Over the holiday season I had time to ponder a subject near and dear to my heart — love. More specifically, the question that interests me most — What is love, really?
Several years back, I wrote a blog on romantic love versus real love after discovering the nugget of gold illustrated below.
Romantic Love prevents Real Love
intense stable identity
loss of self includes all
desperation respect for others
driven by need driven by choice
The defining language above helped me question and reframe my own cherished notions about love. For the most part, everyone I showed this list could agree with the first four descriptors of romantic love. Where resistance or uncertainty registered was with passionate and hot. I get it. Haven’t we all had lustful relations with someone in the past (or at least desired to), and the memory of that passion is still attractive, maybe even active?
Although we may still feel a strong desire for that individual; lust, intensity and passion are not the bedrock of real love. Not unlike a substance addiction where need governs behaviour, a lustful passion is a desperate need within that attracts the neediness in the other person. The result, co-dependent relations built on need rather than an interdependent relationship built on choice.
What forms the foundation of love is one’s ability to be physically and emotionally vulnerable, that is, to expose oneself to the possibility of being attacked or hurt. Without complete vulnerability in a relationship, there is limited intimacy. Instead, we expend our energy guarding ourselves against attack.
When we expose ourselves to others, we allow them to see into our depths. The deeper we see inside, the more we know who we truly are — our authentic self. Through this act of coming to know our true self, real love is revealed to us as self-love. It is this personal journey of in-to-me-see or intimacy that, when shared, grows and strengthens the love bonds between people. Hence, the age-old statement — if you don’t love yourself without limitations, you don’t know how to fully love others. One of the surest ways to test your unlimited, unconditional self-love is look in a mirror. Hold your eye contact and say to yourself, “I love you.” Your inner reaction will disclose your truth.
It is very important, especially while you are young, to love something with your whole being — a tree, an animal, your teacher, your parent — for then you will find out for yourself what it is to be without conflict, without fear.