Katja Laurien

Inspiring your spiritual journey

The Sacred Longing for Love

7. November 2021 • Katja Laurien

We all long to be loved. It’s a fact. We are hardwired to be connected to our fellow human beings in a variety of ways. And still there are more and more people who seem to be fine with not having friends or being single. In this post I want to discuss the lacking desire to be connected to others and I’ll specifically focus on romantic relationships.

Let’s start with the question why we are so opposed to our own human nature by cutting ourselves off from love? There are many reasons, but here I’ll discuss three of them which are of spiritual, societal and personal nature. Let’s start with the spiritual reason to undermine our longing for love. One of the most well known statements of the Buddha is that desire is root of all suffering. Wanting something really badly keeps us in bondage which results in pain and agony. Therefore, many people on the spiritual path decide - oftentimes with their rational minds - not to pursue their longing, even if it is a longing for love. After all, if we don’t desire anything, we can’t get hurt when we don’t get it. Instead we try to love ourselves, so we fully provide ourselves with all our desires. Eventually, true happiness lies within ourselves, so why should we long to pull another human being into the equation?

Most of the Western societies also make us believe that we are weak and stupid when we long for love. Desperately wanting to have a relationship makes us look needy and dependent. The value of personal independence has risen enormously in the past decades, while we transitioned from a collective society to an individual society. What makes a person succesfull in life is when they are fully independent, financially and emotionally. Our societies look down on people who don’t have their lives together and are either dependent on the state or on their social network to make their lives worth living. Even though most people are not so outspoken about their opinion when it comes to people who are emotionally dependent, we all sense that being emotionally dependent makes us look like losers. And who would want to be a loser in the eye of society? So, we decide that it’s better to bury our need for love and connection deep inside. Maybe someone will someday love us for being so bravely independent.

Obviously, the Buddha and society have their reasons to imply that being emotionally dependent can be detrimental to our well being. And we have all experienced first hand how painful this dependency indeed can be. I’m not necessarily talking about all the rejections and failed relationships we have experienced. It all starts way earlier, during our early childhood years. Children literally are dependent on their caregivers. And they are not only dependent on them financially, but also emotionally. They need love and connection in order to survive. Especially very small children follow their natural instinct to pursue their longing for love and they will demand it without being ashamed of it. As they grow older, however, they notice that the amount and quality of love they seek can simply not be given by their caretakers. This is not the fault of the parents, even the best parent won’t be able to satisfy the child’s need for affection and reassurance 24/7. In order to avoid disappointment, we all inevitably learn to control our longing for love - some of us more than others. We learn that not reaching out for love means that we can’t be rejected and disappointed. At the same time, we think that when we don’t bother our loved ones with our need for love, they might reward us with their appreciation for our good behaviour. Some of us have experienced that “love” and “affection” are painful, when our parents smothered or controlled us, so we decide that disconnecting feels safer.

I think it’s pretty obvious why so many of us struggle to admit that we all really long for love and connection. I know first hand how scary it can be to openly long for connection. The attention I received from my parents hasn’t always been optimal, especially since they have been living in different countries and even different continents after their divorce when I was five. I always had to miss one of them, so I trained myself to not miss them whenever I was with the other parent. When I went on my first holiday by myself when I was 16, I really took pride in the fact that I didn’t miss them at all. I felt strong, independent and free. Later as an adult I have spent most of my life being single and I can genuinely say that the time I spent in relationships was harder for me than the time I spent being single. Even though I occasionally missed the love and connection, I quickly brushed this longing away by remembering myself how hurt and trapped I felt everytime I was in a relationship. Being single at least I felt strong and free.

As the years passed by I fortunately learned a lot from my past relationships and also from the time I spent being single. My most recent relationship was in fact even very peaceful and enjoyable. As a result, I wasn’t afraid to enter a new relationship when it ended and for the first time I even really felt the desire to be in a relationship. I instantly noticed that this desire made me feel uncomfortable. I was ashamed to share my desire, afraid to appear needy or weak. All my life I had been working so hard on my independence, it felt like I was betraying myself. But the longing was there, it was an undeniable part of my reality.

Throughout the years on the spiritual path, I have learned that my current condition and my feelings are valuable indicators for what it is I really want in life. I felt torn between wanting to feel strong and free and longing for a meaningful connection with another human being. Normally my desire to feel free would have won, because I simply couldn’t recall enough pleasurable experiences of being in a committed relationship. But this time I knew that being in a relationship doesn’t mean that I necessarily have to be trapped or unhappy. Now I knew that healthy relationships aren’t an illusion, so how could I not long for something that genuinely makes me feel good?

It took me a while to figure out how to combine my desire for love and at the same time maintain my happiness while being single. As usual, it included allowing myself to really feel whatever I was feeling. I allowed myself to feel my desire and my reluctance to it at the same time, without judgement. After a while of simply observing my feelings, I realized that I actually enjoyed feeling my desire. It made me feel alive, it filled me with joyful anticipation and it at times even made me feel loved. At the same time I realized that the reluctance I was feeling was based on fear. Not necessarily based on the fear of being rejected, but on the fear of not knowing whether I am capable to let myself be rejected by someone without losing myself. I was not afraid of someone else rejecting me, but of me rejecting myself.

I realized that the years of being single have helped me tremendously to connect with myself and to trust in myself as a good companion. Therefore, I also don’t regret having hold off relationships for such a long time, it was exactly what I needed to do in order to connect with myself. It is what I needed to build on my own internal safety. So, please don’t beat up on yourself if you simply can’t allow yourself to feel the desire for love and the mere thought of intimacy overwhelms you. Take this as a sign to work on your inner bonding and start trusting and relying more on yourself. Just make sure you don’t use your time of being single as an excuse not to have to commit, but instead to prepare yourself for a healthy commitment.

Furthermore, I realized there is another factor which makes desiring love and connection unnecessarily complicated: wanting to be loved by a specific person. In fact, I believe the Buddha should have rather said that desire itself is not a problem, but desiring something (or someone) in specific creates suffering. Wanting to control someone else can be extremely frustrating and therefore creates suffering. If you’re hungry and all you want to eat is some rare delicacy, you’ll suffer. But when you’re hungry and you’re on your way to the market and all you want is to eat something fresh and nourishing, you’ll soon find something that appeals to you and you’ll be delighted to eat it! It doesn’t matter whether we want a specific person or whether we are waiting for a specific type of person, either way we are disconnecting ourselves from true love. We only wait for the “perfect match” to come by, because we feel insecure deep inside. We wait for someone with whom we will never ever have to feel insecure or hurt. Since this person simply doesn’t exist, we continue waiting for the rest of our lives. Once we realize that there are a variety of people out there with whom we can share a meaningful connection, we are actually free. We can let go of people who don’t seem to be interested in us or incapable to establish the connection we wish. Instead we can simply allow people who match our interest and level of connection to enter our lives and to enjoy the time with them as long as it lasts. And once it’s over you simply let the other go, because you know that there are so many other people and ways to experience this deep love, it’s not only to be found in this one person. This is an expression of freedom, peace and love - all at the same time.

We don’t only suffer in love, because we expect to be loved by one specific person who can’t reciprocate, but we also suffer because we actually believe that love is scarce. But that’s simply not true. Love feels scarce, because we keep holding it off with our fear of letting it in. We can only receive love when we allow love to come in - it’s a universal law. As long as we’re afraid to give or receive love it won’t happen and we will receive lessons instead which in turn will help us to receive love. Even when we do receive genuine love, we won’t be able to recognize it as such, because of our fear. Hence, we don’t recognize love when it’s right in front of us and therefore we think that it’s scarce. In truth love is everywhere. Therefore, the desire to receive love can’t create suffering, because love is abundant. That’s why the desire to breathe air rarely creates suffering.

Once we start to realize that the power lies in our very own hands, we can start to relax. We know that it’s not the other or the situation we need to control. All we need to do is to find our own internal safety which will make it increasingly easier to allow ourselves to feel the desire for love. Allowing ourselves to long for love is like sending love an invitation. All we need to do then is lay back, relax and trust that love will respond. In the end, we all desire love and connection, whether we are strong enough to admit this to ourselves or not. The more we suppress our need, the more painful and agonizing it will eventually become. Even though it’s scary and hard, allow yourself to follow your own nature and open your heart to the sacred longing for love.