Cover image for Real love : the truth about finding unconditional love and fulfilling relationships
Real love : the truth about finding unconditional love and fulfilling relationships
Baer, Greg.
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Publication Information:
New York : Gotham Books, [2003]

Physical Description:
268 pages ; 22 cm
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HQ801 .B1155 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
HQ801 .B1155 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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Dr. Greg Baer provides a practical blueprint for successful relationships by illuminating the path to finding and keeping love. Real Love shows how to heal the wounds of the past and create rewarding and fulfilling relationships in every area of life.

Author Notes

Greg Baer, M.D., a successful surgeon, teacher, and businessman, has appeared on over 800 radio and television shows, speaks at workshops and seminars, and is the founder of Loving Groups around the country. He lives with his family in Georgia

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

The most remarkable aspect of this self-help book is the author's avowal that he's been there, too, while he stretches a rudimentary concept into a full-blown book. Baer's message is simple. People toiling away in lukewarm relationships are lacking "real love"-the ability to care unconditionally about the happiness of another person. "When we're unhappy, our misery is not the fault of our partner. Blaming that person is therefore foolish, wasteful and destructive, because no matter how much we demand or insist, he or she cannot make us happy." Ophthalmologist Baer (The Truth About Relationships) is not the first champion of the "you-get-out-of-it-what-you-put-into-it" school, and his suggestion that individuals are responsible for their own happiness is hardly novel. What distinguishes his map to the romantic holy grail from the others in its genre is Baer's admission of his own fallibility. He's been down and out, and there's something reassuring about his willingness to admit to failures as well as triumphs. As a result, the overall effect of this book is soothing, but readers shouldn't expect the truths found here to be anything new. (Jan.) FYI: This is one of two titles launching Bill Shinker's Gotham Books, an imprint of Penguin Putnam. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

This self-help book is written by an ophthalmologist who uses his personal experience of recovery from divorce and drug addiction to chart a course for others to learn how to find real love in heterosexual marriage. By "real love," Baer means love that is given unconditionally, and he describes many situations that may look like love but are only "imitation" in that it has conditions or strings attached. He also characterizes the many behaviors that people use either to get love or to protect themselves from lack of real love. Unfortunately, his reasoning often seems circular and simplistic, and there are areas where his judgment can be challenged: his discussion of anorexia is not supported by current psychological theory, and his brief discussion of abusive situations could be dangerously misconstrued to lead a victim to stay in a violent relationship. Finally, there are no notes or bibliography. Although the author is popular on the lecture circuit and radio, there is enough questionable material here to withhold a recommendation. Many better books on relationships are available.-Margaret Cardwell, Christian Brothers Univ., Memphis, TN (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



INTRODUCTION Like most of us, I was told as a child that if I did all the right things-set my goals high, worked hard, and followed the rules along the way-I would accomplish great things. And it was further implied that, as a result, I would grow up to be happy. All our lives, we've heard people declare that they'd be happy if only they had more money, or a better job, or more sex, or a bigger house, or more opportunity to travel, or something else. I was determined to ensure my future happiness by having an abundance of all those things and more, and from an early age I worked hard to earn them. I was valedictorian of my high school class, finished college in two and a half years, and received the highest honors in medical school. After completing my internship and specialty training in eye surgery, I eventually established one of the most successful ophthalmology practices in the country. I performed thousands of operations and taught other physicians locally and across the country. I was a leader in my church and in the local Boy Scouts organization. I had everything money could buy, and I was a husband and the father of five beautiful children. By the time I reached my late thirties, I'd accomplished almost every goal I'd ever set for myself, but despite all my successes, I slowly came to the terrible realization that I had not achieved the happiness I'd been promised. When I was standing in front of a group of physicians, teaching the latest surgical techniques, and everyone was admiring me for my knowledge, I felt relatively satisfied with my life for the moment. And some of those expensive vacations were exciting while I was actually in those far-off, exotic places. But when I was all alone, with nothing to distract me, I knew something was missing-I just didn't know what it was. I couldn't have worked any harder. I'd done everything I'd been assured would bring me the happiness I wanted, but still something was wanting. I found it difficult to sleep at night and began to take some of the sleeping pills we kept at the office for postsurgical patients. When those were no longer effective, I took other tranquilizers, and before long I was injecting narcotics every night. I rationalized my drug addiction for a long time, but it increasingly affected my behavior and my emotional health. Then, one evening, as I sat in the woods behind my house with a loaded Smith & Wesson 10mm semi-automatic pressed to my head, I finally realized that I couldn't rationalize my behavior any longer. I knew I needed to do something about my life. I went to an in-patient drug treatment facility, and after my discharge I participated in several twelve-step programs for a while. Getting off the drugs saved my life, but it only put me back where I'd been when I started using them. I was still desperately missing something, but this time I was determined to find out what it was. I tried individual and group therapy, support groups, men's groups, New Age techniques, and Native American spiritual groups, among others. Each had wisdom to offer, but the old emptiness I felt was not being filled. In my searching, I found many others whose feelings were similar to mine. Most of them hadn't been addicted to drugs, but they all were missing the profound happiness they'd always hoped for in their lives. We began to meet together in our homes, where we tried a variety of techniques I'd experienced or read about. Gradually, we eliminated the things that didn't work, and we discovered some principles that were astonishingly simple and effective. People who had been unhappy for a long time, in many cases despite years of therapy, were finding the first genuine happiness they'd ever known. As we began to figure out what worked, I started writing down what we'd learned, handing out a few pages at a time to the men and women who participated in those early "experiments." Eventually, my observations became two self-published books that have now been read by thousands. I've shared these principles with people all over the country, and as they've applied them, their lives have changed in remarkable ways. When I was trying to fill my emptiness, and later, as I was learning to change my life, I made many mistakes as a person, a husband, and a father. Among other things, those mistakes caused the end of my twenty-two-year marriage. Learning-as I discovered- can be very expensive. Now I'm deeply gratified to see the results of what I've learned, and to share it all with you. My second wife and I are the parents of seven children between us, and we're happier than we'd ever imagined it was possible to be. Certainly there is a demonstrated need for people to learn something different. Half the marriages in this country end in divorce. One out of three children is now raised in a single-parent home. Ten to twenty percent of us are addicted to alcohol or drugs. One third of all girls and forty-five percent of all boys have had sex by age fifteen (compared with five percent for girls in 1970 and twenty percent for boys in 1972). Twenty-one percent of ninth graders have had four or more sexual partners. Nine percent of adult males will spend some time of their life in prison. I believe those statistics provide overwhelming evidence that we're unhappy and looking for something that's missing in our lives. Thousands of people have found that "missing something" as they've implemented the principles in this book. And I have great confidence that you, too, will enjoy the same experience. 1 The Missing Ingredient What Relationships Really Need Relationships fail all around us every day-between spouses, lovers, siblings, friends, and co-workers, among others. But despite an abundance of self-assured finger-pointing, the people involved rarely have any idea what actually went wrong. As a result, many people seem to be caught in an endless cycle of disappointment and unhappiness, blindly repeating the same mistakes. Lisa came to see me because she was having problems with her fiancé, Doug. It was obvious that she was angry at him. "We met almost a year ago," she said, "and we fell in love right away. I knew he was the one for me. We never spent a minute apart that first month. But now he seems to look for reasons to be away from me, and we seem to fight all the time. I don't treat him any differently, but he sure doesn't treat me the way he used to. I don't understand it." Lisa had been married once before, to Christopher, and the story was similar. They had fallen in love immediately, and within six months they were married and certain they would be ecstatically happy for the rest of their lives. But in the first year of their marriage, there were already signs that the magic of their relationship was escaping them. They began to find fault with each other over little things. Roses and kisses gradually gave way to expectations and disappointments, each of which left a wound and then a scar. Slowly, the excitement of being in love became a distant memory. Unable to find the happiness they sought, they divorced after eight years of marriage. Lisa had tried very hard to make her relationship with Christopher work. She'd tried sacrifice, pleading, complaining, compromise, self-help books, professional counseling, and visits to her minister, but nothing she did seemed to help. And because she didn't see why her relationship had failed, she was doomed to repeat her mistakes with Doug and to continue being unhappy. We can all benefit from understanding Lisa's experience, because it's typical of the pattern seen in virtually every unhappy relationship-not only between spouses, but also between friends, family members, people in the workplace, and so on. We've all had the experience of starting a relationship that seemed promising, only to have something go wrong that we didn't understand, and when that happened, we were left feeling disappointed or worse. We must understand what happens in these situations, or we'll repeat the process again and again. When we're unhappy, it seems natural for us to blame a partner-a spouse, a friend, a child, even a relative stranger-for our feelings, mainly because that's what everyone else does. All our lives we've heard variations of statements like "You make me so mad," or "He makes me so angry," until we've come to believe that other people have the power to determine how we feel. Because other people have often pointed out how their anger was caused by our mistakes, we have learned to justify our anger by pointing out the mistakes of others. And because people are always making mistakes, it's easy to find justification for our blaming and anger. Sadly, it's a common pattern: If we become unhappy in our relationships, we turn our partners into scapegoats for everything we don't like, and we blame them for all the unhappiness in our lives, including the unhappiness we carried with us for the many years before we even met them. But we are mistaken to blame our partners for our negative feelings. It's just the excuse we use because we feel bad, we don't know why, and we need someone other than ourselves to blame. Until we understand that, we cannot learn to have truly loving and lasting relationships. The Missing Ingredient Imagine that after a violent storm, you and I are shipwrecked on a barren island in the middle of the ocean. After a week with nothing to eat, I begin to complain that you're not doing enough to provide food for me, and the hungrier I become, the more I complain. Not an hour goes by that I don't remind you that I'm starving and you are to blame. You must think I'm insane. Obviously you didn't cause my hunger. I'm starving because a storm wrecked our ship and left us stranded on an island without food-and you had nothing to do with any of that. My blaming you is not only wrong, it's ineffective, because it does nothing to help solve our predicament. Two starving people with no source of food cannot possibly give each other what they need, and no amount of anger or blame can change that. And so it is with relationships. When we're unhappy, our misery is not the fault of our partner. Blaming that person is therefore foolish, wasteful, and destructive, because no matter how much we demand or insist, he or she cannot make us happy. We're unhappy because we're starving for the one ingredient that's most essential to genuine happiness, and it was missing long before we met our partner. That ingredient-the one thing that creates happiness and fulfilling relationships-is Real Love, unconditional love. It's that simple. When we learn what Real Love is, and when we find it, our unhappiness disappears just as surely as hunger vanishes in the presence of food. Loving relationships then become natural and effortless. But most of us have not experienced Real Love. As a result, we're emotionally and spiritually starving and are unable to make each other happy, no matter how hard we try. Real Love and Genuine Happiness Real Love is caring about the happiness of another person without any thought for what we might get for ourselves. When we give Real Love, we're not disappointed, hurt, or angry, even when people are thoughtless or inconsiderate or give us nothing in return- including gratitude-because our concern is for their happiness, not our own. Real Love is unconditional. It's Real Love when other people care about our happiness without any concern for themselves. They're not disappointed or angry when we make our foolish mistakes, when we don't do what they want, or even when we inconvenience them personally. Sadly, few of us have either given or received that kind of love, and without it we experience a terrible void in our lives, which we try to fill with money, power, food, approval, sex, and entertainment. But no matter how much of those substitutes we acquire, we remain empty, alone, afraid, and angry, because the one thing we really need is Real Love. Without it, we can only be miserable; with it, our happiness is guaranteed. When I use the word happiness, I do not mean the fleeting pleasure we get from money, sex, and conditional approval. Nor do I mean the brief feeling of relief we experience during the temporary absence of conflict or disaster. Real happiness is not the feeling we get from being entertained or making people do what we want. Genuine happiness is a profound and lasting sense of peace and fulfillment that deeply satisfies and enlarges the soul. It doesn't go away when circumstances get difficult. It survives and even grows through hardship and struggle. True happiness is our entire reason to live, and that kind of happiness can only be obtained as we find Real Love and share it with others. With Real Love, nothing else matters; without it, nothing else is enough. The greatest fear of all for a human being is to be unloved and alone. As a physician, I saw that confirmed many times by people who knew they were dying. Those people were consistently more afraid that no one cared about them and that they would die alone than they were of death itself. We all have a deep yearning to feel connected to each other, and when that connection is missing, we are terrified. When someone is genuinely concerned about our happiness, we do feel that connection to another person. We feel included in his or her life, and in that instant we are no longer alone. Each moment of unconditional acceptance creates a living thread to the person who accepts us, and these threads weave a powerful bond that fills us with a genuine and lasting happiness. Nothing but Real Love can do that. In addition, when we know that even one person loves us unconditionally, we feel a connection to everyone else. We feel included in the family of all mankind, of which that one person is a part. Because so few of us have ever experienced unconditional love in our lives, and because the effect is so powerful, I want to give you a small taste of it. I encourage you to slow down right now and really take your time as you read the next four paragraphs. If possible, read them in a room by yourself and take the time to contemplate them deeply as you open your mind to the possibilities they suggest. Picture yourself relaxing in the back of a chauffeur-driven car. You're on the way to a town two hours away. It's a small town you've never visited. In fact, no one knows about this place but you and the people who live there. Although it's a beautiful place situated in a lovely valley, you're not going there to see the sights. You're going because everyone there is genuinely happy. They're happy because they all feel loved. In this place there is no fear or anger. And you're going because they've invited you. As you pull up to the house where you'll stay, dozens of people surround your car, touch you gently, help you into the house, ask about your trip, and look at you in a way you've never seen or felt before. You sense with absolute certainty that the only concern of everyone in that town is your happiness. Because they have everything that really matters in life-because they feel loved and happy themselves-they don't need you to do anything for them, and you know that. So you know there is nothing you can do to disappoint them or hurt them. As you communicate with these new friends, you can see that it doesn't matter to them whether you're smart or pretty or handsome. You don't have to do anything to impress them or get them to like you. They truly don't care if you say something stupid or if you make mistakes. It finally and powerfully occurs to you that it's impossible to be embarrassed or ashamed around these people-because they love you no matter what you do. That is the feeling of being unconditionally loved-and many of us simply can't imagine it, even as a mental exercise. We've been judged, criticized, and conditionally supported for so long that the idea of being unconditionally accepted is inconceivable. But I have seen what happens when people consistently take the steps that lead to finding Real Love, which I'll be discussing in the following chapters. For now I simply want to assure you that you, too, can find this kind of happiness and that it will utterly transform your life. I ask you to temporarily put your doubts on the shelf and allow for the possibility that Real Love exists, and that you can find it. I make that suggestion because in an atmosphere of skepticism and fear, you cannot experience Real Love, even when it's offered. Feeling loved and becoming unconditionally loving doesn't happen all at once. You won't lose your fear, pain, disappointment, and anger overnight. Experiencing Real Love takes time and patience, and you'll stumble and fall along the way, as I do every day. But the journey is well worth every effort. This is not a fantasy. Thousands of people have successfully used this simple process to find Real Love, genuine happiness, and fulfilling relationships. At this point, you may be thinking, But we can't just unconditionally love people when they're wrong. Somebody has to speak up when mistakes are made. And it's true that we sometimes do have the responsibility to teach and correct people-children and employees, for example. But that never has to be done with disappointment and anger, the two signs that always reveal that our true motivation is to get something for ourselves-and that is not Real Love. You might also be worried that loving unconditionally would turn you into a doormat, to be used by everyone around you. But loving people unconditionally does not mean you have the responsibility to give them everything they want. That would just be indulgent and irresponsible. When we love people unconditionally, we accept them as they are and contribute to their happiness as wisely as we can. That does not imply that we respond to their every demand. The Destructive Legacy of Conditional Love Real Love is "I care how you feel." Conditional love is "I like how you make me feel." Conditional love is what people give to us when we do what they want, and it's the only kind of love that most of us have ever known. People have liked us more when we made them feel good, or at least when we did nothing to inconvenience them. In other words, we have to buy conditional love from the people around us. It's critical that we be able to distinguish between Real Love and conditional love. When we can't do that, we tend to settle for giving and receiving conditional love, which leaves us empty, unhappy, and frustrated. Fortunately, there are two reliable signs that love is not genuine: disappointment and anger. Every time we frown, sigh with disappointment, speak harshly, or in any way express our anger at other people, we're communicating that we're not getting what we want. At least in that moment, we are not caring for our partner's happiness, but only for our own. Our partner then senses our selfishness and feels disconnected from us and alone, no matter what we say or do. Most of us have received little, if any, Real Love. We prove that every day with the evidence of our unhappiness-our fear, anger, blaming, withdrawal, manipulation, controlling, and so on. People who know they're unconditionally loved don't feel and do those things. But most of us have been taught since childhood to do without Real Love and to settle instead for giving and receiving conditional love. Let me use myself as an example. As a child, I was thrilled when my mother smiled at me, spoke softly, and held me, because I knew from those behaviors that she loved me. I also noticed that she did those pleasant things more often when I was "good"-when I was quiet, grateful, and cooperative. In other words, I saw that she loved me more when I did what she liked, something almost all parents understandably do. When I was "bad"-noisy, disobedient, and otherwise inconvenient-she did not speak softly or smile at me. On those occasions, she frowned, sighed with disappointment, and often spoke in a harsh tone of voice. Although it was certainly unintentional, she clearly told me with those behaviors that she loved me less, and that was the worst pain in the world for me. Giving or withholding acceptance based on another person's behavior is the essence of conditional love, and nearly all of us were loved that way as children. When we made the football team, got good grades, and washed the dishes without being asked, our parents naturally looked happy and said things like "Way to go!" or "I'm so proud of you." But when we failed a class at school, or tracked mud across the carpet, or fought with our siblings, or wrecked the car, did our parents smile at us then? Did they pat us on the shoulder and speak kindly as they corrected us? No, with rare exceptions they did not. Without thinking, they frowned, rolled their eyes, and sighed with exasperation. They used a tone of voice that was not the one we heard when we did what they wanted and made them look good. Some of us were even yelled at or physically abused when we were "bad." Other people in our childhood also gave us conditional approval. Schoolteachers smiled and encouraged us when we were bright and cooperative, but they behaved quite differently when we were slow and difficult. Even our own friends liked us more when we did what they liked. In fact, that's what made them our friends. And that pattern of conditional approval has continued throughout our lives. People continue to give us their approval more often when we do what they want. And so we do what it takes to earn it. Although it is given unintentionally, conditional acceptance has an unspeakably disastrous effect, because it fails to form the bonds of human connection created by Real Love. As a result, no matter how much conditional love we receive, we still feel empty, alone, and miserable. And although we like to believe otherwise, because we have received conditional love from others all our lives, that's what we tend to give to those around us. We naturally pass on what we were given. We like to believe we're unconditionally loving, but in most cases we're not. We prove that each time we're disappointed or irritated with another person. We like to think we unconditionally love our spouse or children, but then we become annoyed when they don't do what we want, or when they're not grateful for the things we do for them. As we've discussed, the origin of our irritation is not what they've done (or not done), but the lack of Real Love in our own lives. Fortunately, you can now learn how to make decisions that will bring more Real Love and genuine happiness into your life. If you're unhappy, don't look to your partner for the cause. You're unhappy because you don't feel unconditionally loved yourself and because you're not sufficiently unconditionally loving toward others. Both conditions have existed for a long time, usually from early childhood. Because your parents are responsible for the love you received as a child, and because any child who does not receive sufficient Real Love is necessarily filled with emptiness and fear, your parents are certainly responsible, to a large extent, for the way you feel and function as an adult. But you need to understand that as an adult you have become increasingly responsible for your own happiness. And so, exactly how much can you hold your parents accountable for your present condition? That would be impossible to quantify. But no matter what the exact extent of your parents' responsibility, it is definitely not productive to blame them for your present unhappiness-while it is useful to understand their role in your life. Understanding is a simple, realistic assessment of how things are, but blame implies anger, which can only be harmful to both yourself and others. I've never met a parent who got up in the morning and thought, Today I could unconditionally love and teach my children and fill their lives with joy. But, no, I think I'll be selfish, critical, and demanding instead. You need to understand that your parents loved you as well as they knew how and that they certainly didn't set out to cause you emotional pain. The fact is that if they themselves didn't have enough experience with Real Love, they couldn't possibly have given you the Real Love you required. Moreover, you are now responsible for the decisions that will make you loving and happy, and if you continue to be resentful and angry, you will not make wise decisions in the present. When I talk to people about their unhappy lives and relationships, I don't dwell on the past. I don't make them victims of their past experiences. However, I find that it is occasionally useful to make them aware of what effect their past has had on their present unhappiness. Cheryl was very unhappy, and she blamed it all on her husband. I explained to her that her husband was not the cause of her unhappiness. "Your life was incomplete long before you met your husband," I told her. "You came to your marriage already missing something, and you hoped your husband would supply what was missing and make you happy. When he didn't do that, you blamed him for not fixing everything in your life. You were missing the one thing in life that we all must have in order to be happy and to have loving relationships." "And what's that?" asked Cheryl. "Real Love-unconditional love. When people don't get enough unconditional love as children, they feel terribly empty and afraid. People who feel empty and afraid can't be happy, and they can't have loving relationships, because they're too busy filling their own needs and protecting themselves. You hoped your husband would love you unconditionally, but he couldn't because he'd never been unconditionally loved himself. He, in turn, hoped you would unconditionally love him, but you couldn't, either, because you hadn't been unconditionally loved in your childhood. Neither of you had the love that's required to make a successful relationship. So you tried to make each other happy with other things: praise, sex, money, control, things like that. But those things never last for long." "But I did feel loved. My parents did love me," Cheryl insisted. I've heard many people say that, and they're always sincere. Who, after all, wants to believe his own parents didn't love him? "How often," I asked her, "did your father hold you and tell you he loved you? How many times each day was he obviously delighted when you entered the room? How often did your mother sit with you and ask what was happening in your life-just to listen, not to give advice?" Cheryl was speechless. Although she'd been raised by parents who were as good as any she knew, she couldn't think of a single time when any of those things had happened. I continued. "What happened when you made mistakes and disappointed your parents? Did you feel just as loved then as when you were 'good'?" As Cheryl described the details of her childhood, it became obvious that her father had mostly avoided her. Her mother had been kind when Cheryl was obedient, but she was critical and harsh when Cheryl "misbehaved." Finally, Cheryl realized that she had never felt unconditionally loved. I then made it clear that there was no blaming in this, just an attempt to understand the real cause of the fear and anger in her life. Once Cheryl understood that her emptiness, fear, and anger had been caused by a lifetime of feeling unloved, two very important things happened: First, she experienced a dramatic change in attitude toward her husband. She stopped blaming him for her unhappiness. That blame alone had nearly destroyed their marriage. Second, she began to take the steps necessary to find the Real Love she needed, and that changed her life completely. We often need to see that we were not unconditionally loved in the past, not so we can blame our parents or any particular person, but so we can stop blaming the partners we have now and begin to find the Real Love we need to create the genuine happiness we all want. Some of you may believe that if our childhood was less than perfect, we just need to "get over it," like a bad dream. You may think that what we were given (or not given) so long ago couldn't possibly continue to affect us now. But look what happened to Cheryl because she'd failed to receive Real Love as a child. Without the most important ingredient for happiness, she grew up empty and afraid. As I spoke with her further, I learned that she'd reacted to her emptiness and fear by manipulating and controlling all of the people around her, not just her husband. She was destroying her life, and without Real Love that's what people continue to do, all the way into their seventies and eighties. You can't build a solid house on a rotten, shifting foundation. But if you were not unconditionally loved as a child, that's the kind of foundation you have, and no effort you put into the walls, windows, and doors will ever be fulfilling. You have to fix the foundation. Fortunately, as you find Real Love now, you can heal all the wounds of the past, repair the foundation, and build the kind of life you've always wanted. Drowning for Lack of Love Imagine yourself again in the middle of the ocean, but this time there's no boat, no island, and no one to help you. You're drowning out there all by yourself. You're exhausted and terrified. Suddenly, a man grabs you from behind and drags you under the water. Completely overwhelmed by fear and anger, you struggle wildly to get free, but no matter what you do, your head remains underwater. Just as you're about to pass out and drown, I arrive in a small boat and pull you from the water. After catching your breath, you turn and see that the man who dragged you under is actually drowning himself and only grabbed you in a desperate attempt to save his own life. He wasn't trying to harm you at all. Once you realize that, your anger vanishes immediately and you quickly help him into the boat. That's how it is with relationships. People really don't do things with the principal goal of hurting you. When people hurt you, they're like the man who dragged you under the water-they're simply drowning and trying to save themselves. People who don't feel unconditionally loved are desperate and will do almost anything to eliminate the pain of their emptiness. Unfortunately, as they struggle to get the things that give them temporary relief-approval, money, sex, power, and so on-their behavior often has a negative effect on the people around them, including you. But that is not their first intent. Other people hurt us only because they're reacting badly to the pain of feeling unloved and alone. When we truly understand that, our feelings toward people, and our relationships with them, will change dramatically. Without Real Love, we feel like we're drowning all the time. In that condition, almost everything seems threatening to us, even the most innocent behaviors. When people get angry or criticize us, we don't see them as drowning and protecting themselves. We become afraid, defensive, and angry, and we respond by using behaviors that may hurt them. Naturally, they react by protecting themselves and hurting us with even greater intensity, and until we understand that Real Love is the solution, we can only perpetuate this cycle of self-protection and injury. Most relationships fail because we become angry and blame our anger on something our partner did or did not do. We need to remember that our anger is actually a reaction to the feelings of helplessness and fear that result from a lifetime of struggling to survive without unconditional love. Getting angry and assigning blame may give us a fleeting sense of power that momentarily relieves our fear, but those feelings originate within us, not with our partner's behavior. When the man dragged you under the water, he did not cause your angry reaction. Your anger was the result of a series of many events that led to your drowning in the ocean, and also a result of your own decision to blame that man for drowning you. You weren't murderously angry with the man in the water because of a single tug on your shoulder. You were angry because you'd been spit out in the middle of the ocean with no chance for survival and because you were exhausted and frightened and about to die. What the other man did just added the last straw to the camel's back and appeared to be the cause of your anger. Similarly, the anger we feel toward our partners results from past events (whether or not we felt Real Love-mostly from our parents) and present decisions (whether we choose to be angry or loving with our partners). We're reacting to a lifetime of trying to survive without unconditional love, and anger is an understandable response because it makes us feel less helpless and afraid-for the moment. It protects us and briefly makes us feel better. But it never makes us feel loved or happy or less alone. We need to learn a better response to our pain than blaming and anger, and we can. As we come to understand that our partners are not to blame for our unhappiness, we can better exercise self-control to curb our anger. Then, as we begin to find and experience Real Love, we'll feel as if we're being pulled out of the water and into the boat. In the absence of the terrible fear that accompanies drowning, we'll no longer have a need to protect ourselves with anger-or any of the other unproductive behaviors we use in relationships, such as lying, acting hurt, and withdrawing. Our ability to form and maintain loving relationships will then come simply and easily. Just as being pulled into the boat instantly allowed you to gain the correct perspective on the man who was drowning you, understanding Real Love will provide you with the ability to discern the difference between the "right" and "wrong" decisions you make in your life and in your relationships. First, I suggest that being genuinely happy is the ultimate goal in life and is therefore also the ultimate good. Second, because Real Love is absolutely essential to our happiness, I suggest that anything that interferes with our ability to feel and share unconditional love is necessarily "bad" or "wrong," while anything that promotes our ability to feel loved and share that love with others is "right" and "good." Excerpted from Real Love: The Truth about Finding Unconditional Love and Fulfilling Relationships by Greg Baer All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Introductionp. xi
1 The Missing Ingredient: What Relationships Really Needp. 1
The Missing Ingredient
Real Love and Genuine Happiness
The Destructive Legacy of Conditional Love
Drowning for Lack of Love
2 Getting and Protecting: The Many Faces of Imitation Lovep. 18
The Many Faces of Imitation Love
The Cost of Imitation Love
Getting and Protecting Behaviors
Getting and Protecting (Why Do We Do That?)
I Love You Because ...
Making Choices
Changing Our Choices
3 Being Seen and Getting Loved: The Tale of the Wart King and the Wise Manp. 41
The Tale of the Wart King and the Wise Man
How to Recognize and Find Real Love: Truth [right arrow] Seen [right arrow] Accepted [right arrow] Loved
The Truth About Relationships and Individual Choices
The Difference Between Asking and Expecting
4 Taking the Leap of Faith: Everyday Wise Men and How to Find Themp. 63
Remember the Wart King
Being Patient: Don't Expect Brass Bands
Having a Desire to Change
Exercising Faith
Telling the Truth About Yourself
Giving Up the Getting and Protecting Behaviors
5 The Effect of Real Love: Like Money in the Bankp. 117
Real Love Is Like Money in the Bank
The Effect of Real Love on the Past and the Present
Real Love: The Answer to All Our Relationship "Problems"
The Need for Consistent Real Love
Magnifying the Effect of Real Love with Gratitude
6 Sharing Your Fortune: The Power of Loving Othersp. 136
Loved: We Can't Give What We Don't Have
Seeing: The Elimination of Our Own Blindness
Accepting: The Natural, Peaceful Result of Seeing
Loving: Caring About the Happiness of Other People
7 Playing a Beautiful Duet: The Joys of Mutually Loving Relationshipsp. 170
Telling the Truth About Ourselves
Telling the Truth About Our Partner
Telling the Truth All the Time
Making Requests
Working Things Out
Faith in Mutual Love
Becoming One
8 Real Love in All Our Relationships: Spouses, Children, Friends, and Co-workersp. 188
The Truth About Marriage
Exclusive Relationships
Sex in Relationships
The Truth About Parenting
Family, Friends, Co-workers, and Everyone Else
Our Relationship with God
9 Dealing With Obstacles on the Path to Real Love: Disappointment, Anger, and Getting and Protecting Behaviorsp. 227
Eliminating Conflict
Dealing with Getting and Protecting Behaviors
Ending a Relationship (Including Divorce)