One of the most striking differences between the human kingdom and the animal kingdom is that we humans often fall in love and form long-term, enduring bonds.
Scientists, psychologists, anthropologists, and other very smart professionals have long studied the forces that govern human bonding habits, and while there are many credible explanations, there is clearly no consensus. Human bonding is best described as the development of close, interpersonal relationships. Whether familial, organizational, or romantic; bonding occurs by mutual agreement at either the conscious or spiritual level, and is highly interactional.
Many relationships are formed on the basis of romantic love, and oftentimes we are introduced to this form of love early in our lives through fairytales. Goddesses were rescued by their loving heroes, only to be whisked away in marital bliss and live happily ever after. We used our imagination to become the goddess or the hero, and it was hard sometimes for us to distinguish between our realistic world and our pretend enchanted world. As children, this was healthy child’s play that offered early glimpses into the unknown world of romance.
One of my favorite modern-day fairytale love story heroes is Shrek, a green ogre who discovers that the scheming Lord Farquaad has invaded his beloved swamp with hundreds of different types of creatures. Shrek sets out, with a loud, obnoxious donkey by his side, to persuade Farquaad to give him back his swamp. Instead, a deal is made. Farquaad, who wants to become king, sends Shrek to rescue Princess Fiona, who is awaiting her one true love. As promised, Shrek locates the princess but at some point during the return trip it becomes apparent that they are falling in love. In the end, after much entertaining drama, they marry and produce several little Shreks. I have watched this movie and its sequels many times with my grandchildren and I get lost in the romantic backdrop every time. Pretend fairytale love stories offer children a harmless illusion of love and in many instances serve as the catalyst for their dreams of becoming a goddess or a hero.
Love has many faces, and it is way too large, too deep, and too mysterious to be defined or to be truly understood. Love is at once painful, frustrating, wonderful, and exhilarating. Many times, what appears to be love turns out not to be love at all. The mythical, childhood fairytales suggest that love is simply a matter of finding your soul mate, who is the one person in the entire world that is specifically intended for you.
As it turns out, though, real life experiences teach us that maintaining a long-term, positive relationship requires the skill and precision of a brain surgeon. Far too often the examples of love we witness in the real world are tragic and end up hurting the parties involved beyond repair. A married couple contemplating divorce when it is clear that neither one wants to take that final step, but they have run out of options; a son who is abused, denied, or ignored by his father; a daughter who hates her mother because mom’s live-in boyfriend is molesting her; or a teenager who is being tortured and bullied by someone she thought was her friend; are vivid examples of how love dismantles dreams and cripples those involved.
Love and relationships are so important to us because we were created in the spirit of unconditional love. Although our human limitations prevent us from fully comprehending the depth and magnitude of this level of pure, unadulterated love, each of our relationships is intended to serve as our laboratory to begin this learning process.
Every relationship, whether excruciatingly painful or euphorically exhilarating, offers us an opportunity for spiritual growth, and should be considered from this perspective. Our relationships and how we handle them are windows into our souls. Are we enduring abuse because of fear or feelings of unworthiness? Are we alone and lonely because the baggage we’re carrying on our shoulders is far too heavy for a potential life partner to bear? Are we victimizing the very people who love and depend on us because of deeply painful, unresolved issues of our childhood? Are we turning a blind eye to our neighbor’s torture because we don’t want to get involved?
Each of us should take an up close and personal inventory of our present relationship experiences and objectively evaluate the message they give us about who we are. This level of internal examination can be agonizing, but our wisdom and integrity are the beneficiaries of such a painful examination.
A journey into your soul might be rocky at first, but there is almost always smooth sailing around the corner. Take a leap of faith and let’s get to work!
We would love to hear from you. Please share your comments below.