The war on love

Joey Garcia

How do I resist thee? Let me count the ways …

With apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning, this twist on her classic love poem reveals the reason why many relationships fail. Every day, in countless major and minor ways, we resist what we long for the most: love. We admire the idea of love. We even admire the religious concept of seeing the Christ (or Buddha or soul or self) in another. But many of us choose to armor ourselves against true amor, choosing quick hits of lust or infatuation instead of risking the chance of being rejected for our imperfections. Or we prefer to maintain emotional distance to protect ourselves from having to face and change dangerous coping behaviors like addictions, adultery and abuse.

Defense is the first strategy of engagement in war. Here’s how we’ve mastered methods of defending our hearts against love:

Might as well face it, we’re addicted to lust: Simply stated, lust is the compulsion to use another for your own sexual satisfaction. “It is sensation (physical autonomic response),” writes psychologist David Richo, “not feeling (physical, emotional, intelligent response). Sex based on charge is stimulating and sensational but does not include the authentic depth of feeling requisite to intimacy.” The social triggers to ensure that we raise a generation of sex addicts are already in place and many parents are in denial or engaged in it, not fighting against it. (Dear Pussycat Dolls: Bet you’re glad your public ain’t smart like me.)

What’s infatuation but a second-hand emotion: Infatuation happens fast. You’re in an instant relationship that’s sex-centered and emotionally, spiritually and mentally superficial. Unfortunately, you can’t see this because you’re in an oxytocin stupor (that’s the hormone released after sex), so you think that you’re in love. You’re moody, riding emotional rollercoasters until she calls or he sends you a text. Infatuation ends as quickly as it begins and one of you is suddenly off into another temporary relationship. Or you’re playing games of emotional blackmail like seduce (booty calls, sometimes dressed up as dinner and a movie that you never quite get to) and withhold (she’s too busy to see you; he says he’ll call Monday but calls Thursday). Here’s some meds: slow down, invest time in getting to know each other, honestly reveal yourself and your values. Then determine whether the relationship has long-term potential. Remember this (yo, single parents who date in front of their teenagers, listen up): Infatuation is a feeling. Love is a choice, a decision, an attitude that an individual brings into a relationship. (Dear Tina Turner: You’ve been to hell and back in romantic relationships. Why not sing only the truth about love?)

It’s getting hot in here, so take off all your lies: In the language of war, infidelity is an attempt to murder your relationship. A betrayal is an assault on the connection between you and the person you say that you care for. A lie is a troubling wound. These are all signs of emotional immaturity. Infidelity, betrayal and lies are weapons to prove separation from the primary relationship. The one inflicting the pain lacks the courage, self-awareness and integrity to admit that he wants to leave or that she is acting out fears of abandonment, and so chooses to exit the relationship emotionally before her underlying fear (abandonment by her partner) occurs. Beneath these dramas are layers of lies. It is your lies, not your partner’s, that require attack. Counseling, a 12-step program of recovery and are the answer. (Dear Hollywood: Re-read the last sentence. ’Nuff said.)

So live love, not war. Genuine love grows slowly over time. It accepts all of you but is caring and sane enough to establish boundaries against addiction, adultery and abuse. Love is trust and that sense of security inspires you to be a more gracious and giving person in all your relationships.

Dear Readers: I know what love wants. Love wants you.

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