The season of love in all its romantic glory is here again and of course memes are abundant; depicting fleeing men, demanding women and a harsh economy, while ads for cakes, chocolates and other Valentine’s Day gifts at discounted prices are equally as ubiquitous. The euphoria is everywhere, oh and a fun fact, just look how many November babies are out there, do the math and you’ll see this season is a rather “productive” one.
Anyway, let us pause for a moment and ask once again this often repeated question; “What is love?” Now, what makes this question so important is the very fact that love is the one thing everyone desires to experience whether or not they acknowledge it (I’m looking at you cynics) and the abundance or lack of it affects our lives in very profound ways and also because, well, not that many people really understand how it works (Disclaimer: I do not claim to understand it fully as well, however, I will share some of my thoughts and little bits of knowledge I’ve found in and from personal experiences, candid confessions, books and the corridors of the Internet).
The origins of our understanding of love are rooted in our early experiences as children while being fed by our mothers’, in the warmth of our fathers’ embrace or in the custody of anyone who cared enough to cater to our every need, our caregivers eventually became our first lovers and consequently formed our first inklings of what love is, a seemingly wonderful and flawless experience. This narrative is further enhanced by the tales of love we’re told in movies, books, music, and art and by the people in our lives.
We are taught that love is expected to give us a constantly happy, emotionally passionate, perfect and effortless state of being, we are subconsciously led to believe in the “beautiful happily ever after”. We are taught to aspire towards this form of love in our relationships and anything contrary to it is probably not “true love”.
At some point our parents and caregivers eventually disappoint us, we get confused at first and then begin to question their love for us, correctly and incorrectly so. Gradually we are brought to accept a much harsher reality, we become disappointed and less expectant or doubtful of love. However, others are born, sadly into a world that immediately batters them with abuse, suffering and pain, leaving them longing for and wondering if they would ever experience love someday or end up discarding the concept altogether from their minds.
As we grow into adolescence and ‘teenhood’ (by the way this is not a real word) we suddenly realize that we can experience love with people other than our family members.
At this stage, once more, our notions about love are crushed over and over again as heartbreaks occur, sometimes as the brokenhearted and at others, the heartbreakers, all as a result of letting our hormones lead the way. By the time we’re adults we are probably expected to have a fairly good grip on how love works right? Wrong! Interestingly many of us still hold on to these misguided notions of love (don’t worry you’re not alone, I did too, it’s largely because they’re deeply rooted and are repeated to us on a regular basis).
To prove this, take for example how we sometimes expect our partners to know what we’re thinking, or we expect that they should react a certain way when something happens. Over time we convince ourselves that we are in fact with the wrong person and have to call it quits while some others who do not acknowledge the authenticity of love, sporadically go in and out of several relationships, further exasperating the situation as this same cycle continues.
So what’s the truth about love? Love is first and foremost real. It is beyond feeling and more about choosing. It is liberating, a safe place to freely be weird and awkward without fear of being shamed or judged. It is a long turbulent river leading into a vast ocean of joy. Love isn’t about a sole pursuit of another, it is in fact about two people in pursuit of one another.
Love isn’t a prize to be won, it is a gift to be given, oh the joy of giving yourself to another, willingly baring your being to them as they gloriously bare theirs to you, and though delicate, it is amongst the highest and most powerful forms of human expression, this is love. Love is perfect, however, the journey of love with another human isn’t, simply because no human is perfect, so be prepared for conflict, confusion, anxiety, blame, misunderstandings, mistakes, lies and more, however you must be even more prepared to work on yourself and with your partner, nurturing and cultivating your bond and yourselves by letting the principles of love remain your guide.
The work to be done is mostly internal. The decision to say sorry, to forgive, desist from saying harsh words when we’re hurt and choose instead to communicate, to see beyond outward behavior and focus more on its cause, to not lie about how we genuinely feel, freely laying out our desires, fears and dreams, continuously sacrificing even when you’re in the right by choosing to be the sheep, displaying a deep sense of compassion for and desiring the other’s success and happiness, the willingness to stick to it for the long haul and the acknowledgement of our imperfect nature and that of others, love makes us accommodating to that fact, but beyond that makes us want to help them become better versions of themselves by caringly showing them the way (aka telling it as it is); all these and more will be the result of the internal work we put into ourselves and our relationships when we allow love to win. As cheesy as this may sound, love transcends time and space (check out the movie “Interstellar” if you haven’t, and yes, I’m a geek).
Regardless of difficulties and trials, love will always win because it will always choose right. Take broken relationships for example, a good friend of mine would always tell me, “If in fact you loved someone you were once with, no matter the fallout or separation, you will still always love them”, I actually consider this to be true.
Now, I’m not attempting to invalidate feelings of hurt, regret or anger, in fact these are also very real and valid responses to heartbreak, but if you can momentarily sweep away or permanently overcome all those negative feelings, if the love was there, you’ll find you still care for and wish the individual all the good you have always wished them.
Above all these, I usually recommend one last thing in order to experience love’s transcendence: Seek guidance from the author of love, God. I mean from who else can you get better direction? No really, who? You’ll find that letting God be your guide along the journey of love with your partner will bring to you both something much deeper, happier, purposeful, conscientious and fulfilling than you would otherwise have had (the extra accountability partner does a world of good).
All of these principles and guides equally would apply regardless of the type of relationship, be it with your boss, friends, colleagues, family members, neighbors, in-laws or even strangers. You’ll come to realize that your life will take on a new level of vitality, color, calm and progress. OK I’m done here. XOXO