"Love makes the world go round;" "Love is all there is;" "All you need is love;" "Love actually;" "Love is a many-splendored thing;" "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways;" "Love, love, love;" we are bombarded by love wherever we look, and we long for it as we long for nothing else. But what is this thing we call love--this thing that poets, singers, philosophers, theologians, and comedians can never adequately or completely describe? I've been pondering this question lo these sixty-one years, and I've come up with some ideas based upon observation, discussion, and personal experience.
Here are some of my whimsical, random thoughts on love. Feel free to disagree with any or all, but if you do disagree, please respond below and share your views with me, as my understanding of love is a work in progress. Thanks much.
Basically, love is when you care more for another individual than you care for yourself. If that caring is not the foundation of your relationship, then what you are experiencing is not love; it is something else--infatuation, lust, possessiveness, power, pity, obligation, responsibility--but it is not love. And this holds true for every type of love--family, friend, lover, spouse, neighbor, pets, mankind, and God.
In addition, I believe that respect is paramount in a loving relationship. When you respect someone, you do NOT try to change that person or impose your belief system upon him/her. You don't think you "own" the person; you aren't possessive; you aren't insecure; you don't play games; you don't issue ultimatums. Rather, without guile or expectation, you encourage, understand, accept, promote, support, have patience, and believe in the person you love. And in a genuinely loving relationship, this respect goes both ways.
A HUGE thing to keep in mind is that true love makes your world bigger, never smaller. If someone wants to take you from your family or friends, run! If someone does not want you to try new things or change jobs or encourage your interests, run! If someone asks you to give up something you love, run. Always remember, love makes your world bigger, so stay away from people who want to make your life smaller.
You only get one trip through life, so you want to share the journey with those who will laugh, sing, dance, eat, drink, and be merry with you, as well as with those who will cry with you, hug you when there's nothing else to do because the pain is too great, tell you when you are being an idiot, help you without your asking, and listen for the umpteenth time without complaint because you just have to share something again. If you're lucky, you will have some family, friends, and lovers who will be in both camps. Pets are always in both camps.
Love is about blending lives and staying separate at the same time. I can't think of any clearer way to say this.
Compromise is necessary sometimes, but, overall, I think taking turns is better. There's something a bit flat about compromising. However, when you take turns and share one another's interests, you grow in understanding toward your loved ones, and sometimes you discover that you enjoy something you have never contemplated before.
Don't apologize for your loved ones. You do not want people to apologize for you, so don't apologize for them. Remember, your loved ones are not a reflection of you but are individuals whom you love. There is a BIG distinction.
Love requires trust and honesty. A little lie here, a little lie there, and when you least expect it, the dam holding the trust in your relationship breaks, and you can never get it back, even if you decide to stay together. So, stick with the truth.
Sometimes, you think you love someone, but you discover that you are only in love, and the feeling is fading. This realization often happens when the "in love," exclusive, "magical" world the two of you have created bumps into the inclusive, real, everyday world, and one of you realizes that it is time to break-up. No one likes to break-up because we tend to think of it as a failure. This is the wrong way to think. Instead, each person should recognize that neither person was a bad person (unless the individual actually was bad in some way, but that's a different matter for another blog post); rather, one of you has realized that you are not best for each other for the long haul. That is a good, positive thing to realize, so celebrate the love you experienced, wish each other well, and go forth to love again. Of course, it would be lovely if both people realized the end of a relationship at the same time, but, sadly, that is seldom the situation. So, be kind to one another.
As an instructor of college age young people, I get to see lots of young lovers, and I like to share the following with my students. If someone says, "You are my whole world," run away as fast as you can. Being someone's whole world is a terrible burden to place on someone, and it is smothering. Plus, the person expressing that sentiment seems a bit lacking, don't you agree? Has the person lived in a vacuum his/her whole life? Better to say, "I love you more than anyone in the world" or something similar.
And I cannot stress this enough. If you are lovers of any age and think you want to get married or live together, spend a month without sex, no canoodling or cuddling of any kind. No naps together, no sleeping together. You may kiss hello and good-bye at each meeting, and that's it physically for one month. While you abstain from the physical aspects of your relationship, spend your time talking and doing things together. Take a class. Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Visit the elderly. Babysit. Put yourself in lots of different situations so that you can see if you are compatible in other areas of life. If you are truly compatible, you will NEVER run out of things to talk about.
I can appreciate that you may think my above suggestion is a bit "out there," but I can assure you that there will be times when the physical isn't possible for any number of reasons, so if the physical is the sole foundation of your love, then your love is on a shaky foundation indeed.
This is not to say that the physical isn't important--it is, but it is only a part of the whole of a loving relationship. I can honestly say that while I delighted in making love, kissing, hugging, and cuddling, what I miss most is not the physical, but the shared laughter and the shorthand language of those who love one another. I would give all my teeth, and gladly wear dentures, just to exchange meaningful glances again with my husband. Likewise, while I'd love to hug my "mom" again, I'd much rather hear her call me, "Honey" and have her sit talking with me again at the kitchen table.
So, there you have it--my meandering musings on love. As I stated above, my understanding is a work in progress, and I look forward to understanding more about love in the years ahead.
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