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