By: Amanda Axelrod, M.S., LMFT- Associate Supervised by Dr. Mark White

We see love portrayed in various ways; through movies, books, music, and even celebrities. Disney movies say that love is the start of happily ever after, books say that love is always romantic, music says that love is obsessive, and celebrities say that love is picture perfect. What if none of these ideologies actually create a life full of love? What if the prince in the Disney movie does not exist? He is just an ordinary guy who makes mistakes and does not save anyone. What if the celebrities who present themselves and their relationship as flawless have more insecurities than they let others see? Their relationships are just like ours, with both good moments and messy ones. However, no one knows because we only see what is posted on social media. With so many examples of love, how do we know what a lasting and fulfilling love looks like?

The family that we grow up in holds one of the largest influences on our beliefs about love and what it looks like. For example, when I worked in foster care in 2021 I met and heard stories about many children who had bad examples of love. One of these stories was about a little boy who started taunting a caseworker to hit him. The caseworker would tell the boy that they would not, yet the boy persisted in attempting to get the casework to strike him, just once. When the boy realized that the caseworker would not get physically aggressive no matter what the boy did to provoke them, the kid started to cry. Now if you are like me, at first you might be a bit confused as to why the kid began to cry. What we found out was that the child was not crying because he was happy that he was not hit. The kid was crying because he wanted to be told that he is loved. This boy grew up in a physically abusive family and was only told he was loved after his father struck him. The dad would strike his son and then say, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that. I love you buddy”. This is just one example of how family impacts our view of love.

This story is hard to read and yet you might have a similar experience. Maybe you were taught that love is a game, love is conditional, love is manipulative, or that love is something that needs to be earned. If this describes how you view love, you are not alone. The good thing is that your belief about love can change.

My own perspective of love has changed over time and now I know that it is not always an emotion, but a daily choice and an action. This historical text has helped me to understand love in a deeper way. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Since learning about this new love, I’ve had a passion for helping others. My goal as a therapist is to help individuals, couples and families process how they came to know what love looks like, and to help clients who seek love in destructive ways create a new ideology of worth and love. I do this by using cognitive behavioral and experiential therapy to teach individuals the power of their thoughts. If this sounds like something you could benefit from, I’d love for you to book a session with me.

How we grow up and what we learn about love matters. We are not responsible for how we grew up! But we are responsible for how we heal from the past so that we can thrive in the future.

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