When an immigration officer denied me permanent residency I spent countless sleepless nights worrying about my future before his decision was overturned. When institutions refuse explanations for their decisions, our trust in the world alters. Our bodies change. We find ourselves overpowered by generalized anxiety that does not let us rest...or worse.
Heartbreak is never a mistake. Sometimes our biggest breakdowns lead to our biggest breakthroughs. So stop berating yourself for the terrible mistakes you've made in love and give yourself permission to fail. The pain of past loves makes deeper love possible in the present. In this sense, there are few mistakes in love.
In a recent interview, I was asked why I thought it was important to fall in love. The question took me by surprise. Yes, why? I think that love ushers us to frequencies of human life that we might find difficult to access otherwise. It opens to something more transcendent than the ordinary flow of life; a transcendence that is true even if love disappoints us or fails.
I can't think of anything less likely to produce a good love-life than the belief that your partner is an "opponent" to be defeated. It may be fun to watch Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie try to outwit each other in Mr. and Mrs. Smith, but real love is not military-style combat, it's sharing the top-secret dossier of who you truly are.
The so-called "male psyche" is one of the most damaging cultural myths ever invented. Not only is it unfair to all the decent guys out there, but it gives the bad kind - the kind who don't respect women - the perfect excuse for atrocious behavior.
"Men, for the most part, like to pursue women... Remember, you are the catch." Really? What century are we in? Some examples of just how badly our romantic self-help culture distorts evolutionary biological gender models, and why the man-as-hunter model of masculinity limits lust, luster, and life for men and women alike.
Our self-help industry is attempting to convince us that men and women are "wired" differently, and that to make romance work, women need to learn to interpret the so-called "male psyche." But this kind of thinking makes it impossible for us to appreciate the complexity of the person in front of us.
There is a difference between high-quality evolutionary biology and self-help-section "science" that twists evolutionary biology to sell us a caveman version of masculinity and a 1950s version of femininity. What if relationships are actually places where we can be liberated from hurtful stereotypes; where we can be complex beings rather than caricatures?
Let's just admit it: it's time to stop looking to chimps for love advice. Why are we, as a society, so ready to buy evolutionary biological explanations for human romantic behavior? When was the last time a chimp wrote you a love poem or made you dinner? What, exactly, is so hard about the idea that we might like to have sex just because we like sex?
If we expect love to make us happy, we automatically interpret its setbacks and disappointments as a sign of failure. But what if happiness is merely one aspect of love's multifaceted mission? What if love is more interested in our growth than our happiness?
Attraction at first sight, we are told, should never be trusted. But what if these desires lead to great adventures? Can our own unique loves-at-first-sight trump the loves society tells us are acceptable? What would happen if we courageously listened to the small qualities that animate our desires: a glance, a raised eyebrow, the way he or she holds a cup of coffee?
Whether it is Eiffel Tower snow globes, hot vacations on a beach, or that particular man or woman who sits across from us on the subway during our commute: what we desire determines much of who we are. This is why "games" in romance won't work, and why listening to our specific desire brings the love, lust, and luster we really want.
We all know the routine: we get up, eat breakfast, commute to work, make a dozen phone calls, fight rush hour traffic, cook dinner, talk to our kids or cats. But then there are The Juicy Bits: what I’m calling the trinity of love, lust, and the luster of life. And let’s be honest, it’s the Juicy Bits that make life worth living.