Remember: Love is not always gentle and kind. It can break us apart.
A few days ago, my friend John gave me a copy of the book, Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton.
"I just got this," he told me. "But you need to read it first."
I wasn’t sure why he had given it to me, but I opened the cover to these words:
Just when Glennon Doyle Melton was beginning to feel she had it all figured out — three happy children, doting spouse, and a writing career so successful that her first book catapulted to the top of the New York Times bestseller list — her husband revealed his infidelity and she was forced to realize that nothing was as it seemed.
I thought, "Oh no, another tragic love story."
As a marriage and family therapist for more than 40 years I’ve heard more than my share. My book, The Enlightened Marriage: The 5 Transformative Stages of Relationships and Why the Best is Still to Come, was just out and I was ready for a break from the rollercoaster we call love.
But I started reading and I got hooked. This is no ordinary love story and it resonated with my own struggles with addictions, mental illness, eating disorders, infidelity, open marriage, telling the truth, and looking for love in all the wrong places.
It also resonated with me as a writer. After the success of my book, Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places: Overcoming Romantic and Sexual Addictions, I was sure I’d finally made it to the big time.
My next book, The Warrior’s Journey Home: Healing Men, Healing the Planet, had been bought by Bantam Books, a division of Random House, and I was sure it would be a world-wide best-seller. But my editor left the company before the book was published and the book was left in limbo.
When it was finally published by a small California publisher, New Harbinger, it had missed the market and didn’t sell well.
Glennon’s book resonates with me because, at its core, it’s about becoming a spiritual warrior.
At a time in our history, where we seem to be on the brink of blowing ourselves up with one war after the other, we need to find a new way to become warriors and a new way to overcome the fears that keep us from having real, lasting love.
Here are the 5 steps to do it:
1. Honestly confront your love of war.
Humans seem to have an inordinate affinity for war.
In his book, A Terrible Love of War, psychologist James Hillman says, "One sentence in one scene from one film, Patton, sums up what this book tries to understand. The general walks the field after a battle. Churned earth, burnt tanks, dead men. He takes up a dying officer, kisses him, surveys the havoc, and says: ‘I love it. God help me I do love it so. I love it more than life.’ We can never prevent war or speak sensibly of peace and disarmament unless we enter this love of war."
Many of those who have been in battle say that it was the only time in their lives where they felt totally alive. Those who have been in love and battled to save a relationship understand that love can destroy as well as create.
2. Embrace the true meaning of warriorship.
Love and war have many similarities. They both arouse great passions, they bring out the best and the worst in us, and create strange bed-fellows. In The Warrior’s Journey Home, I quote Buddhist meditation master Chögyam Trungpa.
He says we must separate the life of the warrior from the destruction of war. "Warriorship here does not refer to making war on others," Trungpa reminds us. "Aggression is the source of our problems, not the solution."
He offers another definition of warriorship that can serve us well in helping us achieve real, lasting love.
"Here the word ‘warrior’ is taken from the Tibetan pawo, which literally means ‘one who is brave.’ Warriorship in this context is the tradition of human bravery, or the tradition of fearlessness." Trungpa concludes by saying, "Warriorship is not being afraid of who you are."
We can’t love deeply and have real, lasting love until we tell the truth, first to ourselves, then to our partner, about who we really are.
3. Love yourself, body and soul.
Glennon is a small woman who always felt she was too big. I’m a small man who always wanted to be bigger and taller. Most of us grow up being told directly and through media that there is something wrong with who we are.
"I’m ten years old and trying to disappear into the corner of the velour couch in my grandmother’s living room," says Glennon. "I am heavy and solitary and separate, like a whale. This is why I stay sunken into the couch and watch."
I was called shrimp, wimp, pansy, pussy. I learned early that if you’re a short boy, you’ll never attract a girl, bigger boys will shame and bully you, you’ll never be one of the guys, and you’ll never be a real man. Short boys and fat girls are losers. Society tells us in a million ways we can’t love who we are.
Until I began to read books like Glennon’s, it never occurred to me that society creates a weird double standard. All the things we tell females they must be are the same things we tell males they must not be. Check this out and see if you relate:
- Females MUST BE and males MUST Not BE: Soft, gentle, short, small, curvy, compliant, nice, sugar and spice, smooth, protected.
- Males MUST BE and females MUST NOT Be: Hard, rugged, tall, muscular, cut, assertive, aggressive, hairy, protective.
We all spend a lifetime fighting the stereotype and coming to peace with who we really are, body and soul.
4. Understand depression is not a brain disease. It's a cry for love and acceptance.
More and more people are dealing with depression in their lives. The pharmaceutical industry would have us believe that depression is a brain disease and results from a loss of certain neurotransmitters.
With this view of depression, it isn’t surprising that so many people are now taking anti-depressants.
I have been depressed and have been treated for depression throughout my adult life. While I’ve found that medications may be helpful in the short-run, dealing with the underlying causes of depression create more lasting results. For me, depression has always been linked to love and loss.
In his book, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression, Andrew Solomon offers these insights about the true nature of depression: "Depression is the flaw in love. To be creatures who love, we must be creatures who can despair at what we lose, and depression is the mechanism of that despair."
Healing our love lives can go a long way to healing the despair, anger, and sadness that so many of us experience in our lives.
5. Remember: Love is not always gentle and kind. It can break us apart.
Like war, love can be sublime and it can also be tumultuous. It can take us to the heights of ecstasy and crash us on the rocks of despair.
Like many romantics, I thought that when I found the right perso,n my life would be full of delight, joy, and peace. To be sure, love has its delights, but it can also be hard, dirty, and exhausting work.
It’s more like a hero’s journey into dangerous territory than a walk in the park.
Having been married twice before, Carlin and I believe that "the third time is the charm." But charm or not, our 36-year marriage has had lots and lots of ecstasy and joy, but also lots and lots of pain and suffering.
Life is like that. I think Leonard Cohen nailed it when he sang, "Love is not a victory march. It’s a cold and it’s a broken hallelujah."
As I completed Glennon’s book, Love Warrior, I cheered inwardly that she, and her husband Craig, had made it through challenges of a dysfunctional marriage and had come through it together, healthier and wiser, and more in love than ever before.
But when I went online and read more about their journey, I found out that there was more to the marital story than I had read in the book.
Many colleagues, friends, and her publisher wanted her to wait until after the book was released before telling the full truth about their marriage. She chose truth over book sales.
In her blog post on August 1, 2016 entitled "I Need to Tell You Something", she told her readers "the rest of the story."
"I’m staring at this blank page and thinking: This is one of the most important things you’ll ever write. Be kind and brave, Glennon. Steady. Clear. Shameless. Gentle. True.
Pretend it’s just the two of us here in my kitchen. I’m making us chamomile tea. I pass a mug to you and ask you to sit down on the couch with me. You follow me into my family room and we sit down and I look at you.
I can see that you’re nervous because you’ve figured out I’m about to tell you something important. I quickly say: It’s okay. Everyone is healthy. All is well. We are all okay.
We are. And yet.
Craig and I are separating."
I hope by now you’ll want to read the book and read her full blog post. As she prepared to go on book tour, her ending words in the post offer deep insights about love and loss, marriage and divorce, and the courage to be a warrior of love.
"So I might be cold and I might be broken but I am still gonna scream HALLELUJAH all over this country. I am going to stand in front of you with my medicated little head held high and I am going to be so busted up and broken that the light is going to pour out of me like stained glass. I know this."
She goes on to remind us that not all marriages last and those that do aren’t necessarily "successes" and those that don’t are not "failures."
"Here’s what else I know," Glennon says. "Some loves are perennials — they survive the winter and bloom again. Other loves are annuals — beautiful and lush and full for a season and then back to the earth to die and create richer soil for new life to grow. The eventual result of both types of plants is New Life.
New life. Nothing wasted. No failure. Love never fails. Never, never. Love is messy and beautiful and brutal — and Love is the whole point. So, I am not afraid, I was born to do this.
I’m asking you, please love me through this. Be my people. The world will have opinions and I need this Love Warrior Army. Please stay close."
All I can say to that is... I’m with you Glennon and I’m with your husband, Craig, and your three children, Chase, Tish, and Amma, and HALLELUJAH to Love Warriors everywhere.
Come visit me at www.TheEnlightenedMarriage.com.
This article was originally published at MenAlive.com. Reprinted with permission from the author.