What is love?

What is love?Some people will tell you that love is an emotion that stands on it’s own, that it is independent of all others. I am not one of those people.

I do not give any credence to statements like “love is enough” or “sometimes love just isn’t enough”, whichever the case.

Love is not security.

Love is not sex.

Love is not companionship.

I believe there are three pillars upon which love is built. Essentially, I believe that love is a by product of these foundational elements, which are;

Honesty

Trust

Respect

If you look at these three qualities it’s quite easy to see that they are what love, in it’s fullest and purest form is made up of and they all need to be present to enable love to exist in the first place. Unless you have all three of these elements, you don’t have love. You may have what appears to be love, infatuation, lust, affection, amongst others but you’re kidding yourself if you believe you have love.

So with this in mind, let’s look at these three elements.

Let’s start with honesty, because it’s a big one and one with which we all have the most trouble.

Honesty means more than just telling the truth. It also means being sincere with your words and your actions, being fair, true to yourself and your partner, and having integrity. Honesty vastly begins and ends with you.

Unless we can be honest with ourselves and take ownership of our shortcomings, we will have a very difficult time being honest with and accepting honesty from others.

There are many people who claim to be “honest above all else” yet, in my experience, it is usually these very people who when confronted with dishonesty or lies, all do one thing; they get angry and/or defensive. Understandably so. We hate to confront our shortcomings especially when anything less than perfect is “undesirable”, certainly in modern popular culture.
I’m no psychiatrist but I do know that anger and defensiveness are often used to deflect that which we refuse to acknowledge about ourselves and if you refuse to accept your own shortcomings, how is it that you can be so audacious as to call out the shortcomings of your partner, or anyone else for that matter? We are not all guilty of the same behaviours but we do all have shortcomings and unless we can sit down and be truly honest with ourselves first, how we expect honesty to survive in a relationship? For this element to build a foundation for love it must not simply survive, rather it must be cultivated, nurtured.

I am not saying that we should run around the surface of the earth blurting out every subjectively honest thing we think our loved ones should be made aware of or that we try to use honesty to justify unhealthy or unkind behaviour within a relationship romantic or otherwise.

This brings us to trust, the timid, nervous and extremely fragile little animal inside each of us that is often the one who takes the most abuse in life.

Trust is not simply a placing of expectation that we will not be hurt in another person’s metaphorical hands, it is also the placing of one’s hope, confidence and faith in another person with the hope that person does not hurt us. An action that demands we make ourselves vulnerable and this scares us.

It scares us because to a large extent vulnerability has a negative connotation in an age where we are continually told we—both genders but especially men—must be strong; yet strength and vulnerability are not mutually exclusive.
Being vulnerable and placing one’s trust in someone else takes an immeasurable amount of strength and is therefore not weakness at all, especially given how trust in others can take such brutal beatings.

There are very few people, if any, who have not at some point had the trust they placed in someone completely decimated but it is the one thing we need to be able to give that defines the trust you receive in return.

The final foundational element is respect and as with honesty, unless you respect yourself, you will be unable to give respect to another.
Respect–are you also singing Aretha Franklin in your head or is it just me…?–is not just esteeming a person for their position in your life, but respecting them in how you treat their body, their feelings, their thoughts as expressed to you and how you conduct yourself when they are not around.
Respect is taking into consideration how your actions will directly affect that person, especially if this effect is negative. It’s more about recognising someone else’s position in our life as important, valuable and worth honouring. If you do this your treatment of that person will be positive. If you don’t, it’s likely to be quite negative.

So with this in mind, I think it’s easy to see why I don’t believe that love is an emotion that stands on its own merit. If you have neither honesty, trust or respect there can be no love. This is because love in its fullest form is honest, it is trusting, it is respectful.

As three strands twist together to make a rope, so honesty, trust and respect twist to make love.

The twist of the strands in a rope serves not only to keep a rope together, but enables the rope to more evenly distribute tension among the individual strands. Without any twist in the rope, the shortest strand(s) would always be supporting a much higher proportion of the total load.

It is the same for love. If there is uneven distribution between partners, friends, colleagues etc., one person will always be bearing the bulk of the emotional load and if there is one thing I’ve learned in my life, it’s that this uneven yolk will breed resentment and like I have said before resentment is relationship cancer.

More than this however, uneven yoking in a relationship will cause one person to become fatigued, unbalanced and will set the stage for abuse in some form, be it physical, emotional or psychological and this will eventually lead to the demise of the relationship. If it doesn’t, it will perpetuate unhealthy habits within the relationship and that is not good for anyone.

Thank you for reading.

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