WHAT IS LOVE?
“When you fall in love, it is a temporary madness. It erupts like an earthquake, and then it subsides. And when it subsides, you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have become so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness; it is not excitement. That is just being in love, which any of us can convince ourselves we are. Love, itself, is what is left over, when being in love has burned away. Doesn’t sound very exciting does it? …but it is.” ~ Louis de Bernières, “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin”
Love; one of the most widely written about topics in the world and yet, surprisingly, the most misunderstood. We can recognize what “Love” is through various mediums; song and verse, fiction and on-screen kisses where the camera pulls out to reveal a glowing purple and orange sunset, a mighty tree’s leaves quiver in the breeze… blah blah… right? What happens after this mystical sunset? We’re never shown that part of the film.
What we see in the movies is what I’ll identify as Romantic Love – a passionate attachment between two people – the dizzy-room-is-spinning kind of feeling and your stomach is filled with butterflies. We have been taught that falling in love with someone is about “following our heart, not our mind” that love by definition is “mystical and beyond reason”. But if it is really love that we feel then we do feel it for a reason. The reason may not be conscious or accessible but it does exist.
We put ourselves through every imaginable uncomfortable situation to meet “The One”; Online dating, double dating, blind dating (oh the horror). Finally, after all that, we do meet “the one”, but over time we have been made to think that “the-glorious-sunset-of-our-lives-together” will magically fade to black and the words “happily ever after” will paste the screen.
The problem is that most movies are about “where love begins”. It’s the LIVING-HAPPILY-EVER-AFTER part that poses the greatest challenge. It’s after “the sunset” where difficulties often arise. What helps us stay in a nurturing relationship is continuing to put as much effort into nourishing it as we did finding it.
Consider this, how often do you say or hear, “I want to be loved for who I really am.”? To be loved for who we are, our core self, without judgment or prejudice? What I’m referring to is unconditional love, which just to be clear, to break a stigma about unconditional love; it is not solely reserved for your parents, your dog, your cat, or your friends. Ultimately unconditional love is the foundation of a happy relationship and it is attainable for absolutely everybody. It is a birth right to be able to have this experience with somebody else.
Unconditional love is not about what one can gain from another person, it isn’t about power, wealth or self-esteem. Unconditional love is about loving someone at their core, their essence; you love them just because they exist. To be loved or to love unconditionally is to value the characteristics in a person that are a manifestation of the person’s core self, their essence. It comprises the actual principles by which they live through their behavior and their actions, and the only expectations of unconditional love in your relationship are to be heard, to be respected and to be treated with human dignity.
When you judge (yourself or them) that means it is not unconditional love, because you are not truly connecting to their essence, but rather your expectations of them. By doing this, it will only result in you feeling disappointed, because you placed those expectations on them based on your wants and needs.
The incredible thing about unconditional love is that the knowledge that we are loved unconditionally creates a psychological space of safety and security.
Psychologist Donald Winnecott observed that children playing in close proximity to their mothers display higher levels of creativity vs. those who are farther away. This circle of creativity, as he puts it, is a space in which children can take risks and try things out, fall and stand up again, fail and succeed over and over because they feel secure and safe in the presence of a person who loves them unconditionally.
Of course we understand that adults are capable of higher levels of abstraction than children, because we do not need to be physically near our loved ones to be in their circle of creativity. Knowing that we are loved unconditionally makes us feel safe and able to fulfill and manifest our potential. It encourages us to pursue those things that are meaningful to us because sometimes all you need is someone to believe in you when it’s too hard to believe in yourself. Love is the nourishment that humans need to fulfill their greatness.
1. In your relationship, do you feel unconditionally loved, safe and supported?
2. Do you in turn give this feeling to your partner? If not, consider what you are trying to gain from your relationship.
3. What expectations do you place unnecessarily on your partner that limits your growth?