What Is Love?
What is love? Firestone and Catlett, in their book Fear of Intimacy, offer an eye-opening definition. They describe love as
“those behaviors that enhance the emotional well-being, sense of self,
and autonomy of both parties”.
Anyone who claims to love another will behave in certain ways—and if they don’t then they are not really in love. When you’re getting the talk but not getting the behaviors to go with it, take it is a definite red flag.
The problem is that people mistake so many things for love. Controlling your partners every movement isn’t about love. Dismissing your partner’s views and opinions isn’t love. Having to win every disagreement isn’t love. Negatively judging rather than appreciating how your partner is different isn’t love. Manipulating your partner by making them feel guilty so they do what you want them to do isn’t love. Refusing to try and see your partner’s point of view isn’t love. Trying to change your partner isn’t love. Not respecting your partner isn’t love.
Love is not about fixing or changing the other person. It’s not about using the other person for your own sense of identity or personal security. It’s not about using the other person to bolster your sense of self esteem or make you feel worthwhile.
True love is about appreciating and respecting the true nature of the other person and supporting his or her personal freedom and growth. It’s about each of you being the best you can be and supporting the other to be the best they can be. Anything else is ego.
Which brings me to the subject of chemistry. Chemistry, has almost nothing to do with love. The chemistry that you feel with someone is more likely than not, the wounded part of yourself connecting to the other wounded part of the other person. It’s why the ‘victim’ ends up with ‘abuser’ or the ‘taker’ ends up with ‘giver’. The ego’s attraction works with those parts of you that feel the need to be loved, needed, or looked after, not the part of you that feels confident, whole and complete.
Real love doesn’t feel like a desperate frenzied, addictive connection, but rather a warm, calm, peaceful connection. There is definitely connection and attraction but it feels quite different than what you have experienced before. The fear of losing them or losing yourself in them is gone.
People enter therapy because of their conflicts over love. What they don’t realize, often, is that they are without the capability of truly loving another because they haven’t yet worked out their own identity issues. They’re looking for someone to “complete” them and make them feel whole. That is not the foundation of real love.
Ideally you will have those things in place before you go off and “fall” for someone.
Your relationships are a reflection of you. When you look in your mirror and see the kinds of relationships you are attracting – what does the mirror tell you about the work you need to be doing for yourself? What are the unmet needs, the unhealed wounds and hurts you may be unaware that you are still carrying?
If you keep attracting unavailable partners – is there a part of you that is unavailable? If you keep attracting partners who aren’t emotionally intimate – is there a part of you that can’t be emotionally intimate? If you keep attracting partners who can’t openly and honestly communicate feelings – is there a part of you that holds back from open honest communication?
In attracting someone who represents your unhealthy, unhealed and wounded parts, you ensure yourself of a relationship that won’t work.
If you recognise yourself and past relationships that started out with amazing chemistry but then ended up badly and want to change this pattern then:
- Accept that whatever relationship you have been in – you have attracted into your life
- Allow yourself to accept that you can allow these past relationships – no matter how turbulent or painful they may have been – can teach you important lessons about yourself in your desire to become the best of who you can be.
- Continue to develop self acceptance and self love. Work on becoming the kind of person you want to attract.
And finally, move out of your comfort zone and date people that may not seem your type on the surface – and give someone a chance to love you.