Love is what we want it to be, and we all want different things. The love found in each relationship is different. Even within a relationship its normal to differ about what the word love means. While our culture exerts huge pressure on us to conform to a romantic norm, some dictionaries give ten different meanings – nobody holds the truth!
Its said there are four types of love:
- A loving feeling of benevolence with the world and/or God,
- Friendship love,
- Romantic love and lust,
- Long-term relationship.
The Question, What is love? can create conflict in relationships. You may need, for example, frequent closeness through talking; this can become “You don’t talk with me enough so you don’t love me.” Whereas your partner might need the gift of frequent space and silence. This can become “You are constantly in my face so you don’t love me.” It is controlling for partners to impose their definitions of love on one another like this.
At the beginning, relationships are often hyper-energised with hope, sex and love, but we can’t have beginnings forever. Instead of living with regrets about this, the lifelong challenge is to work out how to sustain love in the different periods of our lives.
Instead of focusing on what love is, think about how.
Find your own how:
Can you name three everyday ways in which you like to give love?
Eg. give presents, show I understand your feelings, initiating shared events, looking after you when you are struggling, touching you in ways you like, etc
Try to name small behaviours rather than big general wants. Never name things you don’t want. If your partner participates, listen very carefully for how their definition of love differs from yours. Imagine how this might affect his/her behaviour. Use empathic responses.
Whether your partner participates or not, it is you that has the power to enhance the relationship; so tell some ways you would like to be loved and love without the slightest hint of either anger or begging. Simply stating without demanding or “guilt tripping” offers freedom for the other person to give and recieve love in their own chosen ways.
Now extend your lists to ten or more. Dialogue about it.
With thanks to I and Thou by M Buber,
Love and Will by R May,
The Art of Loving by E Fromm,
Song by Sting: If You Love Somebody, Set Them Free.
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