10 Jul 7 Secrets for Staying in Love (MP3)
“Love is the tough, essential answer to the riddle of human existence, of human wholeness and happiness. To live is to love.”
Discover seven profound secrets for staying in love in this audio episode, based on John Powell’s book “The Secret of Staying in Love,” presented by Jessi Kohlhagen.
Click here to download the audio (right click player and “Save As”)
Hello Lifebook VIPs it’s Jessi Kohlhagen, and I’d like to welcome you to this month’s exploration of effective love and communication, as we dive into one of my personal all-time favorite love relationship resources, The Secret of Staying in Love, by John Powell.
A few of years ago my husband Pat and I were waiting for a table at our favorite restaurant in our hometown. We were browsing through books in the adjoining bookstore as we waited. Every time we explore this special little bookstore we walk away with some rare little paperback that ends up offering us great new perspectives, breakthroughs, or ideas for living a 12-category smart life, and this particular day was no exception.
Sitting on the shelf, there was a thin, orange tie-die book that caught my eye, and the title caught my attention… it was called The Secret of Staying in Love. At the time, my Love Relationship was my number one category of focus, so I quickly became enthralled.
Over the course of the next few days I discovered some of the simplest yet most profound advice I’d ever come across for nurturing and strengthening my love relationship, compliments of brilliant author John Powell. This was deep and far-reaching stuff.
And in honor of this month’s Love Relationship focus, I thought it would be perfect to share some of his incredible wisdom with the VIP community. As always, take what works for you and leave what doesn’t. Some of the concepts may strike you as profound, while others may not resonate at all. But it’s our responsibility as members of this conscious community to share the tools that have worked for us and that we’ve come across, so that others might find new insights and inspired ways of living as well.
Unfortunately Powell is no longer with us today, but his captivating words and compelling concepts live on. With his special blend of insight and humor, he will surely guide us in discovering a deeper capacity to give and receive love.
In this audio we will explore 7 of his secrets for staying in love, and alternate between his quotes, and our own further interpretations of his writing. For the sake of fluency, I will not distinguish between quote and text in this audio, but please refer to the written transcript of this audio in the same post for a more accurate and written version of this exploration.
Let’s begin with some of the first words from his book, and a beautiful description of Powell’s premise for living.
“I am convinced that man was meant to live at peace within himself, filled with a deep joy. I am convinced that there should be going on in the heart of every man, not a funeral, but a celebration of life and love. For myself, I do not regret the problems or pain in my past life, but only the apathy, the moments when I was not ‘fully alive.’
All forms of life on this planet have optimal conditions and essential requirements for health, growth, and the fullness of life.
Feeling fully alive, embracing the full human experience, and wholeheartedly and deeply allowing ourselves to love is evidence that our human needs are being met.
On the contrary, when discomfort, pain and frustration take over in our lives, we can view this as a sign that our human needs are in some way not being met.
Throughout the book, Powell demonstrates one very simple truth about love. To some, this may be a very challenging truth, while for others, it may be empowering. The truth is this…
Love works for people who work at it.
It really is that simple.
So why does love so often fail? What is this “work” that love demands? And why are we sometimes unwilling to undertake it?
This book helps to shine a light on the answers to these questions, and helps us identify specific efforts we can make to deepen our experience in love, regardless of where we are right now.
So let’s embark on this journey into wisdom together, and allow the answers to start flowing in.
Here are 7 of John Powell’s Secrets for Staying in Love:
1. Love and Value Yourself First
“Man is not simple. He is a composite of body, mind and spirit, and has needs on all three levels of existence. Frustration at any one of these levels can produce agony in the whole organism.”
There is one most fundamental human need of all. This need, when fulfilled, harmonizes into a holistic sense of well being, laying the groundwork for genuine, lasting health and happiness.
“This need is a true and deep love of self, a genuine and joyful self-acceptance, an authentic self-esteem, which result in an interior celebration: ‘It’s good to be me… I am very happy to be me!’”
The idea that self-esteem is a foundational and critically important element in the happiness and success of all aspects of life is not new to Lifebook Members. We value the concept of self-esteem with the highest possible regard.
In this context, self-esteem manifests as our belief that happiness, fulfillment, and achievement are right and natural for us… That we are deserving of love, both from ourselves and from others… That we are capable of experiencing effective love, by taking responsibility for our roles in love, and loving with consciousness, purpose and integrity.
Powell illustrates how the lack of self-value can manifest itself in our exchanges with others.
- Defensiveness, or an inability to receive criticism, even when it comes from a loving or constructive place
- Feelings of bitterness when others are praised
- Being overly critical toward oneself or others
- Placing full blame on others and not taking equal responsibility for mistakes
- Making excuses
- And so on…
The reality is – our attitude toward others is conditioned by our fundamental attitude toward ourselves. Everything depends upon and flows from our openness, acceptance and love of self.
Powell then goes on to examine the deeper meanings and implications of self-love. He says that all love (including self-love) does at least these three things:
- Love esteems and affirms the unique value of the one loved.
- Love acknowledges and tries to fulfill the needs of the one loved.
- Love forgives the failings of the one loved.
To put these implications into practice for ourselves, Powell demonstrates a powerful exercise.
“Imagine yourself as somehow another person whom you truly love. Stand off at a distance and ask yourself: Have you really tried to see and affirm this person’s unique value? Do you really try to consider and fulfill their needs? Have you really forgiven them for their faults and mistakes?
Do you think of yourself as lovingly and gently as you do others whom you love? Do you offer yourself the same kind of warmth and understanding as you do to them?”
To achieve a healthy level of self-esteem, you must be able to accept who you are and be confident about your decisions and behaviors.
But there is another crucial ingredient when it comes to self-love, which also happens to be one of the foundational values of the Lifebook Program, and it’s this…
Dr. Nathaniel Branden, who is both a Lifebook Member and long-time friend and mentor of the Butcher family, has this to say on the relationship between self-esteem and self-responsibility, which absolutely applies to our love relationships as well:
“To live [and therefore love] self-responsibly, you must be able to influence your behavior freely in three major areas:
- Taking action in ways that will help you reach your goals.
- Being accountable for your decisions, priorities and actions.
- Thinking for yourself by examining and actively choosing the values that will guide yourself, rather than blindly accepting whatever you’re told by family, friends or the culture in which you live.”
Continually taking responsibility for your behavior is crucial to achieving genuine self-esteem. And building this true love of self is the absolute foundation of all human growth and happiness.
2. Don’t Let Fickle Feelings Define Your Love
No matter how emotionally evolved we are, the reality is that feelings are ever-changing… like yo-yos going up and down, depending on such fickle things as the weather, looming deadlines, the time of the month, and which side of the bed we crawl out of.
Powell says, “Feelings are fickle, and those who identify love with only feelings become fickle lovers.”
It is certainly true that growth in love requires a good emotional atmosphere. Love needs continuously warm, positive, nurturing feelings in order to grow and evolve. But it’s important not to let love get swept away by the ebb and flow of life. Let your love be deeper than the comings and goings that happen on life’s surface. Let it be the bedrock beneath the ever-flowing waves above, and you’ll not only create more stability in your partnership on a day-to-day basis, but you’ll find you have a strong and safe place to retreat to when the winds get a little too rough.
Inevitably, conflict within a love relationship can be the cause of these rough winds. And Powell has much to say about how to approach these challenges most effectively.
He says that emotional intelligence in a love relationship comes down to one very simple thing, TAKING RESPONSIBILITY for your emotional experience.
(I’m sure this comes as no surprise!)
In learning to understand ourselves, we must become very open to and accepting of all our emotional reactions. We must listen to our emotions in order to grow as people. And the basic belief we must inherit in order to fully understand ourselves by understanding our emotions is this:
“No one else can cause or be responsible for my emotions.”
“You made me angry…” “You made me frightened…” “You made me jealous…”
“The fact is that you can’t MAKE me feel anything. You can only stimulate the emotions that are already in me, waiting to be activated.”
The distinction between causing and stimulating emotions is not just a play on words, Powell says.
“The acceptance of the truth involved is critical. If I think you can make me angry, then when I become angry I simply lay the blame and pin the problem on you. I can then walk away from our encounter learning nothing, concluding only that you were at fault because you made me angry. Then I need to ask no questions of myself because I have laid all the responsibility at your feet.
If I accept the belief that others can only stimulate emotions already present in me, when these emotions do surface it becomes a learning experience. I then ask myself: Why was I so afraid? Why did that remark threaten me? Why was I so angry? Was my anger really a disguised way of saving face? Something was already in me that this incident called forth. What was it?”
Powell’s mantra is this:
“In every emotion there is a self-revelation.”
He says that the only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing. In a challenging encounter there are two options: We can fire off emotional outbursts, or we can look into ourselves to find the reason for our own emotions. This, he says, is the essential difference between a growing and a non-growing person… between authenticity and self-deception.
If we wish to know something about ourselves… our needs, our self-image, our sensitivities, our psychological programming, our values… then we must listen very sensitively to our own emotions, and know deeply that they are ours, and ours alone.
“A person who really believes this will begin dealing with his emotions in a profitable way. He will no longer allow himself the easy escape into the judgment and condemnation of others. He will become a growing person, more and more in touch with himself.”
3. Pay Close Attention to Needs
Being in a love relationship means being committed to the fulfillment of our partner’s needs, whatever they may be.
But Powell points out a double difficulty with this…
First, needs are constantly changing. This means that we must constantly be reading our partner’s needs and watching them with “the look of love.” We must continually ask:
“What do you need me to be today, this morning, tonight? Are you discouraged and in need of my strength? Have you experienced some success and are you inviting me to rejoice, to celebrate with you? Or are you lonely and need only my hand softly in yours?”
This kind of empathetic listening and looking is one of the deepest challenges of effective love. It is not easy to know who our partner’s are, or what they need us to be at any given moment.
The second difficulty is this… It is ultimately up to us, not our partner’s, to decide what they need us to be. We can’t simply ask them and trust them to always know. Sometimes the right thing we can do is tell them a truth they don’t want to hear, or to stay by their side when they are angrily telling us to go away.
In taking responsibility for these decisions we will be right sometimes and we will be wrong sometimes. But more important than rightness or wrongness will always be the fact that we did what we did because we loved our partner. We wanted what was best for them. We chose to feel responsible for their growth and the development of their human powers.
Powell also very importantly points out that our decisions must never in any way take away our partner’s freedom. We can only do our best, be ourselves, and offer our gift… but at the same time we must let our lovers be themselves, free to accept or reject that gift.
This, Powell says, is one of the most difficult lines true love must walk…
“Being myself and offering my contributions according to my lights, and yet never forcing your acceptance or response.”
4. Empower Your Lover to Love Themselves
If the ability to feel good about one’s self – to love, appreciate and celebrate one’s own goodness – is the key factor for health of self-esteem and the basic ingredient in human happiness, then the essential contribution of love is clear.
Our love must empower our partner to love themselves.
“We are like mirrors to one another. No one can know what he looks like until he sees his reflection in some kind of mirror. It is an absolute human certainty that no one can know his own beauty, or perceive a sense of his own worth until it has been reflected back to him in the mirror of another loving, caring human being.
We should judge our success in loving not by those who admire us for our accomplishments, but by the number of those who attribute their wholeness to our loving them, by the number of those who have seen their beauty in our eyes, heard their goodness acknowledged in the warmth of our voices.”
5. Respect and Affirm Individuality
We must – at all times – give those we love the freedom to be themselves.
Powell says that love should affirm the other as other. It does not possess and manipulate them as ours.
Pertinent here is a quote from Frederick Perls: “You did not come into this world to live up to my expectations, and I did not come into this world to live up to yours. If we meet it will be beautiful. If we don’t, it can’t be helped.”
This may contradict the belief of many that there is that “one right person” out there waiting to unlock our love. But regardless of your personal beliefs, the point still stands… whomever we love should feel empowered by us to become their very best self, according to THEIR own visions and ideals, not ours.
As lovers, it is our job to value and promote that inner vision and mysterious destiny in one another. Each partner should consider it an absolute privilege to assist in the growth and realization of the other’s vision and destiny.
Rainer Maria Rilke’s brilliant poetic insight captures this beautifully:
‘Love is a high inducement to the individual to ripen, to become something in himself, to become world, to become world to himself. It is a great, an exorbitant demand upon him, something that chooses him out and calls him to vast things. Love consists in this, that two solitudes protect and touch and greet each other.’”
If our partner’s individuality is a dear to us as our own – which is what love implies – we must respect it carefully and sensitively. We must affirm their value as a unique, unrepeatable, and even sacred mystery of humanity. And be honored to share in the unfolding of that mystery.
In an attempt to discover if we are honoring this crucial level of respect toward our partner’s individuality, it can be helpful to ask these questions:
- Is it more important to me that my partner is pleased with themselves, or that I am pleased with them?
- Is it more important for my partner to attain the goals they have set for themselves, or that they attain the goals I want for them?
- Am I comfortable with, and proud of the fact that in strengthening their individuality, they will be able to relate more successfully to others, and develop deep relationships outside our own? Can I rejoice in this?
“A person fully alive will relate well to many people and enjoy a great variety of things. My love must affirm and free them to live fully, to be alive in all their parts and powers, to experience fully the range of glory that fills our world.”
In doing this, we are not only honoring and respecting our partner for who they are… we are preserving the very essence of what we fell in love with in the first place.
6. Learn to Share Openly and Fully
Powell says that love supposes, is, and does many things, but basically it is practiced in the act of sharing.
“To the extent and depth that two people are committed to each other in a love relationship, to that extent and on that level they must actively share each other’s life. Another word for sharing is communication… the act by which people share something or have it in common. If I communicate myself as a person to you and you communicate yourself to me, we share in common the mysteries of ourselves. Conversely, to the extent that we withdraw from each other and refuse mutual transparency, love is diminished.”
In this context, communication is not only the life-blood of love and the guarantee of its growth, but is the very essence of love in practice.
It could very well be said that effective communication – in the many forms it takes – is the single greatest secret to staying in love. Which is to say, that the secret of staying in love is to SIMPLY LOVE… to keep living it out in the act of sharing one another.
The goal becomes to create unity and oneness.
This isn’t always easy, and it certainly doesn’t always produce positive results in the immediate moment.
Sometimes unity involves many things that are painful: honesty when you would rather lie a little, talking-it-out when you would rather pout, admitting embarrassing feelings when you would rather blame someone, standing there when you would rather run, admitting doubt when you would rather pretend certainty, and confronting when you would rather settle for peace at any price.
None of these things bring immediate peace and happiness… in fact, they bring immediate pain and struggle. But they also bring honesty, transparency, emotional clearance, and genuine relief and healing. They pave the way for a deeper level of understanding and acceptance, and strengthen the bonds we share with our lovers like nothing else can.
The genius of communication is the ability to be both totally honest and totally kind at the same time.
This can be very challenging in those painful moments of sharing. This is why it is crucial to operate under the belief that you are on the same team. This implies that your experience is completely shared, and pain for your partner means pain for you, and ultimately the entire wellbeing of your relationship.
Another element of effective sharing is transparency. And so Powell examines what he calls “the myth of privacy.” Here’s what he says,
“One of our strongest needs, which can easily become a neurotic preoccupation, is the need to feel safe. And so most of us like to have a room of our own with selected signs for the door, like” PRIVATE-DO NOT TRESPASS. We want a place of safety, barricaded against the invasion of others with their probing questions and inquisitive desire to know all about us. There is no nakedness more painful than psychological nakedness. Out of this need to feel safe and protected from the searching eyes of another, grows a myth that everyone needs his own private retreat where none but he can enter. It sounds good, and most people probably believe it, but it’s nevertheless a myth.”
He says that, instead of a secret place to retreat to alone, what humans really need more than anything is to have someone (a total confidant) know us completely, and some others (close friends, perhaps), know us very deeply.
“The pockets of privacy which we create for a place to run where no one can follow are death to the kind of intimacy so necessary to the fullness of human life.”
If we can create this sense of safety and freedom with another, we will no doubt go into places inside ourselves that we could never have known existed. Places we could never have gone alone. Sometimes we need a hand to hold, and the assurance of absolutely committed love to even attempt honesty about ourselves.
“And this is why, of all the threats to effective communication and sharing, the greatest one which should be most carefully avoided is the intrusion of judgment – either about oneself or one’s partner.
Judgments are death to true sharing.
And the kind of judgments we are tempted to make usually involve a kind of indirect, destructive criticism that is fatal to acceptance, appreciation, and celebration – both toward ourselves and our lovers. And when these have gone, love has been lost.”
And so our aim in sharing should be mutual understanding, not a pursuit of victory.
Our greatest goal should be to share ourselves deeply with our partner. And because our feelings are so uniquely our own, we must describe them as vividly as possible.
Powell says, “In order to achieve this, we must first try to experience our emotions as deeply as we can. Most people don’t spend enough time allowing their emotions to surface and sensitively listen to them. I can only communicate to you what I have been willing to hear inside myself. If I do not listen carefully to fully emerged emotions, the sounds will be vague and my descriptions to you will be equally vague. And vague sounds do not lead to the profound sharing of feelings, the peak experiences of communication, which transform and deepen a love relationship.”
We must be so vivid that we invite our lover in to feel and live our emotions with us. We want to transplant them into our experience. Our feelings are what make us unique, and the feelings we have in any given moment make us different from what we have ever been, or will ever be again. We should choose to fully share these unrepeatable moments in our personal history with the ones we love.
And in taking this risk, we may empower our partners to reciprocate, and do the same for us. And when they do – despite all the emotional warning flags that fly about – we must be there for them unwaveringly. Remember that love is freeing, and so our love must always leave our partner’s free to respond in their own way and at their own time.
The second crucial skill we must develop for effective communication is the ability to LISTEN.
We were born with two ears but only one mouth, which some have interpreted as a divine indication that we should listen twice as much as we talk. 🙂
Powell says that if a person does not listen it is either because he is not interested or because he feels threatened by what he might hear. If conversation becomes competition, or there is a win-lose element in the exchange, this is a sign that real, effective sharing is not being achieved.
Reuel Howe, in his book “The Miracle of Dialouge,” says:
“Every man is a potential adversary, even those we love. Only through dialogue are we saved from this enmity toward one another. Dialogue is to love what blood is to the body.”
And so the special virtue of the listener becomes EMPATHY.
“The true listener ONLY wants to understand… to arrive at that moment when he can honestly say, ‘I hear you. I am sharing your feeling. I am feeling it with you.’ To do this, he must be available – be called out of himself in his act of listening. He is not afraid of what he will hear because all he seeks is understanding, not victory. He has no ready suggestions, no facile solutions, and no pink pills of pity ready to dispense. He doesn’t interrupt except when necessary for his own better understanding. He doesn’t think about his response while the other is talking. And when the emotions of the speaker take a clear shape, he accepts them into himself. He does not merely tolerate them with a condescending: “I will let you have that emotion.”
In other words, we must acknowledge and respect the otherness in the speaker.
“And listening means more than simply hearing words. When we truly seek to understand, we learn to reach behind the words – to see through them – in order to discover the person who is being revealed. They become the center of our world – the focus of our attention. And we are completely available. We are not so filled with our own emotions that we cannot leave them and listen with deep empathy to our lover and their feelings.”
Reuel Howe also says,
“Dialogue is to love what blood is to the body. When the flow of blood stops, the body dies. When dialogue stops, love dies and resentment and hate are born. But dialogue can restore a dead relationship. Indeed this is the miracle of dialogue.”
Sharing and communicating are essentially acts of strengthening the vitality of a love relationship… they are a demonstration of the purest love… and ultimately, the greatest secret for staying in love.
7. Love Abundantly
Antoine de Saint-Exupery said:
“True love is inexhaustible; the more you give, the more you have. And if you go to draw at the true fountainhead, the more water you draw, the more abundant is its flow.”
Simply put, when you give love, you create more love.
As profoundly empowering as this is, it can be very challenging in practice. Love is easy to give when the water is calm and the sailing is smooth, but what about when the storms hit? How good are you at offering genuine, abundant love and respect, despite undesirable circumstances?
This is probably an area of love that just about everyone can improve upon. And it begins with an evaluation of why we choose to love in the first place.
Love can be defined as a passionate, spiritual, emotional, sexual attachment between two people that reflects a high regard for the value of each other’s person.
Love is like a mirror, in which our partner’s reflect and affirm our greatest values.
If what we’ve just said is true, then above all else, our love should embody a deep and unchanging respect for our partner – for exactly who and what they are. This respect should be demonstrated despite undesirable circumstances. This respect must be greater than the mistakes they will inevitably make, as human beings. This respect should come even in the moments you tell yourself they have not earned it, for whatever blunders or errors they have made.
By loving and respecting your partner with overflowing fullness, you are nurturing the very soil you stand in together… You are cultivating an environment of positive, effective love… And you are empowering both your partner and yourself to evolve together.
“Psychological research shows us that, as humans, our first impulse to change and grow comes not so much from being challenged as from being loved.
Only in an atmosphere of love will the human barriers to relationships be lowered…”
Only here will we be able to realize our immense potential as human beings.
When we do not offer abundant love and respect… when our displays of affection and esteem are unpredictable, we build walls around our love and box our partner’s into our own confinement of who we think they should be and how we think they should act. We don’t trust them to grow and change and live by their OWN standards.
“We begin, often unknowingly, declaring a “price of admission” to our hearts, which needs to be paid. Our partner’s worth is no longer in themselves, but in something else… in being or doing what is expected of them.”
We begin to identify their personal worth based on isolated actions and mistakes… not the totality of who they are as a person.
The goals for our hearts and minds should be to always let the good in our partners outweigh the bad… to give them the benefit of the doubt… to trust them to make their own choices and take their own actions… and most importantly, to lovingly be there for them when they make mistakes. Not to condemn them, but to support them. Not to punish them, but to help set them free… To learn from these mistakes together with loving respect. To realize that falling down is an opportunity for you to learn to rise together, stronger and closer than ever before.
Do not turn your back on ANY opportunity to experience love – giving or receiving it.
Do not lose your resolve at the first signs of struggle. Do not give in to destruction, on any scale.
Call upon your greatest personal resources.
Choose to LOVE.
Choose to love every day, every moment, regardless of circumstances, regardless of mistakes. You CAN open yourself and fully feel love for someone in a moment. You CAN create love where there seems to be a dullness or absence of it. You CAN immerse yourself in the experience of love, and find pure joy in it. And in doing so, you give that powerfully healing gift to your lover, and to yourself as well.
To love may be the greatest measure and test of humans, and those who have succeeded at it know that it is a cause worth fighting for again and again.
Though these are only some of the great secrets John Powell outlines in his book, I hope you enjoyed this exploration and have received as much from his teachings as I have.
Until next time, here’s to your extraordinary love relationship.