When I was 20, I got a fellowship to travel mainland China gathering folktales for my undergraduate thesis at Harvard. I was expecting the kind of stories I’d seen animated in Disney films: handsome prince and beautiful maiden overcome evil and unite in a happy-ending marriage. To my astonishment I found that this archetype is incredibly rare in Chinese folktales–they always ended with the protagonist getting rich.This was the first time I realized that my experience of romantic love was just one more set of socialized beliefs. Some of them made me very happy, and still do. The presence of a beloved companion is certainly one of the most precious things human life has to offer. But other cultural assumptions about romantic love create untold pain for my American clients. I see them in my friends, in the movies, in every TV drama from Grey’s Anatomy to The Bachelor.
Here is a list of cultural assumptions that in my view bring pain instead of joy:
Myth: The right partner will make me happy.
Reality: Your happiness is no one’s business but your own. As Terry DeMeo points out in our currently featured teleclass, How to Love the One You’re Always With-Yourself, being loved is all about loving yourself. You have the power to embrace or reject the magic we associate with “being in love” no matter who is around or how they feel about you. Successful love relationships come from happiness not vice versa.
Myth: You need your partner.
Reality: Believing you need your partner turns love into craving and leaves little room for genuine love in which there is no wanting or needing whatsoever. If you think it is romantic to tell your love “I need you” try this: “I choose you and I need nothing at all from you.” This may feel odd but watch your partner relax as the shackles come off.
Myth: You need to find the right mate to be complete.
Reality: You need to be complete to find your mate. If I told you to go find the mate to my favorite shoe but I never show you the shoe, how on earth could you find the mate? The biggest error I see my clients make is looking for completion in another person when what they actually need is a clear picture of the complete self that is already present at their cores. Find the essential self and identifying the mate suddenly becomes possible, even easy. No one is incomplete and if you see yourself as incomplete you will never find your mate.
Our cultural view of love, our fairy tales are based on the convention of “courtly love’ that originated in medieval Europe. It is a wonderful archetype but it is a poor and misguiding excuse for reality. Your real source of love-your true self-will breathe much easier when you open your mind to all possibilities. You will find that contrary to your painful beliefs you have been in Love all along.