Today I have decided to re-post my Valentine’s Day post from last year (373 Days ’til 40: Defining Love), as I believe this is such a critical concept that so many of us still need to grasp (with a few edits).
I must shamelessly admit that today I am joining the multitudes that will be blogging about love on Valentine’s Day. I personally think love is vastly misunderstood by a majority of people. What IS love? Perhaps it is best to start with what love IS NOT.
Love versus Hormones:
When I was in my university days I was very active in a few religious circles. In one of these circles were three individuals who, for whatever reasons, all seemed to fancy me. One wore suits all the time (even on walks through the forest) and ate pizza with a knife and fork. Another wanted a spouse to stay at home all day as some sort of domestic guru. The third was a bit of a player. ALL THREE individuals came to me on their own and said (in various forms), “I love you and God told me I was going to marry you.” HMMMMM God did not tell me that. In fact, are you sure you heard God talking? Excuse me, I think you confused God and love with HORMONES. These individuals were clearly physically and/ or emotionally attracted to me and were going to try to blame God for their desire for physical intimacy. My response???? Wow, I did not know we lived in a polyandrous society. Either that or…. did God also tell you that you would die young? Am I going to be a widow at least two times in succession???
It is critical that we learn to differentiate love from hormones and are honest with ourselves. Many individuals will follow their hormones. Depending on their beliefs, they may follow their hormones into a short-term relationship, or all the way to the altar. I often worry when I see young people so clearly hormotional about each other. It is all about the emotions of hormones and after the wedding they get a scary dose of reality. After the hormones subside, they have to live with each other (often with little in common).
Love Versus Loneliness
We all know the types. Individuals so desperate for connection that they are willing to be in a relationship with anyone in order to not have to sit by themselves at night. I have seen many people like this. They say, “I love you” on the second date….. and I often wonder if what they really want to say is, “Thank you for saving me from me – I was wasting away by myself at night.” Now, we all do get lonely from time to time and it is a wonderful thing when interpersonal connection cures loneliness. The issues arise when the loneliness is so deep and isolating that the “love” is a fabrication, a lie one tells himself, a lie one believes, in order to have regular company.
Love Versus Resources (i.e.: MONEY)
I have seen many individuals who are “in love” with the security of the relationship they are in. Perhaps they have found a much- older man or woman, or a much- wealthier man or woman to support them. In these cases, the relationship is often less about love and respect, and more about parenting. There often is not an equitable power distribution in these types of “love relationships”, but, rather, one individual (usually the older one or the one with significantly more wealth) will take on a role that is more akin to parenting. Sometimes younger individuals are looking for a parental figure or security – and older individuals can be very flattered when young people find them attractive (even though they may not understand they are attracted to different qualities than they think!)
False Identification/ Labeling of Love
When I was growing up I was often told, “When you find true love, you will know.” Seriously? HOW??? If I have never seen true love, if I have never experienced true love, if I have never been given any signposts to look out for – HOW will I know? I think too many young people hear these words and they are misleading and confusing. How can someone “just know” if they do not have guidance? At times in my own life I would question my relationship, “Is this love? I was told I would know? Do I know?” Some would argue that if you need to question then it is not true love. I disagree, as there are many hormone-crazed individuals labeling their hormones love and claiming to “just know”. I believe there are many people in life who think that they have found love, but have come to this conclusion because they do not really know what to look for.
One of my favorite quotes of all-time regarding love comes from the New Testament. Now, reading this blog, you can tell I am not the “religious type” yet the words are so powerful…..
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:4
I want my life to be led with a love like that. It sums it up well and I have very little to add. This brings me to my final points. What does love look like?
What Love Isn’t:
- Violent (Abuse is NEVER acceptable in a relationship)
- Shaming (Love does NOT make you feel bad about yourself)
- Jealous (True love has trust that goes deeper than insecurities)
- Manipulative (You shouldn’t have to pay a price for love)
What Love Is:
- Supportive (Your partner caring about you)
- Gentle (Your partner treating you with tenderness)
- Respectful (Your partner honoring your timelines and wishes)
- Honest (Your partner telling the truth, even when the truth hurts)
- Safe (You should feel safe and secure with your partner)
Today, 7 days ’til 40 (and Valentine’s Day), I wish that all of you in cyberspace will connect with true love, the kind of love that values you as a person. I wish for you the love that blossoms and grows. A love that allows you and your partner to grow and prosper as you support each other. When you find true love, both you and your partner will become better individuals as a result of your joint union of intimacy and support. I pray that you will recognize the difference between a healthy relationship and a damaging one.
If you are in a relationship that is not love, please get help. Life is too short to endure unnecessary suffering.
Happy Valentine’s Day!