Friday, October 22, 2010

What Love is Not

He loves me. He loves me not. She loves me. She loves me not.  The notion of love can be so confusing.  Nonetheless, many people throw the word around without regard for its true meaning. In an environment where the word love is used to describe feelings of lust, attachment, and infatuation, you may be wondering how anyone can possibly identify pure love. The easiest way is to first identify what love is not.
Love is unconditional; whereas, attachment comes with many conditions.  When you’re attached, you may require a person to remain accessible at all times, to meet your expectations, to provide you with physical pleasures, to tell you what you need to hear, “fix” their flaws, or to change their ways.  When they oblige, you may feel that they are “showing their love.” However, when that person is no longer meeting the conditions, you feel distraught or claim to be “falling out of love.”  This isn’t really falling out of love, because love exists despite circumstances.  Instead, this is the typical dissatisfaction that stems from unhealthy relationship attachment.
This is not an issue that is limited to romantic relationships, as it often shows up in relations with family, friends, and others that are close to us. Attachment creates a sense of anxiety about what is to come—a fear that something is going wrong or will go wrong. Whereas the purity of love allows peace of mind with what is. Here are a few examples in case you’re not sure how to identify attachment disguised as love:
The feeling that you can’t live without someone
Feelings of jealousy, anxiety, or worry regarding your partner
Inability to let go of a person without falling apart
Depending on a person to make you feel loved
The feeling that a person’s actions or words control your happiness
A need or desire to control
A need to keep your partner around so that you aren’t lonely
Inability to feel peace of mind when your partner doesn’t comply with your wishes
Desire to manipulate with phrases like, “If you loved me you would…”
Don’t be alarmed by the list above if you noticed that you have an attachment to someone.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that you do not love them because it is possible for attachment to exist with someone that you love. The key is to distinguish between the two, thus allowing love, if it exists, to flourish and create a healthy relationship.
Many people grow addicted to the feeling of what is referred to as “new love.”  Most of us are familiar with it.  The thought, smell, or touch of your new lover puts you on cloud 9.  You feel “butterflies” in your tummy, your heart skips a beat, your body temperature seems to rise, or you get goose bumps.  You think about him or her constantly and can’t seem to get close enough.  You want to be near this person every chance you get, to enjoy the natural high that comes from your interaction together.  And before you know it, you’re saying those 3 words: I love you.
But what does any of this have to do with love? Nothing.  The “new love” feeling is nothing more than infatuation.  And I’ll be the first to say that it feels great.  I’ll also say that I believe you can have some level of infatuation with a person that you truly love.  However, it is important to recognize the distinct differences between love and infatuation. There may be hot and heavy sexual attraction with someone that you love, but the relationship isn’t defined by it and pure love won’t subside without it.  There may be a feeling of butterflies in the stomach when seeing the face of your beloved. But the butterflies are a cherry on top of the pie, while real love is the pie itself.
When lust and infatuation are present in the absence of love, it can be disheartening to watch the relationship’s demise.  With time, the frisky new mates find themselves faced with real life.  And oftentimes those real life issues cause the butterflies and hot sex to die down, leaving behind two confused people who have no idea why their “love” fell apart.  Well, what really fell apart is the lust and infatuation.  And there’s very little to salvage if the relationship was built on a weak foundation that had nothing to do with love.
When relationship commitments are built around something other than pure love, it becomes tempting for many people to seek partners outside of the relationship.  After all, unconditional love isn’t a factor in such unions and the conditions that were set are not being met. This can lead to both emotional and physical cheating as partners  choose to experience that “new love” feeling outside of the relationship, thus  satisfying their cravings for lust and infatuation while maintaining an unhealthy attachment to the partner that they’re “falling out of love” with.
It’s nice to remind ourselves that love is more than just an emotion.  The word is also a verb, and the action should coincide with what’s in the heart. Love is not painful, selfish, anxious or demanding.  Instead, it is gentle, patient, boundless, and free. Love does not seek to deceive, belittle, or manipulate.  Instead, love uplifts, cherishes, and respects. Knowing this, it is helpful to ask ourselves before making decisions in matters of the heart, “What would love do?” The answers won’t always be what you want them to be and you won’t always follow love’s guide.  However, having the answer will help you to realize if it is truly love that motivates you at all.

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