Perfect Love Imperfect Relationships
Healing the Wound of the Heart

By John Welwood
Book reviewed and some thoughts by Shoshona Pascoe, MFT

John Welwood's new book, Perfect Love Imperfect Relationships, affirms the yearning of our hearts for perfect love; our hearts have desire to be loved for who we are and we seek that satisfaction. In traversing the terrain of intimate relations we inevitably bump up against another human being, in their perfectly imperfect ways of giving and receiving love. Welwood explores the experience of "grievance" and our struggle with the world and the accompanying frustration and disappointment that give rise to our relationship dilemmas. As in his other works, Welwood offers us a way to normalize the "trouble" and see it as an opportunity to touch deeper core places in ourselves for the purpose of awakening. In this book he goes even further and links the wound of the heart in intimate relations to the greater wounding, trauma, and violence that are so prevalent in our world.

In simple, accessible prose, Welwood presents this wound of the heart in poetic detail. Weaving together his psychotherapeutic skill with spiritual perspectives, he describes a poignant human condition. Sharing his own personal inquiry, he presents his belief in a universal core wound that prevents us from opening fully to the love we crave. This empty place inside we fear as not being worthy of love. The need for perfect love can only be filled as each of us descends into the essence of our own being, touching these places with acceptance and care, coming into relationship with life and what Welwood calls the Great Love. Only then can the imperfect relationship take its rightful place. Perhaps only then can we begin to allow in the love that is our very nature and trust ourselves, others, and life itself.

Perfect Love is a pleasure to read. The tension between love's perfection and relationship's imperfection is not something to fix; the dilemma serves to help us open up and let love in. To be able to access what Welwood calls the "fundamental sorrow" of not being loved as I am, can perhaps be the beginning of transforming our fight with the world. The healing of our world is impacted as each of us allows our brokenheartedness to be touched with awareness and care.

Psychotherapy and spiritual practice go hand in hand, offering ways to recognize and help transform the wound of the heart. Symptoms of emptiness, anxiety, and depression as well as mistrust and resentment in relationship can point us toward this deeper root underlying our difficulty. These lines from Robert Bly's poem "Listening to the Koln Concert" express for me again the beauty of the imperfect in relationship:
    When men and women come together,
    how much they have to abandon! Wrens
    make their nests of fancy threads
    and string ends, animals

    abandon all their money each year.
    What is that men and women leave?
    Harder than wrens' doing, they have
    to abandon their longing for the perfect.

    The inner nest not made by instinct
    will never be quite round,
    and each has to enter the nest
    made by the other imperfect bird.

You'll find Perfect Love Perfect Relationships at Learn more about John Welwood at


©2005-2015 Shoshona Pascoe, Chinn Street Counseling Center; all rights reserved.