Love and Clinging

Since one of the most popular posts on this blog has been about relationships and because I am not going to be able to post much new content regularly during the next two months, I decided to pick up the topic of romantic love again.

From what I can tell, what people seem to be most interested in when it comes to romantic love is to understand why some relationships don’t work and how to commit to a partner without compromising oneself. I think that the ‘problem’ of most romantic relationships is always the same: clinging.

Clinging is an expression of insecurity of one’s lovability and, ultimately, of the fear of losing the partner. One of the fundamental laws of nature is that acting from a place of fear never prevents what is feared. It actually makes it more likely to happen. Because our freedom is what we treasure most, the more we cling to our beloved, the more we will estrange him or her from us or from him- or herself. Alan Watts used to have a story to tell to emphasize this fact. There was a little girl who longed to get a bunny so bad that once she got it, she hugged and squeezed it until it suffocated in her arms. Her fear of ever having to be without the bunny again killed it.

If the tendency to cling is stronger in one partner than in the other, love relationships are dysfunctional and usually do not last long. But even most so-called ‘functional’ relationships are based on clinging. They are mutual clinging agreements based on a balance of fear of the partners losing each other. The more fear and insecurity the partners bring into the agreement, the tighter, more restrictive it will be. Thus, in most relationships lovers become each others impediments of expressing their uniqueness, of finding their own (fulfilling) life. Because of that, sooner or later, their relationships dry out and become stale, dead.

Why are we afraid to lose the partner? What’s the big deal?

When we are in love with somebody, we channel most of our love to one person. So, love ‘flows’ in the presence of the partner and it doesn’t when (s)he is not around. We then associate the overwhelming feeling of love (and being loved) with a particular person. This ‘exclusiveness’ of love can be the source of great joy and meaning but also of great heartache and grief.

When we awaken, though, our love expands from exclusive love relationships to objects or people to the whole universe. As we become intimate with everything, clinging to one aspect or manifestation of the universe vanishes. A simple stroll in the woods can be as fulfilling as an afternoon with the lover. The more we fall in love with what ‘is’ the less we are inclined to seek and cling to love. It will flow naturally wherever we are.

So, what does and ‘enlightened’ relationship look like?

Both partners know that the highest gift in life is to be free to be who they are, so they grant each other this privilege. They understand love as sharing freedom with each other. As long as the partners are true to themselves, all actions and decisions are deeply respected. They know that this is the surest way that their bond of love, in the long term, will weather all storms of life.

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