Why can love so easily feel like it’s gone into hiding? And what can we do to invite love back? Why does even solid love often feel less than solid? In this episode, we’ll learn ways that help us connect more consistently to the love inside us, and the love inside the people we care about.
Why do feelings of love sometimes feel like they’ve just waned or gone away? What can we do to invite them back? Stay tuned to this episode of the Deeper Dating Podcast to learn more.
Hi, everybody and welcome to the Deeper Dating Podcast. I’m Ken Page, a psychotherapist, the author of the book Deeper Dating, the Cofounder of DeeperDating.com, a new way for single people to meet, and the host of this podcast. Today, I’m going to talk about how love can come back. Every week, I’m going to share with you the greatest tools that I know to help you find love, keep it flourishing, and heal your life in the process. Because the skills of dating really just the skills of love and the skills of love are the greatest and most important skills of all so that we can have the lives we want. If you want to learn more about the deeper dating path to real intimacy, go to DeeperDatingPodcast.com. You can sign up for my mailing list, get free gifts, and learn about how to use these ideas to transform your own intimacy journey, as well as finding transcripts of every episode. I also want to say that everything I share in this podcast is educational in nature. It is not medical or psychiatric advice. If you feel you’re experiencing some serious psychological or psychiatric conditions, please seek professional help. If you like what you’re learning here, it would be wonderful if you could leave me a review on iTunes or elsewhere. Thank you so much for that.
I’m going to dive right in. I think one of the many painful and harmful myths that we are taught about love is that if there’s a steady, solid love, we are supposed to experience that love steadily. To me, that is just not how love works. Love goes subterranean. Sometimes we don’t even notice it when we love someone really deeply. We don’t feel it when we’re annoyed at them. We don’t feel it when we’re in the middle of mundane tasks, but in then certain situations, our heart swells with a feeling of love for that person, even though at other times, we don’t think of that person or we’re with them and we feel almost nothing. We might wonder, “Do I not love deeply enough?” or we’re with the other person and they seem to be in a kind of mundane place and we’re feeling filled with love?
A Few Caveats
We wonder, “Do they love me enough?” The truth is that love is so deep and so profound that it can’t be held in the hands of our cognition. It’s too vast and too profound for that and its language is one that we spend our whole lives learning and it bewilders us. It tricks us, it plays hide and seek with us and on some level, we just need to kind of make peace with that reality. Today, I’m going to talk about the ways that we can experience love coming back – because love can surprise us in the ways that it comes back, can, and does. I also just want to say that some of you might be thinking now, “Oh, boy. I don’t want to hear about how love comes back. I tried so hard to end an unhealthy relationship with a narcissist.”
It was brutal. I don’t want to think about love coming back. I just want to say that I truly understand that and, in many cases, it’s best for love not to come back. It’s best not to do all the work that it takes to make that love come back. It’s best to stay away. I just want to give some examples of those kinds of situations because maybe your heart is aching to have love come back, but you know it’s not good for you. I don’t want to step on that. I want to honor that. I know that that’s one of the hardest things of all. If there is any kind of serious addiction, you’re at risk in the relationship. If there’s a serious addiction and the person doesn’t want to change or get better, that risk is more profound.
Love is so deep and so profound that it can't be held in the hands of our cognition. Click To Tweet
We all need to make personal choices about what we’re going to do in that case of being in a relationship with someone who is actively addicted to something and that’s a very personal choice. In the case of addiction, many of the things that I say about love coming back just won’t be true or won’t be able to stick. Those are just not safe situations. If there’s serious psychiatric conditions or mental illness that are not risks, that are not stabilized,that includes major depression, really serious depression, where they’re not stabilized and the person is not getting help or not getting enough help. Those are problem situations too. Again, it’s an existential and personal choice who we’re going to stay with and who we’re not but I’m just saying that these are situations where if your gut tells you to leave, if you have to work to not keep trying to make love come back, I want to honor that.
A person who is not willing to do the work in a relationship – that’s another area where there’s going to be real problems. Even if the feeling of love comes back briefly if both of you are not willing to do the hard work, it really may not be worth it if the other person is a serious narcissist. My friend Hara Marano, who is the Advice Columnist for Psychology Today says, and I repeat this all the time, “There are three C’s in making a choice about who we want to be with and those are character, character, and character.” If you’re with someone who doesn’t have deep and essential integrity, who’s not willing to do the work, who lies to you, who is abusive to you, who cheats on you, these are situations where you really may want to get out.
When Love Goes Subterranean
In any situation where you or your children or loved ones are in any serious danger, those are situations where you need to get out but don’t do it in a way that is rash. Do it with the help of a professional expert, because those can be really risky situations. Those were kind of like caveats that I needed to say. Now I want to talk about love coming back in situations where that’s a really good thing. A magical thing about love and it doesn’t feel so magical often is that it can go subterranean. It can feel like it’s disappeared and a kind of adult understanding of love lets us know that it may feel like it’s disappeared, but it probably hasn’t disappeared.
This is a story I often tell about an ex of mine who was a very wise person. I looked at him during a really difficult time and I asked him, “Do you still love me?” He said, “Of course, I do.” He said, “It’s like the moon or the sun in an eclipse. I don’t see it now. I don’t feel it now, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not there.” This was so wise and so beautiful and something I really held onto. Maybe we feel our love diminishing. Maybe we feel our partner’s love diminishing and then all of a sudden, you go on vacation or your partner does something really brave or really wonderful or really kind and you see the beautiful parts of them where that happens for them toward you and then the feelings kind of come pouring back.
These in and out experiences with love are supposed to happen but our job is to live and relate in such a way that we do the continuous work of rediscovering love, and it is work. It’s almost like, if you ever dug a hole at the beach when the waves were coming, you had to dig fast enough that the hole wouldn’t keep being completely covered up. You had to dig faster than the wave. In day-to-day life and in day-to-day difficulties, there is a trend toward numbness, a trend toward rushing, a trend toward insensitivity, a trend toward getting too accustomed to each other, a kind of familiarity that’s not a loving one. All those trends exist and we have to do ongoing tasks of digging in the sand so that we keep uncovering the love that can go subterranean. We do that at a pace that’s faster than the numbing pace of life that moves us away from these deeper experiences of love.
John Gottman talks about the concept of bids which is a fabulous intimacy concept. A really important one. In a couple, in a relationship, in a friendship, we each put out bids and those bids are bids to be seen and noticed and recognized so that I might say to someone I love, “Look at that boat with that incredible blue color.” I say this because it’s really beautiful looking to me, and the person I’m with just says, “Oh yeah, blue. I got the greatest blue outfit yesterday.” I am going to feel not seen. The bid that I made for connection for being seen was dropped and the quality of a relationship can be determined by the number of bids that are beautifully picked up and responded to, and the ones that are dropped and ignored. We need, especially in long-term relationships or with old friends, to notice the way that we drop bids and change that. When we do, we resuscitate the visceral experience of intimacy, treasuring, and care.
It’s like love gets refound or rediscovered or relearned. That is a beautiful, beautiful, surprising, and wonderful process and in long-term relationships, it takes work, it takes ongoing work, but we must do that work because that’s the work of love. I want to give a story of how this takes place in dating, and a story of how this takes place in an ongoing relationship. These are two stories of people that I know and they’re amazing stories. This is the story of Mark and Sarah. Mark and Sarah met, they dated, they had a really deep bond, but Mark felt like Sarah wasn’t really exactly his type. He loved her, he adored her, he was attracted to her, but he was looking for a different type. They dated, they had a passionate, deep, wonderful connection but he never was sure for him. Love had never fully arrived or he might’ve said it did arrive maybe, but it wasn’t enough to make him want to love.
This is quite an amazing story. At a certain point, Sarah just couldn’t do it anymore. She said, “We’re stopping. This is too painful. I can’t do it.” Mark and Sarah both agreed in very adult ways that this was the right thing to do. Mark was dating all these different women and really having a ball and not missing Sarah. He literally did not miss her. This is very intense but I know Mark. I know this story. He told me this story. One night, he did not know this, but Sarah had met a guy that she really liked and they were moving toward potentially getting married and this guy was going to pop the question. The night before that was going to happen, Mark was brusquely awakened out of the middle of sleep.
It was like somebody was shaking him and he had no idea what this was. It was a terrifying experience for him because there was nobody in the room, but he felt that, he sat bolt upright. It felt like a presence of his mother who had passed away when he was much younger, which was incredibly painful to him, the loss of his mom, but he felt her presence and he felt like she was shaking him and saying, “What are you doing? You’re going to lose her.” Anyway, love came back. This is a remarkable story but it’s a story that captures something really beautiful. The next morning, he woke up, called his best friend. They bought a ring and he went and he proposed to Sarah. Many years later, they are so deeply happily married with kids and a beautiful life together.
Isn’t that amazing that he didn’t even remember that he loved her or that he missed her or needed her until that moment that somehow he encountered a level of being where he felt his love, which thank God, he did? This is an amazing story about dating and it relates in so many different ways, but this is why I deeply encouraged people to slow down in their dating life and have moments where you see the person. Moments where you feel the person, moments where you’re sober and you do things together that are beautiful or inspiring. You have rich conversations because without that, you’ll forget the sense of caring. It’s an amazing mystery how we can do this, but we do it all the time. We do it with our kids, we do it with our spouses, we do it with our parents, and we do it with our pets because the act of loving is more of an action.
Love can sometimes be like the sun in an eclipse. You might not see it now, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there. Click To Tweet
It’s an action of digging to those deeper spaces as opposed to having it just be there and if it’s not just there, that means the love isn’t deep enough. I want to tell you another story. This is another very moving story. I’m allowed to tell this story even though these were clients that I worked with because they gave me complete permission, but I’m still not going to use their names, or details, because this is an even broader platform than I usually share these stories in. Somebody came to see me who had been in a relationship with his partner for over twenty years. He came to see me because he didn’t feel like he was being authentic.
He felt like he wasn’t in love with his partner anymore. The love was not there. He liked him, but the love wasn’t there. I’m going to do my very best not to cry during this story because it’s an intense one. He came to see me about this and he decided that his goal was to end the relationship, which of course I respected. We discussed it this way and that way in all different ways because I really believe both feet in before you decide to go both feet out. He really felt like he was doing both feet in and he knew he was ready for both feet out. He could not do it. Finally, he wrote a letter to his partner and he told his partner, “I care about you deeply. I will always be your friend, but I’m not in love and I haven’t been in love in years. I feel this is the right thing to do.”
This was devastating to his partner, but his partner handled it very graciously, very beautifully, and with a lot of dignity, although it was immensely hard. His partner was much older than him and was profoundly ill at that point. He had an oxygen tank and had to breathe that way. My client did this. They both knew that it was going to be over. My client was preparing for it to be over but somehow, after he said, “This is over, I don’t love you,” love came back, unless and until he had the freedom to be able to say no. This was just him, God knows it’s not true for everybody, but for him until he had the freedom to do that terrifying no, there wasn’t room for love to be felt.
It was time for him to tell his partner that he decided, and realized, and had the revelation that he actually really loved him and that love had gone hidden for so many years as they had inured themselves into a daily romance, free relationship. He was going to say to his partner, “I love you.” Those were words that he had not spoken in decades. That was the plan, he was going to do that. He went to do that and he couldn’t do it. He came back, “Ken, I didn’t do it.” He came back again, “Ken, I didn’t do it.” He came back again, “Ken, I can’t do it. Will you help me?” This is something that I rarely do but because his partner couldn’t come to me in my office because of his oxygen, I went to their house. I went to their apartment and my client had written a very beautiful letter and he was going to read it when we were together.
I went over there and I was with the two of them, these two very lovely men. I said, “This is to help my client be able to say something he wants to say.” My client read this very beautiful letter saying that he loved him and did want to be together. The joy that was in his partner’s face hearing that news was so moving. It was so beautiful. It was very sweet, very emotional, and very amazing. He had to go through that whole thing of no, he had to go through that whole thing of being someone who was not trapped in a relationship for love to come back.
The story continues because they did this and they acknowledged their bonds of love. A few days later, my client went to work and came back and his partner was lying on the floor dying. My client took him in his arms and held him, then brought him to the hospital and his partner passed away, but his partner passed away knowing how much they both loved each other. This is a precious and amazing story that I wanted to share with you but I can’t tell you how many stories I have seen and how this has been true in my own relationship in my own life. The experience of love coming back because you don’t stop trying. Love coming back because you speak truth. Love coming back because you make room for your freedom and the other person makes space for that.
The Love Within You
I wanted to share these rich and beautiful stories but now I want to say something else too because I think that a question is, and this is a rich, rich question for all of us, “what shuts us down so we don’t feel those deeper streams of love?” What makes us numb to love? When do we get numb to love? How do we behave when we’re numb to love? These are such rich questions and then here’s another really rich question. What do you do that puts you into a zone where you can feel the ripples and the eddies and the pulls and the movements of love deep within you? What are those things that you do because those things are gold and I believe they’re not optional because our hearts harden with, most of our hearts, harden without help? These skills, the skills that I try to teach in this podcast, the things that you know of that help you soften your heart, these are gold and these are the path that we need to keep doing and keep staying in so that love can surprise us.
Grant Shepherd, is someone who ia decades-long meditator and a teacher of Tantra, taught me and my husband the most beautiful practice, that’s a practice that helps us do this and I want to share it with you and you can find out more about Grant by going to ConsciousPathways.net. It’s just what he calls a Tantric Hug, which is at any time of the day, we put our feet super close together, we hug each other, but it’s not like a one-second hug or a peck. It’s like a holding so that as much of our bodies as possible touch. We hold each other like that and sink into the love. We put our foreheads together and just hold our foreheads together and then end with hugging again.
We do this all the time because it brings us to magic land. A magic land that a moment before we might not have felt or recognized or known was even there or so close to the surface. There’s such richness here. There’s such hope here, and there’s such mystery in how feelings of love play hide and seek, and how steady love is never experienced in some ways as truly steady. Thank you for listening to this episode and I look forward to seeing you on the next episode of the Deeper Dating Podcast.