Such a grand big topic and such a difficult one to define! We all want more of it; in fact we crave it and sometimes spend our whole lives searching for it. Unless of course we feel we already have it. Even the Romantic poet John Keats said “Love doth know no fullness nor no bounds. / True-tender monitors! / I bend unto your laws.”
So what makes up the life experience of someone who feels abundant in love? What do they do to give/receive love? What are some of the qualities of a loving relationship? What are the “laws of love” to which Keats refers?
When we are “in love” we can experience the heady (and bodily) sensations which are evoked in great romantic literature and art, merging and separating and merging again but “love is blind” for we know that we see what we want to see and disregard the rest! Being “in love” or “falling” in love is not talked about as being “high” on love or as our senses being “drunken” on love for nothing. When me and you become as one we experience a state unlike no other. What John Donne referred to as new worlds are experienced, in fact are brought into being and a sense of transcendence of the ordinary life experience is felt, the earth shakes, the planets align, God is in her place and all seems well with the world!
Our earliest experiences of love shape our ability to give and receive love. There is the ideal: a child developing in the safety of a loving home, who is mirrored and responded to and forms what psychologists refer to as secure attachment patterns. However many of us were not given adequate mirroring, were not listened to and were not able to grow and develop a sense of self and of other, which ideally occurs with the appropriate mirroring. Mature “I love you” requires a strong sense of I and of you. In our longing we sometimes merge the two and seek symbiosis: you should think and feel as I do, if that was me I would never say/do that to you. We fail to appreciate our separateness fully. Experiencing it provokes the anxiety of abandonment triggered by the separation that happened when we were vulnerable and small, and so we attempt to merge boundaries: you should want what I want, should know what I want without me telling you!
Therefore, a healthy relationship of love requires that we have a strongly defined sense of self and of other in relationship. It can be difficult for some people to express empathy or to have a genuine concern for the experience of the “other” in relationship. This makes love feel very far away for those involved; their unmet needs from childhood are still unmet! But if we have a well defined “I” as well as an appreciation of what makes “you” then love becomes possible. If we can tolerate our individuality and sense of separateness, together with an appreciation of another’s experience as being valid even though different from our own in relationship, we can begin to negotiate the junctions and intersecting points of “I”, “you” and “we”.
In choosing the path of love we can consciously cultivate certain qualities. Qualities of a loving relationship are easily seen. Control is absent and trust is present. Presence is a definite hallmark. We are present one to another and to our own experience. Looking at it this way it’s not hard to see why love can be a tricky path. We allow each other to be as they need to be, respecting that it is not up to us to takeover the journey of another. Our presence and acceptance in itself is a mark of love. Simply showing up and being there is one of the most loving things we can do. In a spirit of allowing another to walk their own path but in commitment to be present for one’s own lived experience and for another, we confront all of our own humanity. We overstep our reptilian brain response of fight or flee and instead we give another human being the greatest gift of all: the offering of self in connection.
Listening is another quality which is pivotal to love. It is in seeing/hearing ourselves mirrored in another that we settle. It is this fundamental need from our early development that provides the connection for which we long. It is often said that deep listening is rare. Listening with our hearts as parents to children is a wonderful gift. Do we listen to our partners in love and do we respond by attempting at least to meet them where they are? Many people stonewall their partners, pretending to listen but never being prepared to change their behaviours (or giving up the illusion of control). Of course it’s no surprise that the result is often passive aggression; resentment and frustration are expressed underground.
So if love is our destiny and love is our calling, how essential it is to our happiness that we consider the implications of being loving. Love, the call of the spiritual path and the true call of all the great religions. Love, the meaning of which is still partly mystery and partly ethereal, partly from another world partly earthy, partly sensual essentially practical. Love is fundamentally creative and life-generating. Even while it involves a kind of death of aspects of the self, and knocks the very edges off of us, sometimes taking us to the very edge. On this precipice, love paradoxically generates something new.
© Margie Ulbrick
If you would like some support with your relationships or creating greater happiness in your life, please contact me on 0403 814 477 for a free 10-minute consultation to discuss your needs.