Counseling: Trouble Finding Love?

Here is my updated response to a letter I received recently at my counseling page. The client has written me many times, and I have learned a lot, myself, from corresponding with her:

Love, Peace, and Joy, to you!

Sit and observe nature. It is complex, but not complicated. Let’s emulate Nature and simplify things.

First, we’ll have to calm our minds and still the thoughts. Sit and breath, and eliminate all extraneous thoughts, pictures, memories, and worries from your head; music, too. Can’t? Just let them be there, but return your focus to your breathing, and let the other objects and mental formations drift by, like clouds. Ever watch clouds? Generally, a cloud is only as interesting as the shape it seems to take in your mind, and only until another cloud comes by that catches your interest. Let your breathing be the other cloud.Once you find peace, or at least, focus away from extraneous things, then enjoy that for a while, then, focus on whatever comes, not to attach ideas to those things, but to take note of them. Later, when you stop meditating, you may realize you came across some gems.

Now, Your Concerns:

“I have always had trouble when it comes to finding love.

  • Finding love is better than falling into it. Actually, you find it happening between you and someone else, or growing in you as sentiments of your growing love for someone.

“I do think I loved a guy before, it was first sight in love and I was crazy about him….”

  • He represented fantasy; you did not know him.

“I was 18 and felt like I wasn’t ready. I did not find him physically attractive but I can let it all go because I think he is a great person and accepted him just the way he is.”

  • Can one? It is beautiful that you could love someone by accepting his flaws and focusing on his positive attributes, and certainly, this is a necessary part of the art of loving someone (In his seminal work, The Art of Loving Dr. Erich Fromm outlines how love is an art, not a mere feeling). However, don’t you think in a sense, you were loving with your head-or not completely not loving at all-but “shopping”, as I call it? Shopping is knowing you want a partner and picking out candidates to observe and/or date, and then, before actually having that feeling that draws you uncontrolably to one, you pick one or another person based on attributes, say for example, a nice smile, or a nice personality. This is okay for a harmless-read non-serious-date (where in both people know it is only for fun), but not for the serious adult activity; art and project of emotional, physical, intellectual, and life-long involvement of true love.
  • You see, it may be okay for you, but I believe love has to be a mysterious attraction, affection and then a skill, combining feelings and interests, and dedication. In other words, you trust your heart enough that of course the one you love will have enough intellect, personality, and ability to be a stable person in your life-for the most part, and what is lacking is not in a grave proportion, because you are not going to grow in love with someone who is too far outside your innate interest. You have to have enough confidence in yourself to know that.
  • I said “for the most part”, above-and this is crucial-because your partner has to have flaws! If he or she ‘has no flaws’, you have no work to do in loving him, no sacrifices to make, no growth to struggle through, and no reward in the form of increased love in your lover’s great thanks for your acceptance!
  • If you partner ‘has no flaws’, there is no miracle in your loving him; he is a perfect concoction of your ego; believe me, it happens-I am in a country where many people formulate exactly what they or their parents want, search for it by interview {they call it “blind dating”, but it is a set up interview according to desired financial, status-oriented, and health-based criteria} and furnished proof [in resumes], and then they marry it, hoping to fall in love!).

“I was 18 and felt like I wasn’t ready.”

  • That expression is more often than not, a cliche, imposed on our consciousness by ‘pop-love’; you know, like “pop-psychology”? Perhaps you are right; you were not ready, but chances are (tell me), “ready” has been defined by your sub-conscious (inculcated by what is imposed on you by society. And “ready”, thus becomes “common sense”, instead of personal sense.
  • Dr. Einstein said, “Common sense is the body of prejudices acquired by eighteen.” If you don’t believe this, live in another culture, and see how differently “common sense” appears to be than it does at home, in your own culture. I have so many people who cannot understand the “common sense” of Koreans (all foreigners, of course; whether they are “Kyopos”, or foreign-raised Koreans, or Korean-Americans), from teachers, business men to soldiers, to airline pilots. This isn’t right or wrong. It is a true observation, made again, and again, and again.
  • And what society means is, ‘you were too young to know love, because you hadn’t dated around a lot and broken some hearts and had your heart broken’.

“Now the same thing is repeating itself with a guy I have been friends with for three years.”

  • Situations repeat unless we resolve issues in our present relationship. In Pop-Love, most people prefer to “move-on”. What does that mean? It means to abandon. Issues abandoned are issues that repeat. Why? Because they are our issues. We cannot “move on” from ourselves! We take our issues with us! People think, ‘Boy, that lover was a cretin! I’ll find a better one and leave him here.’ In reality, the only thing you leave behind when you move on is yourself, and your chance to grow. You might say, ‘Carlo, are you saying people should never break up?’, to which I would say, ‘No. But you weren’t fighting the first day, and you lasted several months or years, so the issues were created by both parties, and can be resolved by both parties.’
  • My recent girlfriend, who left me, said to this reasoning, ‘I didn’t know you in the beginning.’ This means, “I was mistaken about you.” I still love her and mean her no harm; she was afraid, because of my unresolved issues, and she is a wonderfully warm, loving, and intelligent person, but a more honest explanation would have been, she ‘did not know us, and did not want to try any more’, mostly because she didn’t know how.
  • It is really true, my friend, that love needs no breaking up, just reconciliation, and growing up. If two people can share everything, they can solve everything. But many do not know how to love. So they break up and bring their problems to each subsequent relationship, without fail, and though those problems may not show up right away, eventually, the unresolved issues always do, because everything is a lesson, not “an out-door” with a “get-out-of-school-free pass” on the knob.

“He is a nice guy, and very smart, but he is so immature, I see him as a child. I feel obligated to take care of him all the time and after he confessed that he likes me, I want to go jump off a bridge.”

  • Every woman feels like this at one time or another, with her man. When a man “grows in love” and becomes focused on a woman he finds beautiful, he is in a state of bliss. He naturally appears immature. It is courage taking over; the quelling of the insanely greedy ego, the growth of generosity, compassion, acceptance, beauty-seeing eyes…. Don’t worry, it is the female’s instinct in every species to over-analyze the male, for mating, fathering, foraging, and hunting skills.
  • Did you know the generally large size of the male’s genitalia in our species and related ones is an evolutionary response to the selection that occurred when females over the millenia have been unfaithful and/or preferred males that were large, as a measure of virility? It is like the MBA, the six-figure salary, or the fancy car and house, today; all stuff-strutting for the woman, right?
  • Don’t rush things. Men become more responsible when and if you get to the marriage stage. In the beginning, please, ladies, give them a break, they don’t owe you that yet! If men were as critical and mature when growing in love over a woman-as women are in deciding to accept that love-there would be NO ROMANCE in the traditional sense! Have a laugh, here.

“I believed we would work out, it was a crush but I took it so seriously. It took me two years before I confessed and we dated for a while then his ex girlfriend came in the picture so I decided to let him go.” (The italics are mine.)

  • Nothing “works out”. We work issues out. That is the biggest part of love, and if someone tells you it isn’t, she doesn’t know love. He who doesn’t know love shouldn’t feel bad, though. Most people don’t. Throughout history, love has been a right in most cultures, not an art, or virtue, or practice allowed to be developed between any two members of a couple by choice. It’s been granted by authorities, like kings, popes, clerics, and parents. This is not true love, but primitive love, or viable-family & super-society building “love”. That is what goes on in Asia, especially in Korea and India, to a large extent. People in these countries and their cultures are just getting into “love marriages”, in the last few decades, but many still do not get it, and do not “allow it”. Love is not practiced right in these countries. The unhappiness, self-mutilation in the form of hugely numerous cases of unnecessary cosmetic surgery for marriage viability, infidelity, prostitution, and divorce numbers-are the proof.
  • You have to resolve your issues with your lover, and that is how you grow up. You say you confessed, as if love is something to hide, like something to be guilty for. Don’t feel bad. Society taught you this. Love is something we should perhaps be embarrassed about if we don’t have it to profess, not something we should feel ashamed of (or likely, in your case, EMBARRASSED) to confess!
  • Dr. Erich Fromm said basically that ‘our worth as human beings is in our ability to inspire love’! ‘If we cannot inspire love, we are impotent’! You validated another human being’s humanity in loving him! And in expressing your love, you proclaimed yours!
  • You let him go? Well, you know what I would say about that, right? In a way, it is the ultimate expression of love…the parental kind. Parents who truly love their children would never dream of breaking their hearts (if they truly love them, with a capital ‘L’). They must let them become adults by letting them love what and whom they wish; anything less is maniacal control. Tell that to Confucianists. They don’t traditionally believe in love.
  • Anyway, if he did not love you, you had to let him go. However, it sounds to me-perhaps-as if your passivity may have had something to do with his ambivalence.
  • Peopled don’t want to be loved. They want to be LOVED!
  • And take your “crushes” seriously, they are where love begins.

“My family had horrible marriages; I guess I was trying so hard not to make the same mistake as those I saw, so I always stayed with guys who seemed safe and stable but who weren’t right for me.”

  • I did this and lost the girl of my dreams. She was and is right for me, though. You have to try hard; very hard…extremely hard, but not too hard. You have to be communicative, caring, accepting, understanding, challenging-in the right measures, and at the right time (I don’t mean by playing games, which are [1.] for boys and girls (not adults), and [2.] for getting someone in bed; not for getting someone “down the aisle” for a healthy marriage, and “forever”). And you have to set boundaries. Most of all, you have to love, which means doing whatever it takes to make it work. And staying with guys who are safe is called settling. It is the Asian way; the old European way; from the time of the Imperial church.
  • Love is not safe. It is a boat ride in a storm, and when you make it to that shore, you can congratulate yourself. Love is an adventure, not a contract. It is a dance, not a march. It is a poem, not an article. Love the one you love, or your soul is doomed, and so is your humanity.

As Jack Nicholson’s character, General Gessup, says in A Few Good Men, My Dear, “Are we clear?”

Thank you so much, Beautiful Soul, for taking love so seriously. ‘Love is humanity’s saving grace’ (Erich Fromm, again); personally, societally, environmentally, and species-wise. congratulations; you have got it. Now share it, and don’t let anyone tell you whom to love. Your choice is your membership card to the human race.

Let me know if this helps.
Peace, Love, and Joy to you,
Carlo Atteniese

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