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Define “Love” — And Predict Your Love Life


Are you looking for someone to fall in love with… or simply fill a void in your life? One expert shares her insight on projection, self-love, and how to avoid sabotaging your future relationships.

By Dr. Gilda Carle, Ph.D.

ife certainly consists of many ironies, and one of them is that the people who most desperately want love are those who continue to miss the mark. I recently received the following email:

Dear Dr. Gilda,
My identity has always been based on the woman I'm with. When we separate (either permanently or just for a night), I feel lost or insufficient and not
Some are looking for "love" so they can simply rid themselves of their loneliness.
whole until I'm reunited with her, or someone else. What is my problem?
– Lonely Lou

One of the shakiest reasons people come together romantically is to find someone who fills a personal void. For all the women reading this email: Would any of you want to partner up with Lonely Lou? Obviously, he has been interested solely in finding a convenient heart-warmer… and this could be any woman, rather than someone special. The only thing that's mattered to Lou is finding a filler for his emotional hole, so to speak.

Are you looking for a partner — or a purpose?
While in counseling with me, Mary confessed: "I want to get pregnant soon. I hope Joe will propose." Mary and Joe had been dating for only four months, but already, Joe was beginning to feel pressured to marry his girlfriend — just so she could be a mother. Although Joe was head-over-heels in lust with this woman and felt things might grow into full-blown love at some point, the pressure continued to mount in their fledgling relationship. Finally and abruptly, Joe concluded that he didn't want to be used as a sperm bank. When Joe high-tailed his way out of Mary's life, he left her angry and confused. In both cases cited above, neither Lou nor Mary was willing to look at their roles in these breakups. Instead, they each blamed the partner who had "done them wrong" in their minds.

When it comes to defining the word "love," everyone has a different interpretation, but the meaning that word holds for each of us also determines the depth of love we receive. Some people want "love" to be hot sex 24/7, while others expect it to lead to marriage. Some are looking for "love" so they can simply rid themselves of their loneliness, while still others want a relationship that will provide them with financial security. Of course, the list goes on and on.

In his book, The Path to Love, Deepak Chopra insightfully asks: "When a person says 'I love you,' what does that mean? Is it: 'I love you…the way my father loved my mother before they got divorced,' or 'I love you as long as you don't get too close,' or 'I love you more than Romeo loved Juliet — as long as you don't ask me to die?'" These are great questions to ask a prospective suitor — and I bet most of them would be stumped! How do you define that vital word that's so overused by people these days?

Why being motivated by fear doesn't work
We have only two basic emotions: love and fear. Of course, fear manifests itself as desperation — and that's not an attractive trait in the dating arena. Also, as my Gilda-Gram warns, "If you are hungry for happiness, you will be starving for love." Lonely Lou's fear of not having someone glued to him 24/7 became just as transparent as Mary's fear of not finding an immediate sperm donor, and both of them ended up starving for the love they craved. For these singles, something had to change.

Chopra tells his readers to deduce exactly what "love" means to them before looking for a partner. Following this prescription, when Lou began to work with me, I had him write down his definition of love. Not surprisingly, his answer
Eliminating projection is critical if you want to find lasting love.
was: "When I say 'I love you,' I hope that person will be beside me every possible waking hour."

Without commenting, I filed his statement for retrieval later. After a few months of counseling, we revisited it. Lou was surprised that what he had written was exactly what he continued to attract in his search for love: a temporary escape from loneliness, but little else. Each of his girlfriends provided only a short-term respite, because in reality, no human being can fill someone else's emotional potholes; this is a job that must be engineered alone.

How projection can sabotage a relationship
Chopra says that at the crux of desperate love is a person who believes he or she is not lovable. Instead of addressing their honest fear, these needy folks fault their mates for failing to provide it for them. Chopra warns that no one is out there but us. In other words, the criticisms we lodge against our mates reveal themselves only because we harbor the same traits within ourselves! That's painful for most people to admit.

Are you uncertain about your own definition of the word "love?" If so, understand that we rarely see people as they are. Instead, we see them as associations with others from our past. We then project our former experiences onto our new contacts. So if you had a mean red-haired teacher when you were eight years old, you may unconsciously reject all redheaded ladies as potential partners. This is unfair — but it is, unfortunately, how projection usually derails us.

Chopra says that if you exhibit the following behaviors, you're probably projecting more than you realize:
  1. You finish people's sentences for them.
  2. You act defensively before being accused.
  3. You ask someone's opinion and then get angry if the response disagrees with yours.
  4. You frequently feel misunderstood.
  5. You harbor extreme likes or dislikes for people you barely know.
Eliminating projection is critical if you want to find lasting love. In our sessions, Lou began to recognize that when he was a little boy, he suffered separation anxiety each time his parents left him. As he grew into a man, his fears of abandonment worsened. Eventually, he sought a woman solely for her ability to stick with him, and not for love. What enlightened woman would put up with that? And frankly, what emotionally sound man would want to be involved with a woman who isn't enlightened?

When Mary did the same exercise, she discussed how she was raised as one of 11 children in her family. Thus, her view of women was that of someone who sires offspring. As we began to modify her definition of a woman's role in life, Mary became more understanding about why her last partner left their relationship.

From now on, ask each date: "What is your definition of love?" How quickly then you'll see if this person is a keeper — or not!


Relationship expert Dr. Gilda Carle, Ph.D., gives Instant Advice throughout the world via Skype, email and phone. She is the 30-Second Therapist for Today.com. Her best-selling books include Don’t Bet on the Prince!, 99 Prescriptions for Fidelity and How to Win When Your Mate Cheats. Please visit her website at (DrGilda.com).
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