Love Is like a Butterfly
Non-attachment is the antidote to control.
Posted Jun 01, 2017
Happiness is like a butterfly, when pursued is always beyond our grasp. But if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you. - Nathaniel Hawthorne
Linda: A great love is exactly the same. If we pursue love with too much vigor or desperation, it will elude us. If we sit down quietly, love may alight. Taking our attention off the other person, not trying to change them, not pursuing them to bring love to us, sets the context for love to grow. When we stop pressing our partner to change their behavior, to bring approval, validation, praise, acceptance, attention, connection, and acknowledgement, or anything else to us, then we are sitting down quietly instead of running after them. What we can begin to receive from ourselves that which we at times desperately chase after our partner to bring to us, we are less likely to frighten or overwhelm them. When we need less from them we become more attractive.
Many of us have to learn the very hard way that our fear will prompt us to hold on tight, to be demanding, and controlling. Such behavior will push love away, not bring it to us. Consider the situation of Mira. Mira held on to a vision that she had since she was a little girl, the dream of the perfect family. (We all have our version of it.) Mira’s included a husband who came home every evening after work, to happily sit down to dinner together. He would be very involved in the children’s development, and would coach little league. In her fantasy, he was incredibly supportive, devoted to her and the kids, and encouraging of her professional success.
Mira’s told me that her pictures were vivid, and her attachments to them were strong. In the earliest stages of her marriage, her real life matched her image, and then when her husband took a new demanding job, suddenly her whole picture shattered. In Mira’s words, “I’m good at holding on, but not as accomplished at letting go. I thought that my challenge was to pull the family back together again, but it actually was to adapt to a changing reality. This period of time was painful because I resisted so strongly and refused to accept what my situation had become. When things didn’t go according to my plan, I decided that he didn’t love me anymore. My fear and disappointment turned into anger and my attempt to control had the opposite effect of restoring the love that indeed was ebbing away. I finally realized that I needed to do some work on myself and that non-attachment was my growing edge. My work was to lighten up and learn to sit quietly. When I became more accomplished at being still, it allowed the love to flow back into our family.”
Mira came to understand that when her real life situation didn't correspond to her cherished pictures, she spun directly into thinking that the relationship wasn't working. It took a while, even with good support, to realize that the relationship was in transition to a more creative form.
Ideas about of what a good relationship looks like can go through many revisions. We also have ideas about what love and intimacy should look like, but things change over time. We can’t expect to put the relationship in a box, and keep it the way it was. Life is full of surprises, and we are challenged to accept change. Relationship is a powerful process of learning each other's language, each other's way of being. We tend to think that the way we see things is the right way. It takes a high level of maturity to be able to loosen our grip on the model of how we think the relationship must look.
While we’re sitting quietly, we have an opportunity to know ourselves more deeply. We come to know our shortcomings and our strengths. If we haven’t done the work required to know and accept ourselves, deep and lasting love will continue to be out of our reach. No matter how much approval we get from our partner, it doesn’t satisfy us for long. We know that the approval we are getting is based on a manufactured image, designed to gain acceptance.
When we withhold information about ourselves that we fear could negatively influence their impression, the price to pay is the inability to experience acceptance and love from them. There is always the lingering doubt, “if they really knew me, they would think less of me and wouldn’t love me.” By facing ourselves fully, we know who we are and can embark on loving ourselves “as is”, allowing us to become more serene and still. As we come to quiet acceptance of being a mixed bag of greatness and flaws, we can become more real and authentic with our partner. It is the quiet sitting with what’s true, the deficiencies and magnificence that comprises us both that the magical love will lightly touch down, filling our life with exquisite gratitude and beauty.
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