“Your task is not to seek love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” ~Rumi
Have you ever wondered if there is such a thing as true love, like in the good old movies of Casablanca or The Notebook? Maybe you’ve found your true love. Or perhaps you’re still searching.
When I was a teenager, I was mesmerized by this dream that someday there would be someone who would love me so unconditionally that he would literally die for me. After all, you see that all the time in the movies.
After the tangible basics of food and water, love is our most essential need for surviving and thriving as living beings. We first experience love through our parents when we’re young. This lays the basic foundation for our growth and journey in life.
Since I was unable to recall being loved or shown any affection as a child, I held onto this dream that someday, somewhere, someone would truly love me. Subconsciously, this underlying desperate craving and desire for love drove all my relationships.
I expected romantic relationships to fill a spot deep inside me where there was a colossal empty hole. Whenever I fell in love, my heart would open up totally and engulf the other with an ocean of love. But my love came with a condition, that they should and would love me back unconditionally.
I’d asked my first true love once, “Why do you love me?”
He replied,“Because you love me so unbelievably much, I can’t not love you.”
That was my dream come true, or so I thought. I ended up marrying my true love, had three beautiful children, and committed diligently to a roller coaster ride of a nineteen-year marriage.
My marriage of true love had intense polarities similar to my emotions and mental states. I would swing from divine happiness when he met my expectations to the crushing and wrenching of my heart when my needs remained unfulfilled.
To avoid painful conflicts, I trended toward being accommodating and then slowly progressed into being passive and abject—just to make sure I would always have his love.
We shouldn’t let another person or event define our sense of self and worth, for this places us into the role of the lesser or the victim. When we play that role, then obviously we will attract or sustain relationships that will mutually fulfill that role.
This passive submission became quite natural for me, as my sense of worth was totally defined by my husband. I thought I knew he loved me, so I would do anything to maintain his approval and love.
The dynamics of our relationship remained such over the course of our marriage until I started to heal from my childhood past and my true self started to emerge.
Gradually as my true self of worth, esteem, and courage started to take shape, I started to look for respect and mutual understanding. This challenged my husband’s passive controlling role, and we started to drift apart.
Divergence toward opposite poles led to differences in values, interests, and wavelengths until our soul connection died a slow death and we eventually parted ways. I used to cry myself to sleep, alone, on most nights. My true love was not as real or lasting as I thought.
Later, I met a beautiful African drummer who freed my spirit, as his music would touch and fill that colossal hole that was still there. His exotic, handsome looks and charming manners made me feel like I was the most important and beautiful woman in the world. Again, I poured my heart open and gave all my conditional love.
In the early part of any relationship, we can be blinded to the true nature of the person if our internal lack and need form our filters of perception. We will only see what we seek to find, and the other will consciously or unconsciously reflect what we crave and need.
As our relationship progressed, I started to see his true colors.
My African god wanted me to marry him as a free ticket into my country as much as I wanted unconditional love in return. He played on my neediness for love by using demanding and chauvinistic behaviors to control me.
I ended that relationship promptly and spent weeks nursing the pain and tears of a broken heart. Why was I not able to find someone to love me as much as I loved them? That was all I wanted in life, to be loved unconditionally.
If we love from the place of lack, no person or event can ever fill that hole. Moving from one person to another might change the scene and scenario, but eventually the same conflict, issues, and imperfections will surface again.
A few years later I went on a trekking trip to the Nepal Himalayas and fell in love with a mountaineer and his quiet strength.
In him, I sensed the spirit of the mountains and the freedom of his soul. He carried within him the peace and calm that filled my colossal hole again. In him, I experienced tenderness and wholeness.
He carried my photo with him to the summit of highest mountain in the world. No man had ever declared such extent of love for me. I was certain this was true love. But alas, he was a married man. So the only love that I thought was true love was not to be had.
This was the most devastating pain since my marriage ended. I knew that true love simply did not exist, or if it did, I didn’t deserve it.
In deep grieving I wept, curled up for days in bed, and slinked back into the hole of despair. Without love, this life was void. It was like breathing without air and living without a heartbeat.
In the depth of that suffocating pain, my soul was stripped bare, and in that totally exposed and vulnerable state, I surrendered to life. In the total surrender, acceptance held me within the pain and hopelessness. And I slept.
Over the days that followed, a peace emerged, and then as spontaneous as the sun can shine again after the clouds have moved, something shifted within me.
I was already present there as unconditional love itself. Unconditional love for the imperfect me, the hurting, lost, unloved child; the desperate woman I had grown to be, who sought for the definition of my worth through everyone else but myself.
I thought I would find it in another human being who would be the love of my life because I never had it from my parents. I craved unconditional love but I never loved unconditionally because I never knew it in myself.
When I dropped the search and surrendered, it simply unfolded. I realized my true love had been right here all along, within me. It was me, in my purest form, when all my layers of pain and perceptions had dropped. There was no more hole, for I had found my true and divine love, and this love now overflows not from lack but from abundance.
So if you’re still searching or wondering what true love is, know that it’s right here within you. It’s your purest essence—unconditional love for yourself and for others.
Heart in clouds image via Shutterstock