5 Myths About Love You Might Be Falling For

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Road Less Traveled" by M. Scott Peck. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What are the common myths about love? Do you believe any of them?

In The Road Less Traveled, psychiatrist M. Scott Peck identifies five myths about love. Once you understand them, you will be better equipped to practice genuine love.

Keep reading to learn five myths about love.

The 5 Myths About Love

To master discipline, you need to harness the energy of genuine love. Genuine love occurs when you move beyond yourself to support your own spiritual growth or the spiritual growth of someone else.

There are five myths to understand to master genuine love.

Love Myth #1: Love Is a Feeling

We tend to believe love is a feeling because we’ve grown up on the idea of “falling in love.” However, what we think of as “falling in love” is actually a process called cathexis, during which we identify something as an extension of ourselves and, because this creates a bond, invest our energy into it. We can cathect people, pets, or even objects. 

Cathexis:

  • Doesn’t require an interest in supporting someone’s spiritual growth
  • Is feeling-based, and feelings change. For example, if you feel emotionally connected and sexually attracted to a coworker, these feelings may prompt you to cheat on your partner. 

Genuine love:

  • Is rooted in the willingness to support the spiritual growth of another
  • Is action-, not feeling-based. For example, if you genuinely love your spouse, you will remain faithful even when you are angry with them or tempted by other people.

Love Myth #2: Love Is Dependency 

Dependency causes relationships to become parasitic, where the needs of one person are prioritized, which prevents spiritual growth. For example, say you’re primarily staying in a relationship with someone you don’t love because they pay your bills. Not only are you financially dependent on this person, but you’re unable to grow into your own competence, and the relationship is keeping you from finding a partner you truly love.

The foundation of genuine love is the ability to make choices freely. In this context, you are aware you can meet your needs on your own, but you wish to develop a mutually fulfilling partnership with someone anyway. 

Love Myth #3: Love Is Self-Sacrifice

The idea that love requires self-sacrifice causes two potential problems: 

  • We accept mistreatment because it reinforces that we are the “good guy” to our abuser’s “bad guy.”
  • We unconsciously use nurturing behavior to make someone else dependent on us. This allows us to be a “savior.”

In contrast, the purpose of genuine love is self-replenishment. Genuine love can be selfish or selfless as long as the motivation for your actions is your own spiritual growth or the spiritual growth of someone else.

Love Myth #4: Love Is Effortless

Many people believe that love shouldn’t require work, but spiritual growth and interrelational fulfillment cannot occur with this mindset. 

The only way to develop a genuinely loving relationship between yourself and another person is to extend yourself through deliberate effort. This requires energy and attention. One of the key ways you can develop attention is to practice good listening. 

Love Myth #5: Love Prioritizes Growth as a Couple

A common misconception about love is that we all have a soulmate, and when we find them, they are our “forever” relationship. This causes us to stay in unhappy or unfulfilling relationships out of a desire to preserve the myth. But when you value coupledom over being in a genuinely loving and fulfilling partnership, you impede your ability to build such a relationship, because neither partner is seen as a whole and separate individual. 
Genuine love honors the separateness of both individuals in a relationship and treats each person’s spiritual growth with equal importance. In a genuinely loving relationship, the relationship is not the focal point, but a vehicle to serve the spiritual growth of the individuals within it.

5 Myths About Love You Might Be Falling For

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  • The four key elements in the path to enlightenment
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Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She devours nonfiction, especially in the areas of history, theology, science, and philosophy. A switch to audio books has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. She appreciates idea-driven books—and a classic murder mystery now and then. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a creative nonfiction book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

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