Can True Love Last?

#truelove #allowing #dating

GPS for the Soul – The Huffington Post
Can True Love Last?
There may now be hard science behind the notion that true love can last a lifetime. A neurological study from Stony Brook University revealed that couples who experience “romantic love” long-term can keep their brains firing similarly to the brains of couples who have just fallen in love.

The research team, led by Bianca P. Acevedo and Arthur Aron, found that the “dopamine-rich brain regions associated with reward, motivation and ‘wanting'” were activated in similar ways between newly in-love couples and those who’ve experienced “romantic love” over the course of many years. They defined “romantic love” as being characterized by “intensity, engagement and sexual interest.” This type of love was associated with marital satisfaction, well-being, high self-esteem and relationship longevity.

So what does this mean? It means that couples who maintain “intensity, engagement and sexual interest” without that extra layer of anxiety associated with “obsessive love” can in fact sustain that sparkly, cloud-nine, butterflies-in-your-stomach feeling of being in love. This optimistic conclusion led Dr. Acevedo to state, “Couples should strive for love with all the trimmings…. Couples who’ve been together a long time and wish to get back their romantic edge should know it is an attainable goal that, like most good things in life, requires energy and devotion.”

If lasting love is an attainable goal, then what’s getting in our way of achieving it? What keeps so many people from maintaining that excitement and closeness that they once felt with a partner? What are some of the ways that couples can rekindle the fire that’s started to dwindle? I would argue that many couples can preserve “romantic love” by avoiding the trappings of a “fantasy bond.”

The fantasy bond is a concept developed by my father, psychologist Robert Firestone, that describes an illusion of connection that replaces real acts of love, affection and relating. A fantasy bond exists when the form of a relationship becomes more important than the substance — when a couple starts to forgo their individuality, losing the “me” to become a “we.”

As Robert Firestone explains it:

Perhaps the most significant sign that a fantasy bond has been formed is when one or both partners give up vital areas of personal interest, their unique points of view and opinions, their individuality, to become a unit, a whole. The attempt to find security in an illusion of merging with another leads to an insidious and progressive loss of identity in each person.

This loss of identity is detrimental to sustaining romantic love. Initial attractions are very much based on a sense of interest in, intensity toward and attraction to a separate person. This combination of emotional, intellectual and physical engagement is necessary to keeping love alive. Yet we forgo this excitement in favor of a safer arrangement in which we regard our partners as extensions of ourselves instead of appreciating them for the autonomous individuals they are.

We do this because, although most of us say we want real love, many of us find real love hard to tolerate. Love threatens our defenses. It can make us feel uncertain and unsafe to care so deeply for someone else or to be seen in a different light than we’ve been seen or have come to see ourselves over the years.

As my father wrote:

[The fantasy bond] explains people’s compulsion to relive the past with new relationships i.e., to form illusory connections that invariably lead to a reenactment of defensive styles of interacting developed in childhood…. Once a fantasy bond is formed, individuals prefer to maintain a defensive posture rather than trusting and investing genuine feeling in others.

A fantasy bond allows us to feel secure and connected to someone else while numbing us against some of the more painful emotions that love stirs up, such as existential anxieties; fears of loss; or memories of hurt, longing or rejection. Unfortunately, we cannot selectively block out pain without also blocking out joy. Without knowing it, couples tend to set up routines and fit each other into roles rather than face the unpredictability and inherent challenges that come with maintaining passion, excitement and a deep sense of fondness for another person separate from themselves.

So what are some signs that you may be in a fantasy bond?

Less eye contact

A breakdown in communication

Less-frequent affection and less-personal or routinized lovemaking

A loss of independence

Speaking as one person and overusing “we” statements

Using everyday routines as symbols of closeness in place of being emotionally close

Engaging in role-determined behaviors (e.g., as father, wife, breadwinner, decision maker) rather than developing yourself based on your personal goals and interests

Using customs and conventional responses as substitutes for real closeness and relating

If you notice that your relationship has some of these qualities, don’t despair or run for the door. A fantasy bond exists on a continuum. It isn’t a black-or-white, good-or-bad label for your relationship. Once you realize that you have fallen into some form of a fantasy bond, it is possible to reemerge as a happier, more in-love version of yourself. To do this, you must first investigate and explore how this bond manifests itself and hurts your current relationships. Then you can stop the behaviors that maintain the fantasy connection and engage in behaviors that encourage real and meaningful contact with your partner. You can stop reenacting hurtful dynamics and strengthen your capacity to love and be loved. Ultimately, you can become the person you want to be in your relationship — minus the fairytale, but with a much happier ending.

Learn more about the fantasy bond here.

Join Dr. Lisa Firestone for the eCourse “Creating Your Ideal Relationship.”

Read more from Dr. Lisa Firestone at PsychAlive.org.

The Hidden Cost of Fitting In
Here’s a story that you may have heard, but its message is timeless and bears repeating:

There once lived a tailor name Zumbach, who had a reputation for making the finest of clothing. He used only the best fabrics, and he was especially known for his impeccable suits.

One day a man named Sam walked into Zumbach’s shop and plopped down a large bundle of money in front of the famous tailor. “I’ve always wanted to own one of your suits, and I’ve been saving up for years,” Sam said. “Is this enough money for you to make me a suit?”

After carefully counting the money in front of him, Zumbach replied, “Yes, I could make you a suit.”

“Wonderful!” said Sam, clapping his hands and smiling with delight.

“First,” said Zumbach, “I need to take your measurements.” The nimble tailor took out his tape measure and proceeded to take Sam’s measurements, carefully recording every detail in a small notebook. Then, together, they picked out an elegant cloth from Zumbach’s fine selection. “Come back in two weeks,” Zumbach said, “and the suit will be ready for you.”

When the promised day came, Sam could barely contain his enthusiasm. He showed up at the tailor’s shop before it even opened. “Is my suit ready?” Sam asked Zumbach when he finally arrived.

“Yes, of course,” said the tailor. “Come in. Here it is. Try it on.”

“It looks beautiful!” said Sam as he stepped into the suit. There was one problem, however. The suit didn’t fit. One leg was four inches shorter than the other, the sleeves were also of different lengths, and the shoulders were several sizes too small. Sam was disappointed and angry. “Zumbach, what have you done to my beautiful suit?” he cried. “You’ve ruined it!”

“Nonsense,” said Zumbach. “There’s nothing wrong with the suit. You’re just not wearing it properly.”

“Not wearing it properly?” asked Sam incredulously. “What are you talking about?”

“Here, let me show you,” said Zumbach. “Just bend your left knee a little more. Yes! That’s good. Now pull your right arm up two inches and bend your elbow. Perfect! Now one more thing: Raise your shoulders up so that they’re almost touching your ears. Just like that! Beautiful! You see? The suit fits you perfectly! Look in the mirror. You look like a million bucks!”

Sam took a look. He had to admit that the suit did seem to fit better now that he was wearing it properly, although somehow it still didn’t feel quite right. He paid Zumbach for the suit, shook his hand, and left the shop to catch a bus back to his apartment.

As Sam stepped on the bus, the driver smiled at him and said, “That must be a Zumbach suit that you’re wearing.”

“Yes,” said Sam, smiling with pride. “How did you know?”

“Because,” said the driver, “only the gifted Zumbach could make a suit for a man whose body is as crippled and misshapen as yours.”

Like Sam, many of us spend our lives twisting ourselves into shapes and postures that are unnatural and uncomfortable in hopes of gaining acceptance from others whose approval we desire. We may contort ourselves into shapes that are entirely unnatural for us in an effort to win others over, live up to their expectations, or avoid conflict. While some degree of accommodation is undoubtedly necessary in most relationships, a steady diet of it will eventually damage our integrity and inevitably lead to a diminishing of our sense of self-worth. As our self-respect erodes, we feel increasingly in need of external validation and tend to be even more willing to compromise our own truth in order to gain the love that we are becoming increasingly unable to give ourselves.

As in any other compulsive or addictive behavior pattern, the more we indulge this process, the more locked-in and dependent upon it we become. We find ourselves in a closed loop that eventually strangles the life out of our relationships when others are unable to bear the weight of the responsibility of propping us up and filling our need for love and acceptance. We are so busy focusing on what we think others expect of us that we fail to recognize what we deeply desire for ourselves and what is true within our own heart.

There is an old saying that “you can never get enough of what you really don’t need.” We are the only ones who can accurately identify what we truly need. If we give that authority over to others, we will inevitably be disappointed, because no matter how much they may care about us, no one else can ever know the truth of our inner experience. In taking back the power to fulfill more of our own needs, we become responsible in the truest sense of the word. Only then are we able to respond to the challenges, demands, and opportunities that present themselves in the unfolding moment-to-moment experiences of life. This quality of “responsible self-care” is what promotes a feeling of empowerment rather than victimization, of gratitude instead of self-pity, of generosity rather than possessiveness, and of enthusiasm rather than anxiety. It is also the ground upon which genuinely fulfilling relationships are built.

Living a life of “response-ability” means that we don’t spend much time in resentment or self-pity, because there’s no one to blame for the life we are given and the life that we create. “No one” includes ourselves. Such a life requires us to establish a compassionate and accepting relationship with ourselves. This can be quite a challenge when we’ve been accustomed to focusing on the expectations of others, or if we question our worthiness of such a goal. It takes courage to risk the disapproval of those whose opinions we cherish, and it takes even more courage to go against the not-so-small voice within our own mind that lambasts us for being self-centered and selfish for focusing on our own needs rather than those of others, even though doing so ultimately enables us to be more giving and generous with them.

It is every couple’s challenge for each partner to hang on to themselves while they are making adaptations to fit in with their partner’s style, their ways of doing things, and even their differing values and idiosyncratic needs. It’s a real stretch for the one who is good at getting their own needs met to let go periodically in order to learn to be more accommodating with others. And it can be every bit as difficult for those of us who find it all-too-easy to sacrifice ourselves in order to fit in with others to recognize our own needs and take a stand to honor them. But then again, no one ever said that great relationships don’t require some real work on our part, and if they did, they lied. Embodying a life of responsibility and integrity is not for the faint of heart. However, it does have its rewards, and they are many, as anyone who has taken on this commitment will attest. Once you get on the path of egalitarian partnership, there’s no going back!

3 Simple Tips to Live Out Your Yoga Practice
By Yoga Journal

Santa Monica yoga instructor Amy Lombardo may be one of the most in-demand teachers to the stars, but her practice is deeply rooted in the spirit of service.

In addition to keeping clients like Gisele Bundchen and Laura Dern flexible and focused, the 37-year-old helps run Karma Krew, the national nonprofit she co-founded eight years ago. The group’s mission is to connect yogis to service projects in their communities, and now has “krews” in dozens of towns and cities across the globe that tackle service projects such as offering free yoga at orphanages, painting halfway houses, or working in soup kitchens.

For Lombardo, yoga is more than a practice, it’s a life calling. She was just 9 years old, away at summer camp, when she was first exposed to its effects. “I was an insecure kid, but my first experience with yoga changed that. It made me feel good. I still remember the first time I did Savasana — that’s where it all began.”

That path eventually led her to New York City where she studied yoga with John Friend and Doug Keller, and Kashmir Shaivism, non-religious Tantra philosophy, while holding down a job at the Audubon Society. (Environmental stewardship is Lombardo’s other life passion.) She began teaching around the city, in nursing homes, children’s hospitals, and even a school for the blind.

Relocating to Los Angeles in 2008, this Chicago native quickly found a new client base among celebrity practitioners who were drawn to her holistic approach (she also practices reiki, massage and aromatherapy), and her genuine love of sharing the practice. In addition to her private clients, she teaches public classes at The Hub in West Los Angeles.

“We live this life once and I want to make sure I’m living it in a way where I can grow and become more aligned with my soul’s purpose,” she says. “Even if I practiced yoga for the rest of my life, I feel like I’d only be scratching the surface.”

Each of us can tap into the spirit of karma yoga in our own way, Lombardo says. Here are her 3 tips to get started.

1. At the end of your morning meditation, ask yourself, “How can I use my talents and gifts today to serve others?” There are endless opportunities to be of service each day, from volunteering on a humanitarian project to helping a friend or even a stranger in the moment. By asking yourself this question in a mindful way, you’ll begin to create a new pattern in your consciousness orienting you to those opportunities. You’ll be amazed and inspired by how many ways there are to help.

2. Connect in meaningful ways with others. In our highly technological world, it’s easy to feel isolated and disconnected from community. This can lead to things like depression, cynicism, and even a sense of hopelessness and purposelessness. Restoring or creating a sense of connection, to the place you live and the people around you, will not only help you see the very important role you can play in the world, but will inspire the natural instinct humans have to support one another.

3. Become an expert on a cause. Whether it’s a local issue or a global one, dare to go deep. When we commit to really learning an issue, we create an opportunity to become a steward for that cause in a much more meaningful way. It’s easy to get fired up by all the needs out there. But spreading yourself too thin and fragmenting your attention only lessens your effectiveness. Instead, put that powerful energy into one thing, and feel the exhilaration of really helping to create change.

For more, visit yogajournal.com.

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