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Our need for love is present from our time in the womb; our capacity for healthy growth and development (physical, mental and emotional) depends on it. We are born with both a predisposition to give and a longing to receive love, with our capacity to effectively do either relying on the other being fulfilled.

So if we all have the capacity to love, and we all need love, why is love so hard to find? The conventional response to this question is that love—true, real love—is rare, and that finding it is a matter of luck, aligned stars and divine intervention. But the truth is a lot simpler: We’re not actually looking for it.

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I repeat: Most people, most of the time, are not looking for love—even when we are desperate to find it. Love—true love, the kind that nurtures relationships and the people committed to them—is a very specific thing, defined by respect, compassion, forgiveness, acceptance, fidelity and safety. These are what we call healthy relationship sustainers in Loving In The Grown Zonethe “lovers manual” co-authored by me and my wife Zara D. Green.

However, these are not the things we are taught to look for in our search for love. Instead, in our search for authentic, lasting love, we are taught to look for:

Good looks: The most physically attractive person you can find.

Good living: Someone willing and able to share the lifestyle that you have or aspire to.

Good sex: Someone who fulfills all of your erotic fantasies and sexual needs.

Good money: Someone with financial means and earning potential.

Good status: Someone who will bring you popularity and respect by association.