddenly did not need me anymore, in the way he had before. In the end after 18 years of relative happiness I moved on.
My second relationship started with the love that takes your breath away. Five years later I still would look across a room and tingle with giddiness when I saw him. Life brought with it many challenges and in the end what killed our love was his lack of inner sharing. The secrets. I chose to stay because I was in love with that man that had loved me and made me feel alive even though he didn’t exist anymore. He died from brain cancer and I lost my best friend, the father of our children after 20 years together.
At my age I never thought I would find love again… but I have. I wasn’t expecting it and yet it is here. It is different somehow. I don’t want to change and I don’t want to change him. He complements my strengths and I his. I don’t feel I have to be something I’m not and we share our lives without owning or trying to possess the other. I started my day with a medical emergency one that I deal with regularly on my own, but today he just accepted it and helped me through it. He gave me his strength, love and laughter and I realized we could overcome any challenge for we accepted each other’s uniqueness as if our own.
Thanks to you both for this article it put our love into perspective.
How wonderful for you! I am sorry that you had to go through some tough times in your life. You, have on the other hand not only matured with age, and also learned a few lessons in the mean time. I am happy for you that after some struggles you have found a deep meaningful relationship with someone who cares for you and doesn’t run even during your medical emergencies!
I am so happy for you!
Ruth Holewinski says
This was just what I needed… right now. Nineteen year old daughter is trying to figure out which direction and where she wants to go in life. We love her so much. There’s a fine line that separates helpful suggestions from being too pushy. We just want her to discover and explore all the ways she can become the highest version of herself. Parenting is a tough job from the moment they’re born. The challenges, joys and sorrows just undulate as the child grows. Quite a ride. An “E” ticket ride … For those who remember the early Disneyland!
I would challenge you to look at what appears to be a limiting belief: “…chronic physical difficulties are inevitable as we grow older”. Why are they inevitable? What if we started telling people, when they were younger, that growing older was a wonderful thing full of health, vitality and adventure? My grandmother, who died at 91, took a group of high school students backpacking in Greece when she was 68! My mother, who is 77, teaches aerobic exercise classes for senior citizens. I’d like to suggest that chronic physical difficulties, as we grow older, aren’t inevitable. I understand that this wasn’t the focus of your beautifully written piece on real love. I would just like people to stop putting it in their heads that becoming older equates to difficulty. Thoughts become things
Exactly! We are what we think!
Thank you, Shannon! I just celebrated my 68th birthday and am as fit as a fiddle! I am in the best shape of my life, walk about three miles a day, and feel like I’m about 30 years old! I felt the same way when I read the article, although, like you said, that wasn’t its focus. Even so, we need, in this country, to stop expecting ‘old age’ to be a downer. It can be just the opposite!
I agreed ShannonD. I thought that as well. I do not believe chronic physical difficulties are inevitable either.
This is a hard one. Don’t we all go into a relationship with expectations. I grew up reading fairy tales. Love at all cost. I taught myself that love = pain. My 17 year marriage was either painfully bland or heated conflict. We had few moments of breath-taking awe from our relationship.
As a child I wanted to be a wife and mother. I planned my happy little home long before a met my husband. Slowly but surely the shine came off our relationship. I lost myself being who I thought I was suppose to be. And my husband wasn’t the prince charming I scripted either.
I remember admiring the man, but tried endlessly to manipulated him into the man/father I dreamed of.
Now I’m divorced 6 years and some days struggle to look into the mirror you mentioned in the story. I’m not the happy/flawless princess in my fairy tale either. So I’ve heard that expectations are built in resentments.
My goal is to live in peace, love and calm more and avoid/ participate in less drama. I want to wake up happy with the way God has put me together. Sit on the front porch and take in his majesty one breath at a time.
Just wondering if there are times that these differences that keep popping up over time can also be your gut telling you not to be with this person even though there have been great times, this is what I struggle with now for 5 years dating my boyfriend.
Hi Lorraine, I felt the same way when I read it, although the relationship that I’m talking about ended about 45 years ago. My at-that-time fiance called off our wedding two months prior to it happening after he came back from Vietnam. We are now reacquainted, but over the course of his life he had drug, drinking, and gambling problems. I would certainly have had a hard time “allowing” him to be who he was with that kind of lifestyle. And allowing him to be that person would have been hell for me. So you may be getting a message of some sort.
After reading todays post Im ready to join in with Getting Back to Happy. I realize how important your daily insight is in my world.
I have a relationship that is like a slinky. Here today and gone tomorrow. But I finally realized its never gone. Not in the 4 years its been in my life. Each day we grow closer, finally allowing each other to “be” who we are. We are learning that our feelings and respect for each other are outweighing our limited beliefs.. I especially resonate with what you said about how problems can be like physical difficulties and how unsolvable problems are just that. I for the first time feel trusting love with this man. All because I don’t want to change him anymore. And because he talks of how we’re not compatible but how we fit together, in conversation, in each others arms, how we work together, how he wants to be in my life, how we are at peace…. rambling I am… Im not even sure of what kind of love to call it. It may be friendship love, it may be more, but I don’t feel broken anymore when he’s not available. I feel lighthearted and I am working diligently to keep that feeling. You have helped me feel confidant in myself so I don’t need someone to build my value. I can detach from this man and not take it personally when he detaches from me. I don’t know where our relationship is going but Im ok with whatever direction it takes. I hope my newfound freedom spreads like wildfire in all our hearts. How refreshing to finally accept that its not all about me that I don’t have to change or control any person but me!
When one needs to learn some truth…a teacher will appear. That is what this post is to me today. Like the sun in the story, it’s shed a light on a dark little yearning I tell myself is real….to love is to possess entirely. Your post has aligned with a very recent experience of giving (to me..by another) and has awakened the thought that…just maybe…it ain’t so. Maybe it IS about “…caring so deeply that you both honor each other’s space and freedom… to simply BE.”
Hi Marc and Angel
Thanks for the great post! I understand and relate completely yo this, because for many years, my husband and I’s relationship has been filled with trying to fix each other and not deal with the real deep seeded issues that lay. After a rough patch and some heated arguments that forced the communication, we realised that we were fighting the.wrong battles.
I love him, for all he is, and the qualities that, which was not for him, I wouldn’t have found in me over these 7years.
But I can’t help the fact that over 7 years we have grown differently, at different paces, valuing different things in life and our carreers and about starting a family.
We are talking about it, but we have clearly different priorities in our lives and it pains me to think how long more we can avoid this fact.
Some advice will be great.
ps: Thank you for your valuable contribution in my growth through all your posts!
If only my husband would ‘listen’ and not just hear me. If he would read this and understand it. I’ve been telling him for years, I don’t need him, I want him, I chose him, elected to be with him. But his domineering personality, which has overtaken, I can no longer tolerate. He’s tried to rule me for over a decade after breaking my spirit four years prior to that. I am getting myself back and your newsletters are reaffirming what I knew all along. They strengthen me; thank you. I look forward to my freedom, total and complete freedom. One should never compromise themself, love does not ask that of either person. Thank you again for this post.
Another beautiful post! I love my Wife to bits, I’d do anything for her and I love spending all my time with her. Friday nights used to be about getting the aftershave on going out for a few drinks. All I want to do now is stop in and cuddle up on the sofa. The only thing I won’t do though is share my food. Some people laugh at this but I’d deadly serious. It’s something I just don’t like doing. Am I wrong in doing this?
Yes, there is a lot to be said about acceptance and freedom to be. However, what do you do when you have a drug addicted 18 year old son and you’ve set “limits” and boundaries which have been constantly crossed and refuses to go to treatment because all he wants to do is get “high”. Do you accept the behavior?
This is yet another profound article from you two that I have added to my toolbox. This sheds light on codependency which so many people struggle with. It’s interesting that the word codependency doesn’t appear even once in this post. Good stuff.
Your experience and wisdom are being passed along. Thank you a thousand times.
My husband and I have been together everyday since July 21, 1997. When we finally got together for some reason this time felt different. For him as well as I. He told me that the second he laid his eyes on me that he knew I would be his wife someday, and not in a possession sort of way, a desire to know we were meant for one another. He was a friend of a friend and had I guess you can say friend with benefits and as did i at the time. My friend had asked me to tap him on the shoulder i thought hes cute and nothing more and walked away. He bombarded my friend with where have you been hiding this friend, shes gonna be my wife one day. My friend laughed and told him he could not handle me!? After i made him sweat it out July 21, 1997 was a night i decided to give him an opportunity, we met for ice cream. I can probably count on 2 hands how many nights we spent apart during our nearly 20 yrs. We were moving in nearly 8 mos later. We got engaged Dec 10, 1999. Married on Oct 20, 2001. We have had 2 sons…and we have been through nearly everything that would typically be the ending point for a couple, illness, addiction, losing our home, disability, dysfunctional family drama on both sides, even a wedding ring being flushed down the toilet. But I believe although bad, all these things have shaped us into a better version of ourselves that we would never know. Im a firm believer now that bad things happen so even better things can fall in place. The universe will always have an opposite, it will always have a lesson to be learned we must be open to what ita trying to teach us. He is my best friend & soulmate. He tells me I’m beautiful everyday. We have our moments but our relationship had trust, respect, love and appreciation from the beginning so these roots formed our tree, each year are rings added to the tree and with the roots that hold that tree grounded we csn weather ALL storms. Love for me is being the only TEAM you need, knowing someone always has your back regardless if they support your decisions, they are still rooting you on. Thank you and warm regards!!
This article resonates with me in a couple of ways. It’s true that in a marriage, (or committed relationship), in order to stay married, you must learn to give up trying to own the other person. When it seems like the two of you are talking past each other, (which I have experienced), you find a way to learn to talk so the other can ‘hear’ you. For us, a counselor was very helpful. We don’t own each other, and we fit well together for all of the reasons you mentioned in your article.
I also have a child who has become estranged from me since I left his father. For years he has pushed me away because I am no longer the wife, mother, person, etc, I was when I was married to his father. I am not, (how could I be?). I am better. Child, (who is now and adult), doesn’t want a relationship with me anymore. As a parent, I expect to have this child have a relationship with me no matter what. The limitations of: “if he loved me he would change” (his opinion of me, for starters), really hit home for me. I am sure he has thought the same of me all of these years.I would love to have him back. I miss him so much. I can’t though. I must let him go for both of us. I don’t want to let go for fear he may never come back. Truth is, he MAY never come back. I’m tired of the worry and the fear, and the hurt, and especially the sadness and loneliness. I don’t know if he has already “let me go”. I only know he doesn’t want me, (or my ‘new’ life).
When I finally let go, I know that I will still feel the pain of the loss. I also know that once I let go of the angst and the worry and the fear, THEY are gone. Then, I can begin the healing process and get on with a life with out him.
In conclusion. I can’t own anyone. My husband and I love each other for who we are, (because of who we are). This is not forced. My child doesn’t love me for who I am. I cannot force him to love me, or even have a relationship with me. I don’t own him, (even though I had him in my womb). I never did. I can still love him and care about him, and wish the best for him. I have no words to describe how I will fell if he comes back to me.
LaDora Allen says
This article is officially the holy grail of real love. This article is the most relevant perception of “real love”. Thank you for bringing the light!
I loved this blog post.
I met my wife at precisely the point that we were both very happy to be single! Prior to that I didn’t realise it, but I stayed in relationships and even started them out of fear. Fear of being alone or fear of change.
Our first meeting was random and very, very casual. It was the second time we met I felt different – similar in many ways to the descriptions in the the story.
I also remember when I told a close friend about all of the, sometimes quite difficult, discussions we’d had. The complexities of how to ensure we didn’t step on each other’s toes, overstep boundaries or wander into old baggage. My friend said at the time that it sounded like a lot of work – like it was a bad thing.
Looking back though, I think that to let each other be, we needed to know so much more about each other.
For me fear is the big barrier to love. Fear of confrontation, of rejection, of being vulnerability, and fear of missing out.
Years ago when I comprised myself to the point of not knowing my favorite color, just to be in the relationship. I knew I had to change, grow up.
I behaved like a child. Stepping into relationships with anyone, child like behavior puts extreme expectations on the other person.
I’m in a relationship like you spoke of above.
One of the behaviors we talked about whilst we were just friends, jealousy.
I think that is a destroyer. Unless there is valid reason for suspicion(then that is an altogether different issue) jealousy is about the person who is jealous, not the person whom they are projecting onto.
I gave up friends in that past relationship.
I do not tolerate jealousy being projected on me. He knew that going in.
I am more then willing to talk about what is going on, but I’m not a target for insecure behavior.
I think that feeling of freedom comes from that place of knowing it all ok.
No eggshell walks, no trying to guess.
No conversations in my head with the other person, me being judge and jury. What a waste of life. Now I talk, and he talks. Not building things up.
I have freedom. My best friend of 25 yrs is a man. My husband knew I would never give up my friend. Period. Now they are friends too. He did have some issues at first, it wasn’t easy. I would have to work through my jealousy demons too if roles were reversed. But, jealousy is a personal journey of exploring those areas that need to grow up.
True freedom = work on jealousy. There is no real trust if the others jealousy keeps one from doing something innocent. Like having opposite sex friends.
Sandra Buonfrate says
Wow! I feel speechless after reading this blog. This is the most beautiful reading i came across describing true love. Thank you.
Good Morning, Marc & Angel,
My husband & I fell deeply in love & we became engaged on
July 12th, 1968 & married on December 7th, 1968 ? ? We truly
have been & still are wonderfully in love ?? ?? Our life motto has
Meant … Doing what’s best for the other person … Even though I
have had many rather serious surgeries & have been in a ? for
several years … my wonderful soul-mate has stayed true to me;
& I feel so blessed … we both really have taken our marriage vows
seriously … for better or worse ; for richer or poorer, in sickness or in
health … we are truly in love & really enjoy doing neat things for each
other … I always try to never complain about all the pain I experience
Daily … as I want to always keep the spark of happiness in our lives.
Not to long ago … when it was raining he asked me Do you know what
the window wipers are telling us … as they go back & forth?? “Not sure”
I replied to which he answered “Together Forever ” !! as he squeezed my
Hand !! How Sweet!! We give each other ” what’s best for the other person … How Wonderful life can be together … even when the curves
In life occur !! How blessed we are … as my husband used to comment
” We work hard & then play hard” !! We’re still making wonderful memories together … now we’re also enjoying our Grandchildren … We
Indeed have so much to be thankful for … including family & many friends !! ? ? ? ???? ? ?
Thanks for All your wonderful work and your book 1000 Little Things … How Encouraging !! ? ? Keep up the great work …
Much Appreciated!! ? ?
Erika Burgos says
“The foundation of love is to let people be unapologetically themselves, and to not distort them to fit our own egotistical ideas of who they “should” be. Otherwise we fall in love only with our own senseless fantasies, and thus miss out entirely on their true beauty.”
Wow. *BOOM* This was such a beautifully eloquent sentence and an incredible, smack-you-in-the-face truism. I have been guilty of imposing my own ‘egotistical ideas’ onto others and I see now what a tremendous and arrogant mistake that was. I am thinking of the last breakup that I went through and how this very thing very likely played a big role. I am grateful for the life lesson!
I love your articles and this blog. Never stop writing! ;o)~
Diana S. says
I find myself standing naked in front of the big mirror in the master bathroom a lot. I like what I see even though I am 60 years old. I have had 2 marriages and 1 long term relationship that didn’t end in marriage. The first husband treated me good while dating and after marriage treated me like he owned me. The long term relationship gave me my self respect back but he was emotionally unavailable. The current marriage of 28 years has had it’s ups and downs. While we need to accept people as they are, alcoholism wasn’t something I was willing to put up with. My husband is 120 days sober and we are trying to put the relationship back together. I have accepted all my husband’s other quirks but he has yet to accept mine. And I’ve met another man who I’m so incredibly drawn to. Hard decisions to be made.
Like one of the commenters above, the article took my breath away. I remember what it was like to feel so in love. The article has changed my thinking today. Can I accept my husband as he is? Could I accept the other man as he is? I think I should read your book on happiness that’ sitting on my table.
Thank you so much for your insightful posts.
I loved your article- but I have a question. I got back together with my ex-boyfriend recently, but his idea of getting back together meant “No expectations”, or as you stated, let each other be free, no entitlements. However, in his mind, that means I can Coker over and spend the night a couple nights in a row, then not hear from him for several days, a week, or even longer unless I reach out to him. It also meant we weren’t exclusive. I want ok with that, and decided not to get back together- so, what’s the balance between letting each other be free, but also respecting the other person and not taking them for granted?
I’m a firm believer in serendipity. Your post in today’s email box is just what I needed. Without going through the whole story, let’s just say I continue to have trouble coping with our personality differences since my spouse (who seems to okay with our relationship) & I have retired. It is a work in progress — two steps back, then a great post or insight helps me to take one or two steps forward. Lather, rinse, repeat. Thanks for the boost.
In case it would help others, I’d like to add a back story. Expected retirement to not be all good, in light of decreased income, etc. And this situation ties into expectations. The newness and wonder of romance, later the child-rearing, allies in the face of problems, my working full time out of necessity because I had a stable decent paying job when my spouse & I needed to reverse roles, all acted as a buffer that did not fully expose us to each other as much as retirement has. I wrongfully assumed it would be all good & great to have more time to spend with each other. As one small example, I soon found out that all the years I had worked full time, that my husband had given me a “pass” about daily stuff. Now I have a medium mental list of things like shutting off the ceiling fan before switching off the ceiling fan/light to the room. He doesn’t yell or get mean, but is sure to have a comment, even if it’s a joking comment. He’s an extrovert who thinks out loud & I’m an introvert who internalizes stuff. Guess we both need to mellow, but I realize it has to begin w/ me. Just like I’m sure he has stuff about me.
I have your book. I have the 5 Love Languages book. I have the what is it like to be married to me book. Thank you SO much for mentioning “After the Honeymoon” by D. Wile. I have read a small part of it in Barnes & Noble review and it has excellent advice. Heaven bless you, Marc and Angel, for all you are doing.
Jeffrey Pillow says
My wife and I recently began keeping a love journal. It has reminded me so much of our early days together when life was beginning anew. It’s easy to forget the magic, particularly when raising young kids. Don’t forget the magic.
Wow! Marc can really paint a picture! Yet I understand what he means. I once really liked a certain guy and ended up holding on too tightly but real love is about allowing the other person the freedom to come to the relationship willingly and it also means not relying on the other person to make up for any insecurities you might have. No one wants to be the person who holds on too tightly and doesn’t let go when they should, so the best thing to do is to always give them the choice to leave if they want to. After all, you want them to be happy! Life isn’t always easy or fair but in the end, it’s usually worth it!
Thanks again for another great message! ?
This is so true. Most often we experience issues in our relationships because we have expectations from others, which do not get fulfilled. But true love is not about demands, wants, asking or taking, it has more to do with giving, which includes giving space; it is providing assurance through actions and not just words that you are always there. Real love is unconditional.
mulukeni ottilie says
Real love is freedom. .? today allows me to see things from a different point of view. . As I recall in all my relationships, most things that stressed me and lead to me ending those relationships were those that people did and I didn’t like..I felt they were entitled to replying to me on time, treating me with respect, being considerate and loyal like I was to them. . And since I didn’t get that, it torn me apart and in the process made things much worse. But now I learn to accept people as they are and love them if I can, if not then I let them be because, LOVE IS FREEDOM ?
tia shurina says
dear marc & angel,
that was BEAUTIFUL. what a high, & a cry… I got while reading! not a sad cry, but a lovely happy grateful cry…that THIS is the way i finally have come to love… & accept no less in my relationships that I want to be loved in return myself, in my life. SO INCREDIBLE! What a difference to the way i had been, & living my loves, earlier in my life. It changes “everything” when we can begin to really, & truly, love this way. THANK YOU for the powerful precious remind. I read it yesterday, & just re-read it again so meaningful is its message. Peace my friends.
Another lovely post. I think you guys should start making canvases with your quotes on them because I’d buy one! Keep up the great work, Amy x
Marc Chernoff says
Hey everyone! Thank you so much for the insightful and heartfelt feedback. I just wanted to quickly and collectively respond to the emails and comments I received about this article that asked various, valid “What if…” questions….
“What if his/her behavior is toxic?”
“What if drugs are involved?”
“What if he/she is a cheater?”
“What if I really need him/her to change?”
Without diving deep into the details for each question, be aware that this article is titled “One Thing…”, not “The Only Thing…” or “The 20 Things…”, etc. The freedom I’ve described in this article is just one of several healthy qualities inherent in real loving relationships. Meaning, there ARE other important qualities that must exist too — the obvious being that both people must be honest and committed to giving and receiving “real” love. And there are many more…
With permission, I’ll respond to one reader’s question publicly as an example:
“I have always thought if he loved me he would stand up to his family when they treated me badly. Is that wrong to think?”
Quite simply, no. I think if that’s something you want him to do, it’s worth having a calm, honest, respectful conversation with him. But it’s certainly not something you can absolutely expect him to do… meaning, you can’t force him to, and you can’t expect him to perfectly understand why you want what you want. Holding these expectations is often just as stressful as wanting what you’re not getting. I hope that makes some sense. And of course, you aren’t wrong for wanting what you want.
This is one of the best piece of writing about LOVE that is short and easy to understand. It educates, empowers and develops one in every category regarding relationships. Though it is important, I think, for my beau to know my like and dislikes, as much as it is for me to know hers, it is also important that I don’t eclipse her to be who she is. That’s the lesson I take from this article. Thank you.
This is so true. People do feel entitled once they get married.
But love is freedom.
Like the girl in the mirror was free to be herself.
Love let the other win too. It never insist on getting its way.
When the dude got out of the bed and stood in the doorway I could feel he wanted badly to go be with her.
Instead he thought of her and enjoyed watching her enjoy her freedom.
Love is not selfish.
I love this post. It reminds me of my wedding day where my friends Dad read Corinthians 13:4-8, which starts with: Love is patient, love is kind. If any of you aren’t familiar with it, I recommend you read it. Thanks again for this post guys, you alway seem to hit a certain spot with me.
I love this. My husband and I live in a very tight knit religion and community that constantly teaches a man’s duty to be this way, and a woman’s duty to be that way and that we should hold each other to meet that expectation. We constantly hear about trying to change and encourage the other to change, but we have both realized neither of us has an interest in expecting the other to be this “way”. We love each other for who we are, and there is much less stress and more love flowing in our relationship and family because of it. I think he reached “acceptance” before I did, possibly years before. He was very patient with me getting there because he understand as well as I do the lifelong indoctrination to strive to be a certain way. I’m glad he’s the one I’m with, and that we both love and accept each other for who we are. <3 <3 <3
Annajane Lowe says
My boyfriend and I have been sharing your articles for years. Our relationship has been built and enhanced by them and by the book ‘The 5 Love Languages’. It has been almost 6 years now and we recently made a commitment to build a future together. You might think we’re a couple youngsters starting out, but no, I am 57 and he is 50. I’ve been married twice before and he once. So we’re a bit gun shy, but can’t deny we have built something really special. We were trying to find a special, but different way to make a commitment to each other and decided on a ‘Scrapbook for our Future’ instead of our past. We will put things in there that have helped make this relationship what it is. Then we will revisit it each year to remind ourselves and to keep us strong and loving through the bad knees and weak backs (which we already have!) You can be assured that this article along with many others will be in there. Tonight I asked him to read this article and we’re going to get together to talk about it over tea tomorrow. Thank you Marc and Angel. I hope we get to meet you someday. You have already been an important part of our lives!
“Real love is freedom.” This is a tough one for me. I’ve always been complacent in relationships, molding myself to fit my partners needs. I am currently in a wonderful partnership about to celebrate our 3 year mark, but it hasn’t been without its difficulties. I’m Wiccan and my partner is Atheist, and I’ve noticed throughout the years that I’ve slowly moved away from my magick practice because of my partners judgement of certain spiritual practices. He never judged me personally, but I can hear it in my head, and it keeps me from doing what I love.
We’ve also recently had to take in his 5yo daughter full time because her mother sucks at life. I hate kids, even though I knew i’d have one in my life one way or another. It’s just difficult dealing with my resistance and anxiety of the matter. I struggle feeling happy in the relationship, even though I really am trying to work through it. He’s afraid I will leave him, which I won’t, so i’m really trying to find a happy medium. Your insights help greatly, and I always look forward to a nugget of information you share to boost my spirits, even for a little.
Dear Marc and Angel, whenever I’m down your posts always lift me and prepare me for the week ahead. I just wanted to say a big thank-you for that and keep doing what you’re doing! Sarah x
The part that I loved the most is “acceptance”; accepting him/her as he/ her is, with beauty, with scars, with virtues and with flaws . I need to accept him as he is. Thankyou Marc and Angel
There is so much more to love than just what is mentioned here. Yes, there are the quiet moments, the acceptance and the unselfishness but relationships can also be both heaven and hell at the same time.
As you said, real love doesn’t entitle you to anything, and shouldn’t try to change you but it also comes down to choices. The choice to be open or remain reserved, the choice to voice your opinions about things that affect you or to chose to yield and shrink yourself into a version that is unrecognizable to those who knew you and even the choice to be together even in the face of all adversity. We can choose to be reactive and wait for the other person to approach us or we can make ourselves available, we can help ease the anxiety of their possibly overthinking brain by making the choice easy for them so they will know for sure that the situation isn’t one sided. So maybe it’s time to make that choice and show a little effort, maybe even slow down a little as you pass them on the street. Do or say something definitive! If in fact, everyone else knows, then there’s nothing left to lose but everything to gain! ???