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
I know, I know, you suspected it all along.
But no – I don’t wear chiffon dresses and sing with bluebirds.
But like Elsa in “Frozen” – I am starting this new year singing “let it go, let it go…”
At midnight, I sat with my beloved in front of a roaring fire, writing things that we wanted to let go of in our 2017 lives…
In our social and spiritual life, in our physical and health life, in our intimate and love life, in our financial and mindset life…
Then tossing those scraps of paper into the fire.
In winter, we pile on layers of clothes.
In summer, we strip down.
Winter. Summer. Winter. Summer.
Until eternal winter’s wind whisks it all away.
But meanwhile, we gallop along, clothing ourselves in cycles of identities…
An accretion of signals – both to others, and to ourselves – that we MATTER.
In our runaway acquisitive culture, we “acquire self” like wild-eyed hoarders of old bulky sweaters, pulling our arms through one get-up after another…
We swathe ourselves in silky notions of God or Goddess or divinity of some sort; cozy-wooly-comfy beliefs about this and that,; we strut in our strong-armor opinions that eventually fray and soften…
Proud and scared, we don showy-shiny robes of status, threadbare garments that intimate depth, simplicity and heart, and eventually, we make a show of scattering our throwaway scarves of “I don’t care,” “I just can’t” or “I just don’t give a fuck anymore.”
We are movable, changeable heaps of identity-shmattas.
And, hauling this towering, knotted, motley pile on our backs, we trundle out into the world looking for love…
There! And there!
We spot a similar walking pile of cloaks, wooly clumps, weaves and frayed yarn…
Color drawn to color…
Texture drawn to texture…
“Do we match? Do we go together well? Should we try?”
Wandering mounds of identity.
There is a different tradition…
A kind of love that knows no accreted identities…
A stripping down to find a different kind of truth…
And different kind of connection.
In the Lurianic kabalistic tradition, the universe is a sort of cosmic game of hide and seek…
Once upon a time, God made an attempt to enter the physical realm – and in that Big Bang – Divine Sparks shot out of a pinprick origin point and suffused the universe…
So that now – everything we touch, everything we see, everyone we know, contains a “divine spark” buried under layers of husks…
And our sacred (and kind of awesomely fun) task in this life is to peel back those husks clumped around everything and everyone in order to find the divine spark hidden within.
Imagine dating or loving your partner like THAT every day, gently peeling back the protective husks to see, feel and experience their divine chewy center.
We are each God’s own tootsie pops.
Rumi, from the Islamic Sufi tradition, said it beautifully (and WAY before Hallmark cards)…
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”
Love is not my set of barriers being attracted to your set of barriers.
Love is the happy game of stripping down together…
Peeling off those bulky identity-sweaters, those ego-cloaks, that armor over our pain and our fear and our frustration and our lonely hearts…
Francis Ford Coppola recently said, “Often poverty teaches us to express love in the most profound ways.”
And what is more poor, and more rich, than our own naked selves?
Everything stripped away…
Except the light of love within us all.
Counting down to a New Year…
You know how they say Inuit people have 32 words for “snow,” because there are so many minute variations of snow to which the are sensitive?
And how Californians, likewise, have a similar number of words for “therapist”?
Well, we have one word for “love,” and it’s a damned messy word.
The Greeks had their Eros, Agape (spiritual love), Philia (deep friendship), Ludus (playful love),
Pragma (longstanding love) and Philautia, (love of the self).
We just have “love.”
Eddie Izzard has a great bit where he says that Americans say “awesome!” for everything, including for a great hot dog.
And so when Houston talks to astronauts in space and they ask what it’s like out there in the Great Void and the astronaut says “Awesome!” – the natural response of the guy at mission control is – “like a hot dog?”
We “love” hot dogs. We love House of Cards (well, we did). We love Beyonce, puppies, our parents, working out, the poetry of Rumi, the mystery of the night stars, the slumbering face of our dear lover, warm on the pillow beside us.
We busy ourselves with gadgets and to-do’s, but we live for love.
We yearn for love.
We grieve for love when it feels distant.
Have you ever been to the Amazon jungle? Vines reach out with hungry fingers for branches and errant roots and for each other.
They remind me of the outstretched fingers of lovers in the dark.
I once heard a teacher say that if we replaced the cold word “gravity” with “allurement” – we would see and feel that every body, celestial and otherwise, in the universe is “allured” to every other body.
We would awaken daily to a cosmos full of silent yearning for touch.
What about us?
Why are we humans drawn to each other for love relationships?
Sometimes it is out of fear.
Fear of being alone. Fear of social tsk-tsking. Fear of not seeming worthy of love. Fear of not experiencing that vaunted joy that people with good voices seem to sing so much about.
But something more…
I think it is fear of not experiencing this thing that calls to us as something spiritual, transcendent, not human but fixed and divine.
As Shakespeare, said it, “Love is not love/Which alters when it alteration finds.”
We want love the way people want a unitary god, something that doesn’t – that can’t – waver.
A rock on which to finally rest.
One of my favorite new friends is Ken Page, who makes the distinction between “love from deprivation” – what I call fear – and “love from inspiration.”
What is the difference?
When we meet and come to know somebody, do they hold what moves us most deeply with tenderness and care? Does the depth of their care for our inner world inspire us? Do they inspire us? He says…
“I suggest that you become fiercely discriminating about with whom you choose to spend your time. Is the person you’re dating kind? Is he or she emotionally generous (even if quietly so)? Are you inspired by the way this person lives his or her life, and by the kindness and acceptance he or she shows you? If so, you’ve found what I call anattraction of inspiration. Celebrate what you found, and do your best to nourish it. It’s a rare and precious thing.”
Or, by contrast, does the person you are dating or living with deride your ideas, our heart, those places where you feel most deeply?
Do they put on a miner’s hat and come excavate with us where you hurt, where you fear, where where your heart soars with feeling and where you feel shame and grief?
Or do they tell you that you are “too sensitive” and to “get over it””
When we “love from deprivation” – we are attracted to what the “near enemies” of love.
They almost or sometimes care. They almost or sometimes listen empathically. They almost or sometimes accept us.
They pay attention to us, but the warmth of their acceptance remains just out of reach.
Seemingly open arms, ever receding.
Page points out that “Most of us are wired to want the person we can’t really have. People who devalue us make us want to convince them that they’re wrong.”
Which was the exact backbone of the “pick up” movement led by disturbed and venal young men.
To me, in those moments when all the hurly-burly of our lightning-flash culture lulls into silence, and when our adrenaline and sexual hungers take a breather, we hear what calls us home…
And the call is actually unmistakable…
Be allured to those who are kind.
Be allured to those who accept you as you are with all your flaws.
Be allured to those who hold a vision for your greatness as you define it, not as they do.
Be allured to those who hold your heart – like a dance partner – tenderly and with care – while you dance through this world.
In Genesis, God says, “lo tov l’hiyot Adam l’vodo” – “it is not good for man to be alone.”
And voila – woman!
We often hear that we need to be independent and that the desire for love is some kind of weakness.
The desire for love from deprivation IS weakness.
But the desire for love from inspiration is sacred and, as Ken Page calls it, “wisdom.”
“Longing for love is not weakness. It’s wisdom. Numbing our loneliness is a path to a despair that plagues our entire culture. We are not meant to be alone and self-sufficient. Without lives filled with love, we wither inside. Intimacy is oxygen. We don’t need to transcend our hunger for love—we need to honor it.”
Counting down to New Years…
p.s. If you want to come explore love with me, and read and meet great authors such as Ken – adamgilad.com/smart
I feel dumb all the time.
Because I keep learning such HUGE new ideas and perspectives all the time.
I sometimes wonder how I got this far in life, without knowing them before!
2017 was a watershed year in many ways.
In terms of the dance of the masculine and feminine, the big explosion was #metoo…
Both for the revelation of the breadth of abuse of power and sexual abuse…
And the depth of pain and shut-down that so many women (and some men, yes) suffer as a result…
We are not done with #metoo, oh no….
And my fear is that…
(1) it will go too far into broad-brush painting of men with shame on the one hand and
(2) a reactionary defensive posture by men on the other.
Neither helps understanding.
Neither helps healing.
Neither helps love.
MEN – we men must learn to look at this fire in the face – and come to terms with what is real – and then rise into our deepest nobility in protecting and honoring the feminine.
WOMEN – women must speak out both fearlessly but also with precision.
So that men can and will hear what women have to say.
More on that later.
2018 promises to be a fascinating year.
Meanwhile, let me just give you some of my thoughts on what I learned this year that might matter to you…
Lesson #1: Relationship is PLAY and it is EFFORT but it is not “work.”
In our Smart Daters Academy, we studied Dr. Stan Tatkin’s excellent books Wired for Love and Wired for Dating.
They demonstrate the neuropsychology of attachment – how we trust or don’t trust love, the world and our partners – and how it all goes back to our first 2 years of life and imprinting.
He says something strong:
When we get married, we should say, more or less…
“Do you take this pain the ass to be your wife/husband – with all his/her wounds, ex-relationships, fears, triggers, bad parenting in childhood and anxieties?”
No more starry-eyed beginnings of love relationships any more.
No expectations of perfection.
No disappointment when your partner turns out to be human…
I mean flawed…
I mean human.
This isn’t the 1950’s.
The information is out there.
People have a voice that didn’t used to have a voice.
Things no longer happen behind closed doors.
The internet has given us windows into all those dark rooms of the soul.
But that’s not all bad news…
True intimacy BEGINS at those trigger points when one of you gets angry, frustrated, disappointed, ashamed, crestfallen, reminded of old patterns that hurt.
It doesn’t END there.
Is it easy to navigate these moments of wounding and anger?
Is it work?
Is it effort?
I like to frame this effort as play rather than work.
Specifically, SKILLED PLAY!
As in – “okay, here we stand. Two flawed individuals with our own trigger points, our own defensiveness, our own secret shames of not being enough…. LETS PLAY! Bring it on and let’s use the fire of this moment to heal old wounds.”
With love, people aren’t meant to be convenient.
People are meant to be whole beings – complex, delightful, with deep wells of both pain and resourcefulness.
Play for the win/win.
And love will grow.
Tomorrow, I will talk about a second important thing I learned, this one on how we CHOOSE lovers and partners in life.
Counting Down to the New Year,