“What is love? Baby don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me, no more.” — Haddaway
As human beings at our core we desire to be loved and accepted for who we are. We are willing to work for it, act for it, lie for it and hell sometimes even die for it. Some of us are satisfied with the mere illusion of love. We justify our feelings, other’s behaviors and the notion that love is a scarce resource and start living the old adage of taking the good with the bad. We live in a state of limbo between what we desire and accepting the idea that what we desire does not exist.
We have watched a lot of movies, both on the big screen and in our personal lives. These movies have taught us polarities of love. It is either perfect, romantic and serendipitous; or excruciatingly painful, abusive, even maybe a boring lifeless dead-end job. This contributes to our confusion of what actual love is and what we should accept as the happy medium. If you are anything like me, you may have gone on for most of your life not knowing how healthy love is supposed to play out between two willing participants. You may feel that you will know it when you see it, you will feel it.
This is a great notion if you believe that when love appears it is going to rescue you. It is difficult to get rescued from a sinking ship on the high seas when your counterpart is on the ship with you and does not have advanced aquatic skills. You guys are in the same boat, as the saying goes. When one incomplete person meets another, the only loving that is happening is the love of the fantasy you both are living in. The fantasy can look good too, sometimes even materializing into shared wealth and ostentatious possessions.
Many times, what we think of as love is just a mirror of our wounds reenacting themselves through an interaction with another. We develop a bond to the experience of trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, rather than addressing the hole itself. The hole could have come from anywhere, but most likely it came from other’s beliefs or actions that either punctured you quickly or wore through you over time and experience. Now you just want the hole filled even if you have to jam a piece of shit in there! Well let me tell you, there are only so many times that you can do this before it becomes unbearable and you must take a shower of truth.
Love is many things. One of love’s attributes is having great interest and pleasure in something. We must ask ourselves if we really have a great interest and pleasure in our interactions with this person, or if it is causing discomfort, confusion, angst, or an excuse to numb our emotions. It could be a mix of both. It could be that you have built a neural pathway through repetition of enforcing self-limiting beliefs, so your “love”, is actually just the same as the interest a heroin addict has in continuing to get high. Maybe none of us know exactly what love is, and it may appear in many different forms. But it wasn’t until I was faced with acknowledging my unhealthy feelings and beliefs that I had toward myself demonstrated in relationship, that I was able to learn more about what love isn’t.
Love is not:
#1. Imbalance — Most of the strife in relationships comes from the game of transactions, whether it be of time, resources, validation, money, sex, attention, awareness, you get the gist. When disproportionate, a general lack of respect toward the other manifests in one form or another. If we were more concerned with managing our energy for our own nourishment first, we would then be able to love and give from the heart, without over giving beyond our reserves expecting it to be reciprocated. When we give to get something in return, and don’t, we create a relationship of exchange by either continuing to give to someone who is incapable of showing up in the way we need to be repaid, or simply does not want to. If you feel an imbalance, check in with your motives and see if you are acting in love or just acting in hopes that someone will love you.
#2. Cyclical — When the same behavior, patterns, or painful lessons keep permeating your relationship and you desperately try to figure them out, justify them or fix them in the name of love, this is not love, but a traumatic bond otherwise known as codependency. This typically happens because the words and actions of one person are not aligned leaving the other person confused, trying to reconcile their cognitive dissonance. When one person is looking for answers in changed behavior from the other rather than looking to make changes within or to change what is in their control, this pattern can be repeated indefinitely. When we start noticing patterns of behavior or recurring “what the hell’s?” we need to ask ourselves why we are committed to something that continues to hurt us.
#3. Synthesis — Being tied at the hip, giving up your interests because your significant other doesn’t understand or is insecure, not keeping any thoughts for yourself, going along with whatever your lover wants, not having your own opinions or identity; this is not love. How can you love someone or how can they love you if you are not able to be yourself, or don’t even commit to being who you are? How can you love someone truly when you must give up who you are so that they will accept you and be with you? Love is acknowledging the beauty in another, not forcing your partner or yourself, to be the same person or have the same thoughts, dreams, or desires in order to be accepted by the other.
#4. Substitution — Love is not a substitute for the gaping holes you have neglected in yourself, it is not as simple as putting Splenda in your coffee instead of sugar. If you attempt to feel better by simply having a relationship, I assure you it is not going to taste very good. It will always be bittersweet. The relationship of love you need to have is first and foremost with yourself. Maybe you are still figuring that relationship out and that is ok, but you must want it above any other.
#5. Destination — When I fall in love…… Love is a way, a continuous practice, mostly involving you. If you haven’t learned to love life, love yourself, your darkness, your quirks, your scars, and ghosts, how can you expect anyone else to ever accept them. That is a salesman stumbling, stuttering and not knowing any facts about a product, but still expecting you to buy it; they are not going to be very successful. Love is not like a vacation you finally get to take after working yourself to the bone; it is a permanent residence in your mind body and spirit. No one is going to want to visit if you don’t clean house.
Learning how to love yourself is tough for certain. It comes through many trials by fire, failures, successes, relationships, maybe through looking into the eyes of your child. It is a commitment that stays with you until the end. You will be challenged by external factors that test your resolve. If you are not willing to do the work to learn it and feel it, you will get worked by those that have no respect for your complacency. In order to master anything you have to know it inside and out.
You may be in a romantic situation now where you find yourself questioning your feelings or the feelings of your significant other. You may have already exchanged the vows of “I love you” many times or may still be tossing around the idea. One thing is for certain. Love is many, many things, but to ever truly find it you must know what it is not.