We all want to be loved. Do you know anyone who doesn’t?
Everyone I know is looking for love, bored with love, worried about love, recently in love, just out of love, heart-bruised, heartsick, or heartbroken. When it comes to matters of love, why can’t we seem to get it right?
We hear about heart healthy eating, heart healthy exercise, even heart healthy drinking (don’t forget that red wine). So how do we get heart healthy in love?
It ought to be simple
Sure, we’re concerned about our kids, jobs, blood pressure and cholesterol – all of which takes priority in a pinch. Okay, much of the time, depending on the age of our children and our stage in life. But what’s next? Love.
Yet there’s no personal trainer, no vitamin plan, and no course in college for heart smarts. There’s “just life,” and there’s nothing just about it – in any sense of the word.
The Love Biz
You know I’ve been thinking about the Love Biz lately. But with all the so-called help available, we still can’t seem to get it right. Perhaps our expectations are askew, and we’re looking outward at times we should be looking inward.
Personally, I’ve always found experience to be the best teacher in everything, despite our tendency to think that wisdom lies in punchy, superficial checklists found online!
But if I believed that only experience could guide us, then I’d have nothing to offer here, right?
Let’s get real, shall we? Knowing yourself helps. So does paying attention to warnings (disrespect, disregard, dishonesty, as examples), and learning to communicate clearly. Other than that, I think we can recognize emotional situations – our “heart smart status” - and tinker with behaviors accordingly.
Up to bat:
While I may prefer my men in basketball uniform - (What’s not to love? Tall guys in shorts!) – baseball is a great analogy for the points I’d like to make. And the first time you’re up to bat when it comes to love, it’s thrilling. You may get a hit! Or, you may strike out. Just because you fall for someone doesn’t mean they fall for you.
As in any game, it’s best if you can size up the situation before too much emotion is invested, but that takes time and experience. So – the more you socialize, the more you taste different kinds of love, the easier it is to read the signals and know if you’re headed in a good direction.
Am I advocating amorous anarchy?
Hardly. But when you’ve been in the game awhile, you learn through experience.
After a relationship ends, most of us bench ourselves. We sit out, until we heal. Unfortunately, not everyone is that wise; I’ve known men and women who jump back in the game quickly – either for sex, or for a relationship.
Well – for some it may work, providing distraction and good times without too much involvement. But others go so far as to dive straight into another marriage, only to find themselves divorcing again, a year or two later. Statistics reflect this tendency, and if there are children involved, you can imagine the confusion for them much less the heartbreak and disappointment you will go through.
It’s important to know when to bench yourself.
Same swing, every time:
I have one friend who has repeated his love behavior for 15 years, and can’t fathom why he’s had no success at love. In fact – he has had success - but for the short term.
He’s a good man but a bit of a Pygmalion, seeking girls to transform into “his kind” of woman. He chooses a considerably younger fixer-upper (his words), and invariably she leaves him – once she’s “fixed up” and, well… outgrows his desire to mold or, dare I say it… control.
She’s better off for the relationship, and he’s left brokenhearted.
Same behavior every time? Don’t expect a different result.
The underexposed heart:
One gentleman I know had benched himself for years, a matter of family and health issues. When he finally got in the game, he was in his forties, but with the heart-smarts of a 20-year old. He was utterly inexperienced at loving – anyone – and had no first-hand knowledge of the compromises that are part of being loved, much less what a more mature love might mean.
His heart was underexposed.
The good news?
He put himself out there and is feeling his way, at a pace that suits him.
The overexposed heart:
Sometimes you’ve played in too many games or pitched too many innings without relief. In other words, some of us love too easily, too often, or too ardently. And not just a partner; heavy-duty-parenting love can deplete the heart’s stores, making other kinds of love difficult.
I admit, I fall into this category. At least, for now.
I recognize that the overexposed heart may seem distant. I recognize that what comes easily to the healthy heart feels like too much to the spirit that has given, and given, and perhaps given for too long and too intensely.
The healthy heart?
Our hearts expand and contract as we field all kinds of emotions.
In the long run? I am convinced our capacity to love is infinitely expandable. If we’re lucky, the healthy heart grows smarter, we improve at picking those to love and who will love us – friends, romantic partners – and likewise we will improve at giving and accepting love.
We recognize opportunities for better choices, and we come to know and expect constructive and caring behaviors.
After all, love is a beautiful game. And the season may run longer than we ever imagine possible.
© D A Wolf