This is an excerpt from the new book I have co-authored with John Gray: “Conscious Men.” It will be out soon.
John says: I remember a moment seven years into my marriage. After making love with Bonnie, I said to her, “That was fantastic. It was as good as it was in the beginning.”
“Oh, I thought it was much better,” she replied.
“Really? How so?” I asked her.
“In the beginning we had great sex,” she said, “but we didn’t really know each other then. Now you’ve seen the best of me, and you’ve seen the worst of me, and you still adore me.” When she said that, I had to stop and think. I had never thought of it that way. It was a moment of becoming more conscious as a man. The love we had built in seven years made the sex much more fulfilling.
To love deeply is to experience all of who a person is. Not to fantasize that she is perfect, but to grow and love someone who is not perfect, simply because you have made a decision to love more each day. You create friendships in life by giving, they don’t just happen automatically. Equally, you can create a great marriage. Its starts with a fantasy, and you create it through give and take. In those times when it’s difficult to give, and your partner needs you, you rise to the occasion. You made a promise to your partner. There are temptations and distractions, and you rise above them because you made a commitment. You grow in love.
Ultimately, your relationship becomes sacred. The words “sacred” and “sacrifice” both come from the same Latin root: sacer, which means holy. When you make sacrifices for someone, you make that person special. You make it a sacred relationship.
We have all had the experience of falling in love, which usually happens when we first meet someone who we do not yet know very well. It is a glimpse of seeing just how beautiful everything can be when you truly open your eyes and your heart. But it is not yet grounded. You need practice to ground it, to stabilize it, to integrate it, to live it.
One of the greatest obstacles that men face is the expectation that love should be automatic, just as it was in the beginning, when there was nothing you had to do. That glimpse was the result of chemistry, and bumping into the right person at the right time. That particular configuration of forces will quickly disappear, and then you have to commit yourself to the practice to open up that portal: again, and again, and again. It is tempting to assume that it is your right to experience those feelings, and when they go away it must be your partner’s fault. Then we get frustrated, because we have the unrealistic expectation that romance, affection, attraction, and passion should be automatic if you are with the right person.
Remember with Netflix, or one hundred thousand other things available on the Internet, that you can get the first month free? They are hoping you get hooked. Then you have to pay. It is just like that with the practice of love. You get a free glimpse when you fall in love, and then you need to be prepared to make regular payments, through daily practice.
Learning to love is best measured not by how you feel inside yourself, but by how other people feel in your presence. It is relatively easy to be impressed with your own state of maturity. When you get to the point that your partner, or your teenage children, are impressed by your love, then, and only then, you know that you are onto something. It requires that you make your life into an art form instead of an accident.
You discover that love is not just a feeling that comes over you sometimes. It’s something you can choose, it’s something you can practice, it’s something you can develop and it’s something that you can become.