I once worked with a client who toted a huge box into a session. I’m a spiritual counselor; clients seldom bring props to our meetings. He proceeded to pull book after book out of the container.
When I asked the purpose of this show-and-tell, he stated, “I’ve read hundreds of books about love and I’m more confused than when I started. Exactly what is love and how do I get more?”
There are many versions of love: maternal, agape, Eros, romantic, friendship; we might add labels like unrequited, frustrating, and hopeless.
No matter where we are in our lives, we want more of whatever love is. It’s hard to open up to and create more love, though, when we are lacking an achievable definition and a blueprint.
The seed of love that can grow into any type of tree is “togetherness.” Togetherness is the core of every type of intimacy, whether experienced as a bond between parent and child, the enduring link between friends, the assurance of self-love, or the enchantment of romance.
Togetherness is the exchange between Winnie the Pooh and Piglet, when Piglet wiggles up to Pooh, takes his paw, and says, “I just wanted to be sure of you.”
Closeness is a natural human need and instinct. It’s okay to desire it. It’s more than okay to create more of it, whether we’re single, married, or “in-between”; younger or older; male or female.
We build tenderness, joy, and connection by focusing on the four cornerstones of togetherness:
- Togetherness with the Self
- Togetherness with a Future Partner
- Togetherness with a Current Partner
- Togetherness with the Divine
Togetherness with the Self
We enhance personal togetherness, our first cornerstone, by claiming that we are worthy of love, and not only external love. We deserve to love ourselves.
If we don’t love ourselves, others will mirror our opinion. Unfortunately, many of us leave childhood believing that we don’t deserve attention and good treatment, much less love and companionship. Our relationship partners then become anything but fulfilling.
I once worked with a woman who was told by her parents that she was nothing but a problem throughout her childhood. As an adult, she took up little space in her relationships.
Her friends continually took advantage of her and her husband was seldom home. Her low self-opinion continued to spiral downward.
We are a community unto ourselves. Within each of us lies every “self” we’ve ever been. All too often, one particular aspect of ourselves, often a “wounded inner child,” hijacks our personality and runs our love life.
Who was steering my client’s life but the child-self who was sure her parents were right?
We all have wounded inner selves that need loving attention and proper placement within our personalities so we can be open to love. We need to spend alone time with ourselves to meet and coach these inner selves.
We might require therapy to more thoroughly heal these wounded selves. In the end, how can we ever feel worthy of love if we don’t show ourselves we’re worthy of our own time?
Togetherness with a Future Partner
At some point, we all find ourselves desiring a romantic relationship, the second cornerstone of togetherness. That desired partner might be the one we’re with, although at times we might not know it. Or maybe we need to attract a new person.
Regardless, relationship magic starts with opening our hearts.
The search for the all-important soul mate starts by expanding our circle. When we give and receive affection, we often become more loving with the mate we’re already with. If we’re already flying solo, we’re more apt to meet a terrific partner.
Sometimes meeting a mate is as easy as following our interests and passions. I once met a wonderful man with whom I enjoyed a great year of dating in an adult French class, of all things. He was an FBI agent, on top of that. I couldn’t have plugged that requirement into match.com.
After starting to date, a couple inevitably reaches a point where the limerence, or sparkle, starts to fade. The truth is, we’re not totally in love with the other person. Rather we’re seeing our self in the other.
We’re enjoying our similarities but ignoring our differences. To build love, we must now substitute the heights of passion for the depths of connection. We must enjoy our differences. Those differences can become the “spice” in our relationship.
Togetherness with a Current Partner
The third cornerstone of togetherness involves creating togetherness with a current partner. Any relationship starts to fade over time, often because we take the other for granted.
To reignite and transform a strained relationship, or one that needs a bit of “spiffing up,” we cultivate three qualities: appreciation, forgiveness, and optimism.
Do we really appreciate our partner? Do we show them? Are we willing to ask them what they need from us?
Can we stop holding our partner hostage to long-ago grudges and move into the present?
Can we assume good will, knowing that our partner means well, even if we don’t understand why he or she acts the way they do?
Andrew Wald, a colleague, friend, and the co-author of our book, Togetherness, shares a story about a couple he worked with in his therapeutic practice. The husband was frustrated with his wife, who constantly refused his affections in public.
Finally, his wife shared that in her home country, the Czech Republic, only prostitutes allow advancements in public. From this disclosure, a sticking point became an invitation to deeper understanding, therefore more togetherness.
The couple negotiated a way to be affectionate in public in a way that was comfortable to both.
Togetherness with the Divine
The final cornerstone is certainly not the least important. It centers on cultivating togetherness with the Divine, the source of love that often believes more in us than we do.
When we feel grateful for the miracle of life, for being loved into being, we are able to fully embrace all types of love. We can better attract a desired love and nurture the relationships we’re already holding within. We can live the love we dream about.
As shared by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, life teaches us that love “does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.”
Every relationship, including those within, can lead us into horizons of more and more love. In the end, we don’t need to tote around a huge box of wisdom to get more love.
Our wisdom will create more love for ourselves and others.