by: Jared Akers
“I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts,
there can be no more hurt, only more love.”
It’s hard to imagine a worse feeling. Sitting alone in my new apartment knowing my girlfriend of four years would rather be alone than to have me in her life. I love her, and the reality of not having her in my life hurts like nothing I’ve ever experienced.
After crying for several months and missing a lot of work, I do something drastic. I sell my prized guitar and buy an engagement ring. A hopeless romantic, I pick up 63 long-stem roses, one for each day we’ve been apart.
It’s winter, there’s a foot of snow on the ground and I’m standing outside her door. I smell the wood burning in the fireplace, wood I probably split myself. I also painted this house, and I notice how good it looks this evening.
Scared as hell, I knock.
She answers and… after that, I’m not real sure what happened next. I’d like to say I hit my knees and the shock and awe of my romanticism made everything perfect in an instant. In reality, she was shocked at my audacity of showing up on her doorstep with a ring after she told me to get lost.
I couldn’t believe she didn’t take me back in a flurry of love and appreciation. Even after sharing how I sold my most prized possession to buy her a pretty diamond. She knew how much that guitar meant to me.
So there I was, on my knees crying in the snow by the curb.
Man, love hurts.
Lack of Self Love
Today I realize that this old relationship was bad news. It was toxic and extremely unhealthy for all parties involved. The person I am today would never be in a relationship like that.
Quite to the contrary, today I’m married to the most amazing woman in the world. And it happened because I learned to love myself first.
Some believe it’s impossible to love others until we learn to love ourselves. I disagree. I loved a lot before loving myself; and yes it really hurt.
A good illustration is that I would give you the shirt off my back in an instant, but would subconsciously think, “Don’t you dare try and give me yours.”
With the key ingredient of ‘self’ missing from self-love or emotional connectedness, I was seeking acceptance rather than love. I loved you so you would love me; or at least I hoped you would. But it doesn’t work that way, at least not very well for very long.
“Men do not attract that which they want, but that which they are.”
–James Allen (from As A Man Thinketh)
I was emotionally unavailable, so I attracted the same. Not until I learned to truly accept the consequences of being myself, could I move from seeking acceptance to finding true love; love for self and all that comes with it.
On March 12 of 2006 I had an awakening. Or more precisely I hit a bottom; a point of desperation of which my failed relationship was just one of many catalysts. I faced a crossroads. To put it bluntly, life or death were the only choices I saw at the time.
I chose life, and everything changed.
As I write this, the Mega Millions multi-state lottery in the US has a record jackpot estimated at 540 million (and yes I bought a ticket). How you would live your life if money was of no concern? That when something came up you wanted to experience, the first thought was, “Do I want to do that?” not “Can I afford it?”
That’s the power of making the decision to live, and taking action, gave me. Life today is like walking into a job you love, but don’t really need because you won the lottery. You take more chances, get out of your comfort zone and as a result experience amazing returns.
I realized what others thought about me didn’t matter because I was finally alive. Everything beyond that was just gravy. I sought help through therapy, 12 step programs, clergy, books, seminars, ad infinitum.
I was on a quest to find purpose, happiness, and my authentic self. And what I found at the root of it all was love.
A study known as The Grant Study followed two hundred and sixty-eight men for over seventy-two years. In the article titled, What Makes Us Happy, in the Atlantic Magazine, the director of the study ascertains the key to happiness is love:
“The job isn’t conforming; it isn’t keeping up with the Joneses. It is playing, and working, and loving. Loving is probably the most important. Happiness is love, full stop.”
Nothing Left but Love
To love oneself – to be truly emotionally connected to self – allows us to give love away with nothing expected in return. There’s tremendous power in this for we cannot give away something we do not have.
With love flowing outwards, instead of always seeking it externally through acceptance, we require less (if anything) from others. There is no “balance” to be maintained. No love deposits and withdraws to track in our self-esteem ledger.
When I feel anger, regret, guilt, worry, or any perceived negative emotion, I feel uneasiness in my spirit and sometimes it even physically hurts.
When my father passed away suddenly in 2010, it was then I realized how much I had changed. Love as the dominant emotion in my life enables me to see beauty even in seemingly tragic situations.
The day before my father’s funeral, we were looking through photos of my dad to show at the service. My five year old niece said, “It’s sad that grandpa had to die, but at least we have all these great pictures of him.” I thought that was beautiful.
With love for self, the underlying knowing that who I am is enough, and acceptance of all things is easier. Yet it’s important to note that I can accept something without having to directly like it.
My daily mantra is to only give and receive love.
When I tell people I love everyone, some call me crazy or say that’s impossible. But honestly, it hurts not to.
Here are 7 ways to live happier through love:
- Learn how to sit quietly in a room alone. – The inability to sit quietly in a room alone suggests you’re not comfortable with yourself. Learn how to accept and love who you are. Read The Power of Now.
- Expect less. – Expectation is the root cause of most heartache. Managing expectations can be difficult, but it’s a valuable ingredient in learning to love unconditionally. Expecting less does not mean lowering your standards, goals or values, it simply means you must learn to be realistic and realize the difference between what you can and cannot control.
- Care less. – What? This is crazy you might say. In Martha Beck’s article in O Magazine, How to Love More by Caring Less, she explains how caring suggests conditions that have different meanings than love. Caring suggests you’re attached to the outcome emotionally where love is pure acceptance.
- Take care of yourself first. – A great analogy for this is the airline oxygen mask procedure – how the flight attendant instructs parents to put the oxygen mask on themselves first, before their children. If you do not love yourself, you’re not much good to anyone else.
- Know what self love is. – While discussing the topic of love in a support group, someone shared, “I settled for sex when what I really wanted was love.” Learn to love and respect yourself so you’ll know the difference. Read The Mastery of Love.
- Learn the love language of others – Being an emotional person, I longed for a deep relationship with my father. Talking about emotions or topics on self-enlightenment was something my father was not good at. But he was good at other things. Through the process of self-awareness, I learned that my father expressed love in different ways. This enabled me to enjoy a completely differently relationship with him even though he hadn’t really changed.
- Learn how to show love – We’re judged by our actions rather than our intentions. Make it a point to verbally express love as well as display it physically. This is a benefit of learning someone’s love language; make it a point to show them how much you love them in many different ways. Read Love and Respect.
And remember, if you hurt from love now, be grateful that you still have the capacity to love, make some necessary adjustments and keep on loving. Your big heart will get you to happier places in the long-term.
About the author: Jared Akers is a writer and tester of the impossible. He writes, inspires, and enjoys helping people learn how to be happy. He’s been developing a life of happiness with his wife for the better part of the last decade while sharing his journey at JaredAkers.com.
Photo by: Mari Moon
Loved your story and your advice here. Thanks for sharing this postitive insight with us.
Thank you! Great read! I loved the analogy you used in your point about loving yourself first.
Lori S. says
A refreshing read! Thank you for a breath of fresh air this morning.
thanks @Allen, devon, Lori.
This is a great read! Thanks!
Expecting less is the tricky part. You better really learn how to differentiate it form lowering your standards.
All tips here are great. Been working on many of them in my own life recently. Much appreciated.
Thank you. I just got out of a relationship and I have been hurting. I am starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel and I attribute this to loving my friends and family more fiercely and showing them my love, and they have responded in kind. As important as it is to feel loved by another person, it is more important to know that others want and appreciate your love for them.
Inspiring and truthful. I believe we must be in touch with one’s self, and accepting of it, in order to grow into healthy external relationships.
Deborah Munson says
Just waking up and checking emails on my phone. This is exactly what I needed to read this morning. Thank you for the blessing.
SANCHARI BAKSHI says
Wow. I thought I was reading about myself. I am happy that someone finally said that you can love others a lot even without loving yourself. I have been doing that since forever. I have finally arrived a point where I am having to accept that I have no idea how to love myself, respect I do but love, I haven’t myself. And yes its true you can love everybody, every single thing on this planet and still not fall short or get mixed up.
Jared, if it’s not too demanding, please teach me-how do I love myself. I am ready to be the student 🙂
Mother Teresa’s quote was fantastic and true.
Jim Clark says
Thank you… Good things can and do come from hard experiences.
Loved the article. Another great related read:
The Art and Practice of Loving by Frank Andrews
Laurie R says
It is a pity you can’t teach someone this when they’re younger and that they have to learn it the hard way. It’s the main reason why I’m still single.
A great message at a timely point in my life. 6 months ago, my wife and partner of 16 years walked away from our life together. I was devastated. I pled guilty to 911, world hunger, global warming and anything else I could thinking. I just wanted her to come home. She never came back. Two months later, I started to realize the cost that I had been paying to keep this untenable and abusive relationship going. Having grown up in a violent alcoholic home, I had recreated a pattern of accepting abuse in return for crumbs of my needs being met. I’ve come to realize that this was something I voluntarily signed up for. It actually had nothing to do with her or any one else. I’ve started the long path toward discovering my own self worth. Today I am grateful that she walked away when she did. In the end there wasn’t enough of me left to have saved myself. I hope that I never again exchange pieces of my self for the companionship of another.
Great read and great insights. Tip of the hat to ya!
Ojus Naravane says
Thank you for this good article! It is always great to begin my day with your blog posts.
ene okwori says
Love is the greatest element of life. So glad to see you two hosting an article about spreading love and loving oneself.
I think this article is great and I keep seeing the concepts of self-awareness and mindfulness pop up these days–maybe God’s trying to tell me something. I have to comment that it was somewhat ironic to read this article and then to see an advertisement under it that says, “Make him addicted to you: 9 magic words you must say to make him fall deeply in love.” See, this is the problem with our culture, it’s not about caring for ourselves and allowing our true lives to encourage healthy relationships; no, our culture leads us to believe we can use “magic words” or that our sex appeal will help us find love. Very sad. At least there are articles out there like this one that can helps us when we wake up and realize what is really worth valuing in this life. Thanks for the post!
A beautiful read for this morning. Made me teary! I’m glad you are in such a better place after making the decision to make change happen. Oh, and I totally would have gone for the ring and long stem roses – that’s fairy tale romantic! But thank goodness she didn’t. Thank you!
Thanks for always affecting me positively. Love every article you publish here.
As others have written, this also spoke to me. I have been on my own for 4 years with my partner moving out then to work on himself & deal with his cancer. We parted in love; however, I was devastated. When he died last March we had connected again at the hospital & I could see he had found peace & he told me many beautiful things about he & I. He had often talked about self love & its importance but I didn’t get it at the time. I thought I had it already. In the past 4 years I have been working on all that you’ve written about & I have never felt so fundamentally joyful. Recently I have met a man who is much further along on his personal journey & he & I have connected. I realize I am ready only now to allow myself to be fully & vulnerably seen for who I am & loved again. I don’t need it though! I have just felt the emotional capacity to love beginning always with myself. I hope this makes sense. Keep at it for anyone who feels they may never be happy & feel true love again. It will happen when you least expect it after you get there yourself.
@Glori, agreed. Managing expectations has been crucial to my long-term peace-of-mind and happiness. And it certainly does not mean lowering standards, just not making unreasonable demands of myself and others. And taking responsibility.
@litagrayy, thanks. Best wishes.
@R., well said. sorry to hear that you’re hurting. Be thankful you can. At a low point in my life, I was grateful for others (mostly family) who loved me enough until I could love myself. It truly is what got me through. It’s nice to repay the gift as well.
@Deborah Munson, thank you for taking the time to leave a comment. It’s amazing how we hear what we’re supposed to when we’re open to it isn’t it?
@Jim Clark, so true! Experience can be a painful teacher. I’m just glad to be around to learn!
@Campbell, thanks for the reading suggestion.
@Laurie R, oh, how true is that!! I totally agree. If there is one gift I could give away to anyone, it would be desperation.
@Stephen, awesome stuff man! “I never again exchange pieces of myself for the companionship of another.” Well said and so similar to my experience; pleading guilty to stuff, that’s good. I would just make up crap when asked “how do you feel?” Just saying what I knew she wanted to hear and wouldn’t make her cry. In reality, I had no idea what I was feeling — well, actually I did have a sneaking suspicion that this relationship was healthy but had little to compare it to.
@Angel, so are you!
@Nathan, tipping the hat back.
@Ojus Naravane, thanks for stopping by!
@kris, awesome comments! That is so right on about advertising, but the reality is it’s just human nature to want the highest reward for the least amount of work. We all want an ‘easier softer way.’ But fortunately, if we hang around long enough we get a chance to realize a few things and wake up and experience real joy, happiness, and peace. But it takes work, but it is SO worth it! Thanks for the comments.
@Sara, Sorry to make you tear up… or, maybe not. Emotions are a good thing, they’re neither good or bad, they are what they are. LOL on the roses and ring. There’s a lot to that story actually (more than would fit in this post) and the reality is the ring was way to “small” for her. But that’s her inventory. 🙂
@Marie, great experience there. Amazing how we can learn from one another, especially from others who seemingly are going through something we can’t imagine. You said, “to be fully & vulnerably seen for who I am & loved again.” My immediate thought was, you’ve always been loved! Sounds like you feel that now too. Blessings to you and thanks for comment and good luck to you.
Cheryl Lyons says
Love is the answer. It is what will work all the time. Wonderful post!
DEBORAH GILSON says
Thank you, Jared. Because of this reading, my heart hurts much less today.
I found this site through a friend of mine shortly before he died recently … I like to think of it as his parting gift! It has helped me through a very rough patch, but I’m starting to see light at the end of the tunnel again thank goodness
It never ceases to amaze me how these posts really ‘hit the nail on the head’ … this one being no exception! Uncanny how they seem to come to light just when you need a reminder of what’s important at the end of the day
In my experience, if you spread a little happiness, keep on smiling and open your heart to every possibility, then something about your whole demeanour changes and people seem to notice that and are drawn to you. You might get a little battle scarred along the way, but I truly believe that even if something doesn’t go to plan, everything we experience happens for a reason, although it’s not always obvious at the time. The important thing is not to let anything negative drag you down. If you keep happy and optimistic, I like to think you’ll get there in the end … I’m not at my ‘destination’ yet, but I’m keeping the faith that one day I will make it to where I want to be … hopefully!
I often enjoy sitting alone in a quiet room, but when hubby finds me doing so he will be all “whats wrong? why are you sitting alone? why is the tv not on…?” That alone time is precious.
Thanks for a wonderful read, your insights on love are both thought provoking and appreciated.
🙂 Enjoyed this.
Brad Alexander says
Amazing article thanks Jared. I’m comfortable sitting in a room alone for a number of hours. But I struggle if I spend a number of days alone, which I have done a few times.
Meant to click on a different article…but THIS is the one I needed…need. Every time I read an article here I think, “How is there so much wisdom and great thoughts on this site?!” Your articles make a difference. Thank you. 🙂
Completely agree with the fact that happiness is love. I have been hurt many times but I realized that life is quite meaningless without love and self-love is also essential 🙂
I’m glad to hear that you are now happily married, gives all of us sucker for love a little hope. Stay happy, always! x
You my friend deserve an applause for what you did for your ex, fact is that only a few people would actually do that.
Thank you for sharing Jared. Very touching and really helpful since I’m currently working on this myself 🙂
Thanks for relaying the feelings.. ‘sitting alone in your new apt’.. i knew that one.. and am proud i have gotten (almost) past that lonliness bu reaching deeper than i ever had inside myself.. and building on the love i found after overturning a few boulders that had settled on top oh my spirit.
Stephen thank you so much for sharing.. you are not alone.. thank you for describing well the feelings you have,, so other may see them in themselves.
@Cheryl Lyons, Thanks!
@Kimbundance, Love certainly is all we need. Thanks.
@Deborah Gilson, I’m so glad your heart hurts a little less. Thank you for making mine smile a little more for that gracious comment.
@Niki, Sorry to hear about your friend. You also nailed it with your comment “if you spread a little happiness, keep on smiling and open your heart to every possibility, then something about your whole demeanor changes and people seem to notice that and are drawn to you.” I know you’ll get there because you’re open to all the possibilities by just being here and reading this, and the journey is the lesson.
@Jo-Anne, LOL. That’s great. I’ve started my official “sitting time” recently – mindfulness exercises and meditation. It’s wonderful, I envision my breath as a huge, fluffy, white pillow and my mind resting gently on it as I just sit and be. Then of course my wife and I go watch our favorite shows! (plus NEVER watching the news which is all about the horrible things we’re all doing to each other… but that’s an entirely different post and topic!)
@Gavin, Thanks Gavin, it’s appreciated. Thanks for taking the time to read it and leave a comment.
@Marie, enjoyed your smiley face!
Hey @Brad Alexander, hours is even a long time for me. I was a “loner” for years and although I would describe myself as relatively happy then, with perspective now it’s not comparable to the happiness I have with the relationships in my life. But that was mostly made possible by learning to just be me first, and thus being able to enter relationship with the perspective of “what can I bring to this relationship” was opposed to “what’s in it for me.”
@Jamie, right on! Glad you clicked this one. I always hear the message I’m supposed to hear if I’m open to it.
@Sabina, there’s always, always hope. And you’re so right, self-love is essential for we cannot give away something we do not have.
@Paul, thanks… I think. 😉 LOL
@Janine, you’re welcome and good luck on your journey. The fact that you’re out searching (stopping by this amazing site here) is evidence you’ll find what you seek. Blessings.
Hello, Jared – interesting article. I find that happiness depends on my surrounding and the things that happen in my life. I have found that I am able to be content or satisfied in life…so my motto is I will be happy and content.
I am blessed in this life and attempt to learn from every experience, positive or negative. I do not strive only to be happy and I look for the joy in being content with everything I have and the people in my life and the love I have from my Lord.
Blessings to you.
Great read! Keep them coming!
I’ve never been in love. And sometimes it causes me anxiety. But that story made me feel better – thank you.
One of the best articles I’ve read on this site. Thank you.
Justine Ann says
Finally I can smile through pain from a heartbreak. Your posts on this blog are indeed my perception’s turning point. Thanks a lot.
Jared, thank for a beautiful, insightful post and in the words of the irrepressible Ru Paul “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell are you going to love someone else?”
I’m going through devastating heartbreak now, which unfortunately, is something to which I’m no stranger. Still, I really, really needed to read this right now. I’m going to use it to help me get through this heartache. Thank you so much for your time and wise, thoughtful words!
Tiffany Murray says
The Love Languages Book by Gary Chapman is one of the most important books I have ever read, life changer. And I am reading “Love and Respect” right now. So excited to see it recommended on this site There should be a hyperlink connecting a place to buy The Love Languages as well. 🙂
jared akers says
@Suly, well said about learning from EVERY experience; positive or negative. That perspective is one reason why you seem to be happy and content.
jared akers says
@Kate, you’re welcome and don’t give up. You are loved.
jared akers says
@Kristina, wow… amazing compliment. Thank you so much.
This post happened to come out the day after my ex and I separated. I remember reading it, and thinking about how timely it was. Really excellent advice. I continued to search and have probably ready 1000 articles about how love hurts, or that blame the other party, but this article is really the only one with any practical advice. Randomly, reread this article again today – I’ve been pretty close to the “guitar selling” stage – although not proposing marriage, I was thinking perhaps of rekindling something. I’m so glad I read this article again – perfect timing. I know in my heart that rekindling that romance isn’t right for me, and I’ve been putting in so much more effort than is necessary recently to bring back a relationship that won’t work. I’m putting myself and my needs second instead of first, which isn’t how it should be. Thank you for this article.