A recipe for cooking a love casserole

I often engage in dialogue with my clients, about the essence of loving relationships.

Sessions give voice to different views about one’s understanding, needs and expectations, but often we end up pausing in considerations that are familiar to me as a therapist, but that may be new territory for some of my clients.

I usually like to describe a relationship between two people who are attracted to each other, as trying to cook a tasty casserole. A casserole requires the right ingredients; meat, vegetables, spices, a large pot, a good flame and – most important – enough time for the dish to cook slowly.

Cooking is an act of great creativity. Each dish is always different, even when we follow the same recipe to the smallest detail. The truth is that no two pieces of vegetables or two chunks of meat are always the same and each time we cook, it is not the recipe, but our own individual input that will give it a distinctive taste.

Similarly, it is the investment of energy, hope and creativity that we put into a relationship, that will make it an act of cooperation in which our personality and that of our partner come into play.

Feeling, recognizing, acknowledging and conquering love is not, as many believe, the goal of a fulfilling relationship. It is merely the beginning.

Loving and being loved forms the basis on which to lay a feeling of self confidence, being accepted and acceptable, understood and understandable, needy and needed.

Human beings bond best through the sharing of pain, loss and defeat, and it is only in this way that our vulnerable self becomes a gift of trust and offers a reciprocal ground for compassion and empathy.

These are the ingredients of our casserole.

The next and most important step stems from this basis of safety and confidence. Love is not about me, or what I get out of this relationship. Love is not about just you and me together, and how we feed each other in a symbiotic way.

Love is about you and me feeling safe and confident enough to be able to, together, be open towards the world.

The casserole is ready to be served. It has the potential to feed many, to gather around the table a whole family, a group of friends. And once the meal is over, the body is satisfied and the task is fulfilled, there comes a time for chatter, laughter and relaxed communication.

A loving relationship feeds the power to give something back to the world, to create opportunities, to make history, to make a change, to build something.

Love is the door to a life lived with an outward look and a creative goal; love amplifies who I could be and what I could do. It is what gives wings to my soul.

A casserole does not need to feed the whole of the population. It will be as big as a drop in the ocean, as insignificant as an ant in a field, yet it is the trigger to gather and feed, and through the gathering and the feeding, perhaps to make possibility possible and choice available.

At the other end of the spectrum there is only an inward focused self, concerned only with what I need and I want. Looking selfishly to find the person who will satisfy my needs. Drawing long lists of what the perfect partner must be like, boxes to tick and essential priorities to be met.

And, last but not least, expectations about looks, chemistry, passion, intelligence, power, sexual drive and so on, as we constantly get bombarded by media, social networks, fiction and gossip columns.

My therapy room is full of stories of sorrow from people who cannot find the Perfect Partner who will provide them with happiness ever after. It is also full of anger and fear from those who have made themselves prisoners of jealousy, envy, betrayal or suspicion.

In my mind there are three main ingredients needed in a healthy relationship;

  1. Being there for the other with no second gain.
  2. A feeling of tranquil well-being for no special reason other than being in the presence of the other.
  3. The awareness that through the presence of the other, our being is amplified to satisfy the best of its opportunities and through such openness and widening of views and possibilities , there stems a creative freedom and willingness to pay back the world for all the goodness that we receive from it, in whichever way and style we can.

An inward look that is obsessed with itself is like a prison sentence, with no appeal.