What has "love" felt like to you? Has it seemed like a deep, nearly impossible-to-satisfy hunger or craving for somebody? Did it ever feel a little painful for you to desire and yearn so profoundly for someone? Have you ever thought to yourself, "if I let myself love this person as much as I really want to, will they be able to handle it? Will I scare them off?"
We learn about attachment in our mother's womb. We seek to retain that attachment bond after we are delivered into a brand new, colder, less secure world, that automatically imposes our separation from her. We were securely attached while inside her body, but are no longer, once we are born. This presents a radical shift in our experience of Mother, and we're not at all sure we are still a vital and integral part of her.
In utero, we have shared Mother's blood supply, her oxygen intake and moods. Whatever she has felt emotionally during our gestation period inside her womb, we have simultaneously experienced right along with her. If she's happy and content, we are too. If she's anxious, worried, depressed or nervous, we feel these sensations as well. We become accustomed to hearing constant sounds that are soothing and rhythmic to us, like her breathing and heartbeat. We routinely hear her talking, and became intimately familiar with her voice inflection, the cadence of her speech, and precisely how she enunciates her words.
As far as we are concerned during the months we're developing inside her body, we are one with Mother. She is us, and we are her. We cannot possibly know there's any separateness between us.
When this attachment bond is broken or diffused in any way after our birth~ even if we're put in a crib within a beautiful nursery to sleep or nap apart from her, we feel extreme separation anxiety. It takes many months to begin trusting that when our mommy leaves our side or isn't holding us, she will return. The phenomenon associated with an infant beginning to trust that his mother will return to him after a brief separation is called, "object constancy." Up until we develop object constancy (and some of us never do), each of her absences produce anxiety for us, and we deeply yearn to feel connected once again, as we were in her womb.
People like to say things like, "don't worry~ kids are resilient! They easily bounce back from all types of upsets and trauma (parental separation, divorce, long absences from the mother, etc.)" but while it may seem this way to an adult's perspective, it's never true. Young children are highly alert, sensitive, sentient little beings. They feel everything that happens to them profoundly~ they just haven't gained verbal tools as yet, to express how painfully they are being impacted. We assume they're okay, because we're usually not equipped to manage our own feelings concerning a setback, much less anyone else's~ but they're not. Children typically feel far more than You do during a crisis, because they haven't yet learned to dissociate from their painful emotions like you have. They are completely unpracticed in this arena.
During infancy, any separation from Mother is acutely experienced. We can't feel okay, until we are back in her arms, or at least resting against her body. Between contact with her, we feel a painful longing and yearning for her touch, her voice, her warmth and affection. We are in love with her, and this bond began long before she gave birth to us. In the absence of her attention, we can't help but feel an uncomfortable, distressing hunger for it~ and we grow up interpreting these somewhat painful sensations, as Love.
Real love is never painful. It never has us doubting our lovability or worth to someone who matters to us. Real love doesn't set us up for deep and painful yearning or craving, because the one who's capable of returning our love, is always present for us. There's a solid and mutual sense of loving, trusting and respecting among two people sharing an authentic, or Real Love dynamic.
If you haven't experienced this kind of secure bond during your lifetime, it typically means you never got to learn what having your adoration for Mother reciprocated felt like, from infancy onward. Due to this deficit, your definition for what "love" is, became skewed and distorted. I speak in detail to this issue within my book, DO YOU LOVE TO BE NEEDED, OR NEED TO BE LOVED?
Essentially, if you grew up associating love with painful longing and yearning to have your affection and adoration returned, you are unable to choose a romantic partner who can give you what you need and want~ because if there's no pain associated with your attempts to bond with another, you can't recognize it as "the real deal," or True Love. These experiences simply don't match your earliest pain-producing template for attachment to your mother.