I was recently asked to write a few paragraphs for a Valentine’s Day newsletter on “How do I love someone when it’s hard?”. This is what I came up with:

Intimacy is one of my favorite topics. And I think our culture has it backwards. We think of having to work hard to create intimacy – whether it’s just on the level of trust and communication or on the level of romance and sexuality. From my perspective, intimacy is not about doing, but about being. In our culture we’re always working and striving: whether it’s to get the most out of every moment, have a peak experience, create the perfect relationship, or even to have a mind-blowing orgasm. Of course those things are wonderful, but can we truly will those things to happen through hard work? And what if these strivings are actually ways that reinforce disconnection from ourselves and others?

My orientation to love and intimacy is reflected in the etymology of the word intimacy, which has to do with making known the innermost and deepest parts of ourselves. In being receptive to deeper connection with ourselves and others, and disrupting the endless cycle of striving, we become a vehicle for deeper loving. As Rumi said: “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”

So in answering the question, “How do I love someone when it’s hard?”, my answer is through curiosity, inquiry and supporting deeper connection with myself. As I clear up old, unresolved wounds and patterns that get in my way of deeper connection, I have greater capacity for loving myself and being more firmly grounded in my adult self. This then provides me with a base for staying present with my loved one, patience for understanding their innermost worlds, and giving and receiving love more openly, even when there’s conflict or distress. Then loving doesn’t become in service of the will but an act of being alive, as natural as breathing, sleeping and dreaming.