What is Love?
Love can be confusing. Do we merely love someone or are we “in love” with them, and what do all of these terms mean anyway?
Many of us believe that loving someone means holding them dear, while being in love means passion, excitement, and true understanding of a person’s heart and soul. Being “in love” perhaps signifies a commitment that we wish to make to one person. What will happen, however, when the passion and excitement starts to fade; when we are steeped in the daily stress of living and life? Do we simply move on to the next person to find more passion and more excitement?
If we are to fully commit our lives to our romantic partner, we may want to entertain the notion that there is in fact no difference between loving and being in love. Love, as in all other things, has its ups and downs. A firm decision to face the inevitable challenges together with our partner will allow us to enjoy the rewards of romantic love as we go through life together.
When we find a partner, we initially “talk the talk” and say we love them and will always be there for them, but are we going into this relationship with an honest, open heart?
Often times we have been damaged by an important relationship at some point in our lives that leaves us vowing never to open ourselves to such hurt again. So we put up an isolating wall that does not allow anyone to get close to our deepest emotions. This grand scheme can backfire however, because while we are attempting to keep new pain out, we are also holding old pain in.
Our journey to healing does not have to be traveled alone. When we allow the isolating wall to come down and ask our partner to be part of our healing process, we are learning how to give and receive unconditional love.
If we truly love someone, it should never have strings attached. “Conditional love” is not really love at all – it is someone’s underhanded way of getting you to do what they want. Dangling the carrot of being loved is a control measure that keeps you trying to succeed at something that can never be achieved – receiving true, unconditional love.
If your father cried that he loved you as he beat you, or you mother told you, as she was locking you in your room, that it hurt her more than it hurt you, you were not receiving love. True love has no conditions but to give it or accept it.
“Til death do us part” seems out of sync with today’s divorce rate. Perhaps it should be altered to say, “til death – or disillusionment – do us part.” It seems that we are all too willing to trade in our partner for a newer model when life is not going the way we envisioned it. This may be due to the fact that the very foundation upon which the relationship is built is made of sand. (This is but one reason that the various 12-step fellowships ask newly recovering members to refrain from starting any new relationships in the first months of recovery.)
We all know the pain of loving someone who does not love us back. It makes little difference whether we discover that we are in “conditional love” at the beginning or at the end of a relationship. It does not matter. It hurts, and it can cause us to turn back inward, put back up our isolating walls, and try to find what it is about ourselves that we cannot be loved in return.
This preoccupation with one person’s rejection can cause us to lose sight of all the others who do in fact love us. This preoccupation with one person’s rejection can cause us to diminish our self-worth.
In a successful partnership, we are part of the solution or part of the problem. True love will actually increase our self-worth. If we, as partners, cannot accomplish this for each other, then we are either not allowing ourselves to see the self-worth in each other, or we are not allowing ourselves to share with our partner about the self-worth that we do see. Let us strive to be the solution.
If a couple takes the time to know each other deeply, openly, and spiritually, they will begin with a strong foundation on which to build their lives together.
This article was written by John & Elaine Leadem, senior supervisors of the Leadem Counseling & Consulting offices in Toms River, NJ and East Brunswick, NJ. The content of this article is based on their book: “One in the Spirit: Meditation Course for Recovering Couples”
Leadem, J. (2013). What is Love?. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 30, 2016, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/couples/2012/11/what-is-love/