Saturday, September 15, 2012

What IS Love, Really?

Courtesy of
Love.  We all talk about it, think about it, sing about it, write about it, dream about it.  It is something that we all believe we have experienced.  I love my mother, I love children, I love my job, I love shoes, I love pizza.  We use the term love to express admiration, care, respect, connection; any emotion that is positive, really.  But do we really know what love is?

I had been pondering this question for awhile because of a recent experience.  It actually goes back months, maybe even years.  For many years I had shut down emotionally because of several losses I'd experienced, and it got to the point where I felt nothing.  Then someone I had known for almost my whole life came back into the picture.  As soon as I would use my best "put your guard up" techniques, he went to work dismantling them.  I was in shock and taken aback because he didn't take what I said at face value and walk away, like many had done before, and like I was secretly hoping he would do so that I could blame him for not wanting to develop a relationship with me (like I had done many times before).  I'm a talker, and sometimes I would just have to be quiet and process what was happening.  This person was not accepting my emotional unavailability.  He was forcing me to be uncomfortable with my comfort zone.

Throughout the years, we went through good times and bad times.  In the good times, I felt very much at home and safe.  In the bad times, I felt angry, taken for granted, and taken advantage of.  If I shared details, you would probably agree that many times those negative feelings were justified.  However, that doesn't really matter.  What matters is that I was actually feeling something.  When I woke up one morning after months of stomach aches that I attributed to anxiety and fear and realized, "I love him", the fear and the anxious stomach aches went away and I felt peace.  It was never easy with him, but I was actually feeling, and for some reason, that gave me great joy.

The last time I saw him, I had pretty much decided that there was no future for us.  I spent a lot of time lashing out at him, telling him that he was incapable of loving me, and eventually the words (that I tried to hold back even as they were tumbling out) "I hate you" came out of my mouth.  I'm not gonna lie, I'd had a couple of drinks and hadn't eaten, but that still doesn't justify those words.  After I realized that my words helped end my marriage many years ago and were now going to end this relationship, I started to cry as if someone died.  I went to the person who I'd just said "I hate you" to, and he held me while I cried uncontrollably.  He just held me and let me cry for what seemed like the longest time.  Then I said to him, "I love you more than anyone I've ever loved".  It was then we both agreed that there is a very thin line between love and hate, and within that line dwell our deepest fears about being abandoned and rejected.

I left that particular exchange wondering how powerful love is; so powerful that it could turn into hate.  Then I wondered about how we use the word love and make it so trivial.  We think we know what love is.  People say that love is never hard, but I knew my experience had been difficult and challenging.  I knew that anyone who could hold me after I had told them "I hate you" was clearly more capable of loving me at that moment than I could ever be.  I came home and thought about what the Bible says about love:

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn't want what it doesn't have.
Love doesn't strut,
Doesn't have a swelled head,
Doesn't force itself on others,
Isn't always "me first,"
Doesn't fly off the handle,
Doesn't keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn't revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
Love never dies.

- 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8 ("The Message" version)

After all these years of not allowing myself to feel, I learned what love really is from being in this very hard, very emotionally challenging relationship.  I wanted what I thought I deserved (because of my "swelled head").  I kept score and very eloquently relayed all the details of his wrongs.  I forced my way of doing things on him, and when he wouldn't accept them, threatened him many times with "losing me".  And God knows I flew off the handle.

So how can I say that I learned what love really is?  Because I did all of the things love is NOT, and he accepted me anyway.

To be continued...