The Truth About True Love

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.

15 replies
  1. Marjorie L Buscher
    Marjorie L Buscher says:

    Thank you Martha for confirming what I have become to learn/believe finally at 70 years old. Frustrated about love no more, I feel love is the answer and starting with myself radiates a wide possibility of working towards world peace, one person, one step, one action, one intention, at a time.
    Namaste Marjorie L Buscher Williamsville NY…..

  2. jo
    jo says:

    as obvious as it seems once I’d read it – yes, romantic love and its pursuit is just one more ‘cultural’ belief! Thanks for the reminder. How merrily we go down the garden path as if it were a fact…..

  3. Claudine
    Claudine says:

    When I was broken open and rebuilding myself (using Finding Your Own North Star heavily) I realized that I could continue to hold within me all the love I had ever been “given” in love relationships. The great feelings of someone finding me special and lovable were still there. I possessed them and could continue to keep them with or without the presence of an actual love in physical form. I then continued to realize that I could have a love affair with the world. I could have all sorts of small connections with all sorts of people — strangers and friends alike — which could give me the feelings of connection and affirmation (much like a romantic relationship does). That I had the power to put love out there to everyone if I so chose. And it was affirming and felt good (like romantic love does). Now I almost feel weird not having the same kind of “desperate” romantic love feelings with my now partner because I have no need for them. I know there is love everywhere, whether he stays or goes, I will live a life abundant in love if that is what I choose to share with the world. I have and own the love, it is mine forever. Thanks to Martha for helping me to see this in 2009.

    • Catherine B
      Catherine B says:

      Martha and Claudine,
      What a super beautiful message – and I feel the same exactly! I just came out of a wonderful relationship with a man and even though..technically, we broke up I can still feel the love for him and everyone else as I move throughout the world. I am open still to giving and receiving the embrace 🙂
      Thank you!

  4. judy keathley
    judy keathley says:

    this is good. & true. & i appreciate it.
    however there is a way i read it that still implies there is a “mate” for everyone.
    “you need to be complete to find your mate”
    you need to see the shoe to know to recognize it’s mate. while i know the shoe thing is just an example, shoes come as a pair. a pair of shoes. one shoe is not much good without the other one.
    i don’t really think martha believes this –but i do think there is a piece of the same ole message that made it’s way into this article.

    • Editor
      Editor says:

      Hi Judy –

      I think Martha is simply trying to turn any potentially painful belief on it’s head: “I have to be/do/see/have/find ______________ in order to be/do/see/have/find ________________.”
      Any belief that causes us suffering or pain isn’t true, so how can I turn it around to be as true or true that my painful belief?

      I ask you this: When is having only one shoe perfect? When is one shoe “much good” without another?

      Much love,

  5. Valerie
    Valerie says:

    I’ve been through an emotional wringer in the last couple of months (yes, because of a relationship) and as I’ve started to come out of it, and begun to feel happy again, it’s weird… the thought/feeling that keeps running through my mind/heart in those happy moments is, “I’m in love!” And there’s no one else in my life. Hmmmm… it must be with ME. Thank you!

  6. Barbara B.
    Barbara B. says:

    Love is gentle, kind, giving and allowing. It is being able to see the best in your partner even though at times it may seem like their worst. It is knowing that your companion is who they are and that when your light shines or even becomes brighter while in their presence, you are thankful, grateful and aware of their awesomeness.

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  1. […] Now, I don’t know much about the author of this article and for all I know she could have many predilections which are counter to Christian beliefs, but the Church takes truth wherever it is found and I think the article below is simply the truth about romantic love and our culture. Though I quote part of it below, the link to the entire article is here: […]

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