We need an AAA for love.
But an internal one.
Because when we fall in love, the road seems open ahead, smooth and endless…
And in the sunshine of these hopeful dawns, we can’t see the rocks up there, nor the potholes, the nails – not to mention the sudden cliffs where the road plummets into hellfire…
It’s not that we are blind, we just don’t fill our minds with forethought of blowouts…
And because how we handle those blowouts will determine if our love dies or thrives…
With love, the warranty is more important than the acquisition.
This year, in our Smart Dater’s Academy, we read the remarkable book, Wired for Love, by Dr. Stan Tatkin.
Tatkin reminds us that when we pledge ourselves to each other, we are also binding ourselves to each other’s pain, fears, contractions and hidden patterns of unlove.
And, importantly, to each other’s infant selves. In the first two years of life, if our parents do not soothe us whenever we feel afraid or anxious, our brains decide the world is unsafe.
And that wiring lays tracks of distrust and anxiety that undermine our ability to love well, to securely attach, until and unless we consciously learn to rewire.
Yeah, yeah, you can say whatever lofty things you want to say under the wedding canopy…
You can profess whatever depths of feeling on Facebook or if you are visual – or pithy – on Instagram.
Those first revs of love’s engine are delicious…
Love sparks in first glances, first kisses, first recognitions of the revealed depth of someone else’s soul…
But love is FORGED in the moments of care and repair when, as we inevitably will, we puncture each others tires…
When we hurt each other…
Whether we intended to or not…
And the vehicle of our love screeches to a messy stop.
We can learn to turn every crash into love’s pit stop, with the right skills and practices.
In fact, there are two practices that Tatkin gives which are near guarantors that you can revive love where it might otherwise poop out on you…
Where you can keep your intimacy humming along like a cherry ride, rather than abandon it – another steaming wreck on the cluttered side of love’s twisting highway.
The first practice is to “turn toward” you partner when hurt happens.
It’s tempting to turn away – even run away.
He calls this turning toward – “presenting empathically.”
This is where you pull out your internal AAA card and dig in with your partner. “Hey what’s going on?” “Hey, what can I say or do right now so you know how much I care about what you are feeling?”
When do you do this?
In Tatkin’s words, “reliably and consistently.”
But only if you want to rewire each other’s brains into love.
When you do this, what once may have seemed a dangerous or untrustworthy world will now reveal itself to be safe.
The second practice is to immediately “care and repair” when hurt happens.
The sooner you turn toward each other and begin the repair, the better chance you will have to live in love.
It seems obvious.
But people are not obvious, they are scared.
Imagine if when your car blows a gasket and your AAA guy shows up – and all he does is shout at the engine, “Oh sure, you blew a gasket because you’re just like your mother/car!”
Or you pop a flat and you walk around to the front of your car and shout (or sulk), “Oh sure! You’ve popped a flat to spite me so I can’t get where I want to get!”
But this is exactly what we do to each other.
What I learned this year is that care and repair is not merely important to love – it IS love.
It is love manifesting out of being just “a darned good idea” and a lofty ideal into word, action, time and space.
The rule? –
Says Tatkin, “Let your partner know that he or she can count on you to step up and say or do whatever is needed to repair the damage”
This allows the creation of new neural pathways made of loving presence to replace to the old toxic sufferings of childhood and the past.
Love isn’t the acquisition.
Love is the warranty we renew over and over and over again.
It’s where we put the relationship before our scared ego needs.
The sacred before the scared.
Love is something we actually get to tune up every single day.
Tatkin gives some guidelines…
· No raging
· No Hitting
· No threats against the relationship
· Nor threats against others who are important to your partner
· No holding on to hurt for too long and not letting go
· No refusing to repair or make right a wrong
· No withdrawing for periods longer than an hour or two
· No being consistently unapologetic
· No behaving habitually in an unfair or unjust manner
· No putting self serving interests ahead of the relationship too much of the time
· No expressing contempt, devaluation or insult
· No expression disgust, loathing or repulsion
But when we do: (1) turn toward. (2) care and repair.
I remember taking a rickety bus up a perilously curvy road from the plains of Northern India to Kathmandu high in the Himalaya.
The road was narrow and though sheer cliffs dove off each side at some places thousands of feet into rocky abysses, the driver barreled along at full speed, never touching the brake pedal.
And we passengers could see the rusted hulks of trucks, cars, and yes, busses who had gone before us, scattered and crushed like little tin toys on the riverbed boulders what seemed like miles below.
My wife at the time, grasping seat-backs, clawed her way to the front and pleaded with the driver…
“Hey, I know you are Hindu and you believe you have multiple lives. But I’m Jewish and I’ve only got one life, so please…. SLOW DOWN AND BE CAREFUL!”
Good advice for the driver.
Good advice for us.
Claw forward if you have to – and turn toward each other when you are scared.
Be careful – full of care.
Consistently. Genuinely. Reliably.
And this way, we can keep the precious vehicles of our love relationships safe and humming along for as long as we may live.
Counting down to a new year,
p.s. I have become a fervent believer in learning the SKILLS of dating, intimacy and love, so that we don’t screw it up at the start, in the middle or create unwanted ends. If you want to learn these skills with me, and from the best books and resources in the world, come join our weekly class at The Smart Daters Academy. I work hard with the intention that you say someday that trying it out was one of the best decisions you’ve ever made. AdamGilad.com/smart