What is love?
Certainly “what is love?” is a nebulous question with probably as many answers as there are people. One definition that caught my attention recently was Victor Hugo’s quote, “To love another person is to see the face of God.”
If we were to believe that this is what love is, wouldn’t we all treat those we love very tenderly—all of the time? And if we don’t do this, why don’t we?
Lots of reasons, but if we have chosen the right partner, the times when we don’t love each other tenderly happen most often because we feel insecure.
And when we feel insecure, we blind ourselves to our love. We get our feelings hurt and then want to hurt back.
And, I ask myself, if we aren’t being tender, are we being loving?
Recently, the marriage of one couple I know in Canada has been in serious trouble. Basically he hasn’t done the personal work that he has needed to do in his life. And though she has, she has been too insecure to draw the line on his behavior, to hold him accountable and insist that he step up to do his own work.
He is the bully and she the bullied. They may have had moments of tenderness in their long marriage, but much of his relating to her has been disrespectful and tense. And yet she believes she loves him.
Is That Love?
From my perspective, this partnership looked more like a pressure cooker that was on simmer, not at all like looking into the face of God.
And because they did not pay attention to the direction they were going, and did not create agreements about how they would treat each other and hold each other accountable, the pressure cooker has finally blown.
They are currently living as adversaries. I wish I could help them but I can’t. This is the life they have chosen. He has been in control, which gave him some fragile sense of security and, in my mind, her security has only been an illusion. Things are falling apart and tenderness has all but been forgotten.
Isn’t love that isn’t tender just masquerading as love? Shouldn’t we be calling this by its proper name: dependence, insecurity, fear of being alone, and perhaps a need to feel powerful?
Most of us have never stopped to ask ourselves “what is love?” We weren’t taught how to love well or be loved well. We weren’t told to hold high expectations of the partners we choose. We haven’t had many good role models and so we’ve ended up settling for less than we could have or treating our partners poorly.
We often don’t even know what is possible. If the couple, above, once had some idea of what real love was, if they had once loved like they were looking into the face of God, they have since numbed themselves in order to tolerate the intolerable. They don’t even know what intolerable is anymore.
Love is NOT never having to say you’re sorry.
What is love? Love is the act of loving. Love is a verb. Something we actively do or don’t do.
We can best love and be loved when we live our lives consciously and make healthy choices—and not let ourselves slip into numbness, ignoring the things we need to look at. In Live Conscious, we learn that we do have to say we are sorry, and we find that we feel quite good about ourselves when we do. We don’t have to suffer the insecurity of needing to be right or having to justify our behaviors. We learn to apologize, redo ourselves quickly, and get back to loving each other.
We can choose to do this personal growth work, gather healthy relating tools, make healthy agreements and boundaries, and lovingly hold the people around us and ourselves accountable. This is what creates security and allows us to relax into really loving each other tenderly—and seeing the face of God.