If love is going wrong everything else seems wrong for a while too, doesn’t it?
Before you answer – I’m not just talking about romantic love here like it’s the be-all-and-end-all. It’s possible to have a fulfilled, rich life without couple love. But life generally sucks if you’re out of touch with the three big loves. Get the big three right and the cracks in every aspect of your life start to mend.
What are the three?
Lean in, because this is important stuff that changes lives.
Two decades as a therapist has taught me that there are 3 great loves of our lives. These 3 pave the way to your greatest peace, passion and contentment – a state more lasting and deep than happiness:
The first is self-love or self-compassion. It seems to be the hardest love to find for many people. It’s just more exciting and less confronting to focus on someone else, particularly romantically, and obsess about them as the pathway to happiness, than it is to focus in on yourself. However, at some point you realise that nobody else can make you feel good about yourself or encourage you if you don’t choose to adopt that line of thought and cut yourself some slack.
Self-compassion means affording yourself the same basic kindness that you would easily extend to others. By offering yourself some compassion when you make a mistake, you can recover faster from suffering, learn from the experience, more quickly regroup. Holding a grudge, especially against yourself, shuts down your energy and means you have to fight much harder to recover from a negative experience than if you were to give yourself some understanding and encouragement.
Self-compassion means recognising we’re all in life, love and suffering together – all beings are united in living, failing and sometimes winning. You’re not to be singled out and judged more harshly – not even by you. Self-compassion gives you a lot more freedom than angst does and gives you the emotional awareness, energy and space to forge better connections with others.
- Mindful relationships with others (a partner, beloved friends, family, or other beings, be they animal, mineral, vegetable, spiritual!)
Relationships can be challenging because we don’t control all aspects; they involve others, which means they involve risk and negotiating difference. The first step in creating mindful relationships is to know ourselves; but we must also be able to hear the pain of others, the yearnings behind their words and behaviour. Mindful awareness and being able to soothe our own reactions will allow us to listen more fully to others, with a less defended heart, and therefore connect more deeply.
You can let go of being reactive in life and instead focus on charting your own course and allowing others to do so too. You can let go of criticism of yourself and others, focus on offering support and enjoy what comes back to you.
Love isn’t the mystery popular culture might have us believe. Love, indeed all emotion, has its own logic; it just isn’t the same kind of linear logic as our intellect employs. Love also has methods – ways to be, ways to live. My free eBook Hot Devotion can give you lots of support with strengthening or healing your couple relationship.
- Experiences of flow – engaging the work or activities that compel you to immerse yourself so time fades into insignificance, is the third great love.
It hurts when flow feels unrequited, but the search to find one’s passion in work or other pursuits is a common challenge. I always reassure patients that it is part of life to discover your passions and vocation; it is not something that many people just know. If you haven’t found your soul passions, your areas of blissful immersion yet, take heart, enjoy the quest as much as you can. Even those who are sure of their path early in life often change their career as they grow and mature. The passions of your childhood may stay with you, but they may also fall away and become redundant as you learn more deeply about yourself and evolve.
My work as a therapist over two decades has taught me that getting these three loves right is ultimately the key to emotional wellbeing. The first step is to become conscious of their importance and give them due priority in your way of life.
Our life’s journey is ultimately an epic treasure-hunt for these three loves of our lives; and a process of developing the skills, wisdom and awareness to recognise and revel in them.
Read more in Lovelands, my book, out now!