By GuruMeher Singh
It’s not that I don’t believe in unconditional love. I understand Yogi Bhajan’s teachings regarding love that is conditional is not love at all—that where there’s a question there is no love, and where there is love there is no question.
He worked very hard to upgrade our cultural idea of love beyond selfishness, convenience, attraction, and “an exchange of bodily fluids.” I think he felt a lot of frustration about the progress he made with us on this front. But he gave us a vision and an ideal to strive for that may take some generations to realize.
So it’s not that I don’t believe in unconditional love, I just think it is more useful to be honest and deal with the fact that most of our relationships do operate under real conditions.
The great Yogi Desikachar said that meditation is not something you do, it is something that occurs when the conditions are right. I love Kundalini Yoga because it is so good at creating the conditions in which a meditative state becomes easy.
It might be that for most of us, love is something that occurs when the conditions are right. I love my wife for the thousands of things she is and has done over many years and has given me. All of that creates a background that sustains my commitment and feelings even when things are unpleasant and difficult. But if after a year of marriage she had been cruel and abusive or neglectful and hurtful most or all of the time, I can’t say I would’ve stuck around. And I can say with certainty that I would have some very negative feelings about her.
One study found that if more than one out of every 7 interactions with a person leaves you with a negative feeling about them, you will not like that person. Do the numbers with someone you want to love. So, I have to say that my love for her, after the initial attraction and honeymoon phase, is a conditioned response. She is lovable.
Love is part of a basic human need we have as social animals to be connected. Even in the worst of abusive relationships two people feel a bond in their suffering and they may stay together, but is that love? The bottom line is that we all have needs that we enter into relationships hoping and expecting to have fulfilled by the other person. In fact, I have found in relationships, wherever there is a conflict, there is an upset, and wherever there is an upset there is a need not met.
So there are some very practical steps you can take to opening your heart to more love:
- Safety first! A basic human need we all share is for safety. Without good behavior and strong boundaries, don’t expect yourself or others to be open to love. They say it’s either love OR fear.
- Know what your needs are. They are the driving force behind most everything you do and say. Look behind your upsets to discover these deep longings.
- Take full responsibility for your own needs. They are yours. Relationships neither entitle you to anything nor obligate anyone else.
- Ask for what you want. Be honest about your needs and expectations. You won’t get everything you want, but much more by knowing and asking.
- Diversify your sources. Don’t expect all your needs to be met by anyone person. Love and all other needs come in infinite ways.
Help your partner to meet their needs! The most selfishly generous thing you can do to enjoy relationships is to serve the needs of others. Work to know their needs as well as your own. We all have wounding-related priority around certain deep needs. Knowing them and the particular way your partner can receive them can act like magic to soften and endear them to you.
An example and systematic method for this is The Five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman. It is well worth your time to learn and practice with your partner of any kind. The general premise is that we all have needs—think of love as a broad category of needs including kindness, support, respect, connection–-and specific individual ways to recognize them. When you know the key actions that unlock your partner’s ability to receive and feel love, they naturally become a loving person to you in return.
Diffusing a Conflict Cycle – An Example
Mark has a laid back personality, while his wife Joan is passionate and active. Their frequent conflict cycle happened recently when a matter arose at their daughter’s school. In their discussion, she was very concerned and was speaking with great intensity, while he didn’t think it was serious at all. As always, she felt he didn’t care and that she was not important to him. Her response had him feeling criticized, wrong and a general failure. He withdraws, further triggering her intensity, which sends him further into retreat.
Her Belief: I don’t matter. Her Interpretation of his behavior: You don’t hear, see, understand me; you don’t care, value, respect me.
His Belief: I am a failure, therefore unloved, unlovable, you are going to leave me.
Her Need: To be validated by seeing that others understand and support her concerns.
His Need: To be accepted by hearing that conflict does not mean abandonment.
By recognizing their own need as well as their partner’s, each was willing to avoid the other’s trigger, help meet their needs, and ask the other how to do the same for them. Mark tried to respond with more attention and enthusiasm, better matching her energy level even if he was not upset about the matter. He told her he didn’t want to retreat anymore and asked for her help by saying she’s not mad at him but at the issue; that she loves him but we are disagreeing right now. If possible, could she discuss issues in a calmer, kinder tone. When feeling triggered he now says, “I hear you and I am feeling triggered right now. I am not retreating but I need a few minutes to breathe and calm down before we continue.
All of this awareness and behavior modification serves to bring the subconscious reactions under more conscious control.
Now I’ll say it again: if you want to be loved, be lovable! Get to know your partner’s needs and help to supply them. Figure out what triggers them to become emotionally upset and stay off of those triggers! Consciousness grows in stages. Let’s all get to the stage where we treat others as we wish to be treated and are in return treated lovingly. Let’s learn how to create and enjoy safe and fulfilling relationships, whether from these human interactions or in our own heart, then we will have the resilience and the stamina to love ourselves and others under any condition.
"As a human, the only weapon you have is kindness. Sacrifice, patience, and forgiveness are the tripod on which kindness rests."
GuruMeher is the author of Senses of the Soul, Emotional Therapy and is currently working on his second book, Emotional Liberation: Life Beyond Triggers and Trauma. www.sensesofthesoul.com