Do you know any books that could help a man in his late 20s understand love? My boyfriend told me he doesn’t know what love is. He thinks romantic love is the stuff you see in the movies, like being together 24/7 and showering each other with gifts. He thinks love means to fall head-over-heels and be obsessed with each other. How can I help him understand that love is not the frou-frou stuff he thinks it is? I try to show him by loving him, but he learns best through reading so I’d appreciate book recommendations. I know he is capable of loving me. He shows me love every day in simple ways like actively listening. How do I explain what love is?
If your boyfriend takes cues from films, he’s been indoctrinated to confuse infatuation with love. Infatuation relies on inner conflict, like the tension between feeling as if you finally found your soul mate and the fear you’ll lose your soul mate if you don’t win him over fast. Conflict in a film creates viewer excitement, but conflict in life usually inspires stress and suffering.
Infatuation is the “I can’t-live-without-you, sex 10-times-a-day, you-are-my-bae” prologue to love. It’s an emotional rollercoaster, but people equate that drama with love because that’s what they’ve seen in films and TV or heard in song lyrics. Most songs about relationships actually describe infatuation, a temporary state of emotional imbalance that hurls us into connecting with each other. Once a couple commits to each other, infatuation fades, making room for real love. That’s love as a verb—attentive, open, accepting, affectionate, steady and trustworthy.
My favorite self-help book about relationships is How to Be An Adult In Relationships by David Richo. But before you gift your man with a copy, push yourself toward a change of heart. Start complimenting him each time he does something you appreciate. When he does something you dislike, let him know, but don’t dwell on the misstep. Instead, focus on what you’re grateful for. Tell him about the things he does, like active listening, that make you feel loved and accepted. Celebrate having a man in your life who knows how to be present and aware. Above all, avoid doing what you accuse him of doing. You’re concerned that he holds the wrong definition of love. You may be right, or not. It doesn’t matter because love isn’t about being right and making the other person wrong. Love is a path to spiritual growth.
Getting curious about your own motivations helps. Ask yourself if you hold back from flirting with your man and if so, why. Investigate whether you need to get more comfortable with expressing your sexuality and desirability. You might be surprised to discover that your boyfriend’s desire for a rom-com relationship is, in part, a reaction to something you withhold. Flirt more with your man. Be head over heels grateful for him. Create a relationship that fits both of you. That’s what love does.