Lately I’ve been thinking about love. As I move toward divorce I still have a strong connection to my partner. I’ve been peering deeply into this. Deeper than hurt and resentment, deeper than contempt which surely kills a relationship. (http://www.gottmanblog.com/four-horsemen/) As the other artifacts fall away something essential remains. What do I mean when I say I love you?
I’m talking about that gritty, tenacious, totally human, messy type of love. The thing that acknowledges change over time, expands and contracts. I’m not talking about sentiment. I’m talking about the way we show up for ourselves and each other that defies logic. That which is unshaken by disappointment, bad behavior, personality conflicts, hurt feelings, pettiness. The thing that grows over time and remains. I can’t help it, can’t stop it.
Love is all you need?
Love is not all you need, and nowhere near all you get. Love shows up along with attachment, neediness, manipulation, fear of abandonment, possession, expectation, implication, exclusion.
Love is the excuse for a million things that are not love.
Love comes packaged with hurt. I’ve been asked if there isn’t a way to love without being vulnerable. Nope. It’s the same channel, straight to your most tender places. Open for love equals open for hurt.
It’s easy to love from a distance. As you get closer you start to notice things. Annoying things. Things that you don’t love, but it’s a package deal, isn’t it? Love me, love my warts. That’s our basic predicament.
As soon as someone starts to matter, conditions show up. Love becomes a way to prove something: my worth, your worth, the validity of my choices, emotional purity. A call for unconditional love is striving for selflessness in a mostly selfish, very flawed human with wants and needs and fears up the wazoo. Expecting unconditional love from a partner is a good way to stay lonely.
True Love implies false love. It might be true lust instead, and we know that lust is notoriously fickle. We mistake lust for love. We then attach specific behaviors to love. “I only do that with someone I love.” “I can’t do that with someone I love.” “If you loved me you would….” “If you loved me you wouldn’t….” We even call our sex partners “lovers.”
A friend was having an affair with a married man. She scared the hell out of him by telling him “I only have sex with people I love, so I guess I love you.” That was the last thing she got to say to him.
How can we tell true from false? How long do you have to wait to find out if you’ve been fooling yourself or someone’s been fooling you?
Real life love.
This love doesn’t expect anything in return. (Sometimes I don’t even tell the person I feel this with.) Do I say this lightly? Sometimes, when it feels light. Love is easy for me, it’s a natural function close to happiness.
So what do I mean when I say I love you? I refer to the entity that lives between us. It connects me to you. A living thing that has arisen out of the very center of me and winds its way to you, seeking your depth. Some part of me is willing to sidle up to you, to get close enough to be hurt. Exposed. Intimate. Perhaps this tender, young thing matures into the gritty, tenacious thing with time and experience.
Perhaps it is true, and unconditional too.