Work On My What, Love-Life?
Dr. Thomas Jordan
If you’re reading this article I’m going to assume you have love-life problems. Maybe you know this about yourself and you’re here to learn a few things to make your love-life better. Maybe you have love-life problems but you don’t like to think that you do. Maybe you’re curious because of someone else’s love-life problems and not your own. Maybe you never really thought it through and you’re just reading this to find out who I am. Whatever your motivation, welcome to an honest discussion of the one problem we all seem to have in common regardless of our differences, love-life problems.
We’re all born with the need to give and receive love. Whether or not your needs to get and give love are satisfied, truly satisfied in the course of your love-life is the important question. Unfortunately it’s not good enough to just want love or even have love to give, there are too many things that can complicate this simple give or take. This problem requires that you ‘work on your love-life.’ This concept of working on your love-life generated my interest in creating the Love-Life Learning Center website. So I wrote this brief article so we’ll all be on the same page when it comes to what working on love-life problems actually means, at least on this website.
Before I go any further, let’s make sure you know what I mean by the phrase ‘love-life.’ There can be several types of love in your life. The most notable are romantic love, friendship love, parent-child love, and love for yourself. Romantic love takes place between two lovers and may or may not include procreation. This is the type most people think of when they think of the meaning of the words love-life.
Then there’s friendship love. This is the love that exists between true friends. You might not think of friendship as loving but I’m hoping you’ll reconsider by the time you’re done reading this. I’ll make the case that the love that’s possible in true friendship combined with romance makes a love relationship stay healthier and last longer.
The third form of love is the love that’s possible between parent and child. You might also have to stretch your definition of love-life to include this category as well. This type of love is the earliest form and often lingers as an influence on the other forms of love later in life. In theory at least, parent-child love is our first encounter with love and the place where we learn a lot about love as practiced in our families of origin.
Then of course there’s love for yourself. Most people don’t include this one in the definition of love-life but if you think about it you’ll realize how important loving yourself really is. If you’re not right with yourself your love-life naturally suffers. I’ve seen this positive relationship between self-esteem and love-life so often I think of it now as a love-life rule.
All of this would be fine and dandy except for the fact that nobody takes the time to teach us how to ‘work on our love-lives.’ What usually happens is you go along as you’ve always gone along until there’s a crisis (break up, separation, divorce, loneliness) then most people would consider the possibility of changing something in their love-lives, maybe. What about working on your love-live when you’re not in crisis?
You might have learned something earlier in your life about love that is simply incorrect and largely responsible for the dissatisfaction you’re feeling. Now you have to unlearn what you’ve learned and re-learn something better. The idea that having a satisfying love-life is something you learn to have is an understanding supported by a lot of everyday observation and experience. If you can stomach the truth about yourself for a good cause, a better love-life, then you can truly begin to work on your love-life.
Let’s get more specific, you can build a better love-life for yourself if you know what steps to take to accomplish this task. First you have to unlearn what you’ve learned about love that no longer works. The best way to know something doesn’t work is to simply check the results. If you are doing the same old thing over and over again and still getting the same negative results chances are it no longer works. You should now start challenging your old ways of being in your love-life. Keep reminding yourself the old ways are not working and stay alert to when you start doing the same old thing. Once you’ve challenged those automatic patterns in control of your love-life, you now have to learn and practice something new.
You can work on this on your own by asking yourself questions like, “what can I do differently in my love-life?” With this kind of inquiring mind you can start to make your love-life better because you see it as something to take care of and improve. You see it as something that requires updating and maintenance. If you take good care of your
love-life it functions better like a lot of things in life. I developed the Love-Life Learning Center with the objective of offering some useful ideas about how to understand and work with your love-life problems, including how to challenge the beliefs that cause or complicate those love-life problems.
What exactly is being considered a ‘love-life problem?’ I put love-life problems, generally speaking, into four categories: problem finding love; problem keeping love; problem leaving love; and problem living alone. At first glance these categories might seem a little strange to you, not the ordinary way of thinking about love-life issues. In my experience they pretty much cover the difficulties most people can have with love. Of course you can have love-life problems in more than one category and your problems can change categories over time.
Notice I use the word ‘love’ not ‘lover’ in the first three categories. This is intentional I assure you. The emphasis is on how you experience love. You see I’m a psychologist so I’m going to invite you to think about and feel the psychological and emotional issues in your particular love-life. To start fixing your love-life we have to start there. Your love-life is not just about what goes on between you and someone else it’s also about what goes on inside of you.
If you have a problem finding love and you’re not living in some isolated place not conducive to meeting people chances are your love-life psychology, or simply what you believe about love, needs a revision. Something is going on with your way of thinking, feeling, and doing things in your love-life that needs a review and change. If you blame it on the outside circumstances of your current life or other people, you might feel defensively good for a little while but the problem remains. What you have to do is humble yourself enough to recognize this as a common psychological problem that you can work on.
If you have difficulties keeping love, you have the common problem of avoiding a commitment in a love relationship. Now you might be the one with the commitment issue or you’re picking people with commitment issues or both. In any case, it’s still a commitment problem. In other places on this website I talk about this issue as a problem with making and/or keeping an honest promise in your life. There can be all kinds of personal historical reasons why you might find the same type of person, who can’t or won’t make a commitment, over and over again in your love-life. Just like someone with a problem finding love, you would have to be humble enough to admit to yourself, I have a problem with commitment, or I am attracted to people who have a problem with commitment. Either way, the recognition and self-admission begins the process of working on your love-life from your psychological inside of you.
If you have a problem leaving love, you have a love-life problem that is counter-intuitive to some people. Why would anyone have to leave love? Unfortunately in the course of a love-life you could get together with someone and love becomes unhealthy and unwanted. This kind of love-life problem can become destructive for one or both persons in the relationship. This problem gets particularly painful if you’re unable to leave due to attachment or dependency. To complicate matters, unhealthy love relationships tend to become very addictive to the people involved. This of course covers relationships where there is abuse of any kind (physical, emotional, sexual, or financial).
The last category of love-life problems may seem the strangest. You might think why did he include a problem living alone in a discussion of love-life issues? Think of it this way, to live alone with peace of mind and a settled feeling inside takes some degree of ‘self-love.’ You have to at least get along with yourself to live alone successfully. If you can’t stand yourself imagine how troublesome living alone would be. To live alone well you have to get good at taking proper care of yourself, doing the things no one else is going to do for you because you’re alone. The hidden bonus is, when you get this right, your love-life tends to get better, how about that.