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Because love is an integral element in healing both body and mind, I often speak to my patients about what love is and what it means to “be in our loving” as we go through the challenges of daily life.

When patients ask me what it means to really love, I always begin my explanation with this quote from American poet, Adrienne Cecile Rich:

“An honorable human relationship — that is, one in which two people have the right to use the word ‘love’ — is a process, delicate, violent, often terrifying to both persons involved, a process of refining the truths they can tell each other. It is important to do this because it breaks down human self-delusion and isolation. It is important to do this because in doing so we do justice to our own complexity. It is important to do this because we can count on so few people to go that hard way with us.”

According to Ms. Rich, love isn’t a static situation where we either love someone, or we don’t. Love is a process—a way of being in the world in which we interact with others and ourselves in an honorable way.

The core of this way of life is truth.

It’s been said that we can never love another person more than when we tell them the truth. With truthfulness comes increased trust and a deepening sense of security that allows us to be more vulnerable and open with others.

At the same time, we must also be vulnerable enough to receive the truth in a non-judgmental way when it is shared with us by those we trust. As Ms. Rich states, most of us know few people we can really trust and count on to go the distance with us—to do the work that real love requires in order to build the kind of honorable relationships that make our lives more fulfilling.

Some people seem to think that living in a loving way means being nice to people all the time and not upsetting anyone.

That’s not true at all.

People create a lot of problems for themselves and in their relationships by being nice in order to avoid conflict. That only allows problems to fester and build, inevitably leading to a bigger blow-up at some point in the future. Co-dependency is a classic situation in which terminal niceness often ends up seriously damaging both parties in a relationship.

Honoring Relationships Through Honesty and Carefrontation

Having a Carefrontation

My wife Dr. Sherry Sami and I once presented a series of workshops on relationship management and conflict resolution for the staff of Goop (Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle brand), in Los Angeles.

During those sessions, an attendee said she couldn’t see how a person could be loving while confronting a co-worker, family member, or romantic partner about a serious issue.

She didn’t realize that being loving doesn’t mean being disempowered or passive and that there is a significant difference between confrontation and what we call a “carefrontation.”

A carefrontation isn’t about creating drama or being unloving. It’s about being clear, open, and respectful in the process of telling the truth to others we are in relationship with in order to improve our quality of life and understanding of each other.

It’s the method we can use to open ourselves up to being more loving, especially with the people with whom it’s most difficult, in order to take relationships to a new level.

If you have a problem with a co-worker, the most loving thing you can do is address that issue in a neutral way that puts resolution above winning or being right, and also takes the other person’s sensitivities into account. When we present our concerns in this context, it’s the beginning of shifting from confrontation to carefrontation.

The point is to always come from the truth, and to present it compassionately and neutrally. Owning our truth and sharing it with others doesn’t always mean that the other person won’t become upset. But when presented in the context of a carefrontation, the other party can feel our concern for their needs while we express our own. This way, we significantly reduce the possibility of escalating the situation.

Too often, we avoid telling others the truth because we mistakenly think our only option is a confrontation or that sparing them the upset is the more loving choice.

Neither of these is true.

When we understand how to conduct a proper carefrontation, confrontations become almost non-existent in our relationships because we can remain conscious and in control of ourselves, even in the midst of disagreement.

“Love isn’t so much something we give or get, as it is a way of being with ourselves and in the world.”

In reality, avoiding telling someone the truth about how we feel is often a self-serving act and has little to do with concern for the other person’s feelings. Most of the time, when we think we’re sparing the other person pain, we’re subconsciously trying to avoid the upset we’ll feel that comes from upsetting another person—especially when it’s someone we care about. So being dishonest or withholding in any way is self-serving and about protecting ourselves, not someone else.

This happens quite often in romantic relationships, when one person is strung along because their partner is afraid to break up with them, hurt their feelings, or just be alone.

In these situations, we must love the other person enough to tell them the truth so that they can move forward to a fulfilling relationship.

Unfortunately, through my couples counseling, I’ve seen people waste 20 or more years this way because they don’t understand the connection between love and truth. They don’t understand how to conduct themselves in all their relationships as an ongoing conversation of loving.

We cannot live a loving and authentic life without the ability to tell the truth, because being truthful is at the heart of any healthy relationship we intend to have with ourselves and others.

Love isn’t so much something we give or get, as it is a way of being with ourselves and in the world.

I would encourage everyone to make the commitment to understanding that, in order to move our personal lives and the world we share forward, we must create the space within ourselves for love to enter. Only then will we be able to share it freely and create a better future both individually and collectively.

For more health and inspirational insights from Dr. Sadeghi, please visit Behiveofhealing.com to sign up for the monthly newsletter, check out his annual health and well-being journal, MegaZEN, or for messages of encouragement and humor, follow him on Instagram and Twitter @drhabibsadeghi