If You Fail at Love
By Maria Popova
“There is hardly any activity, any enterprise, which is started with such tremendous hopes and expectations, and yet, which fails so regularly, as love,” the great humanistic philosopher and psychologist Erich Fromm wrote in his timeless treatise on learning love as a skill. We fail at it largely because, given how profoundly shaped we are by our formative attachments, those of us who grew up with instability and violence from our primary caregivers — the people tasked with loving us and teaching us about love — can feel woefully handicapped at love, unconsciously replicating the emotional patterns of those familiar relationship dynamics known as limbic attractors, only to emerge with a colossus of shame and self-blame for what feels like failing at love.
There is no greater consolation for that feeling than the knowledge that one is not alone in it, and that there is a way through it, past it, beyond it, within reach.
Complement with the great Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh’s field guide to learning love, Alain de Botton on love and vulnerability, Eric Berne’s classic Games People Play, and the heartening science of how healthy love rewires the brain, then revisit Shel Silverstein’s lovely illustrated allegory for the simple secret of lasting love.
HT Debbie Millman.
Published February 15, 2023