However most people who speak of the desire to love and be loved are talking about something different. They are talking about an enduring or lasting connection that involves many more feelings including, friendship, passion, attachment, shared vision, devotion, commitment ,and more.
Most important, in order to cultivate, grow and harvest this kind of love and these feelings requires continuous practice of loving acts, which means turning the word, “love” into an action verb.
I used to think it was strange when I would see people (usually men) sitting inside or outside mall shops, patiently waiting for their wives or partners who were inside trying on clothes. Occasionally there would be the “What do you think of this?” question. In my more selfish state, I would think, “What a waste of time.” and head over to the Sears tool department. Now that I have a little more experience in trying to cultivate what I would call “true love,” I can see that these patient partners, who were there to hear (not necessarily answer) the “what do you think,” question had figured out how to turn the word love from a fleeting state of feeling to an action of being. They had put aside their own desires to be with and support the person they loved and did so through their actions.
And while I know I’m going to take a lot of ribbing from my guy friends for this example, it helps me to understand what the active expression of love truly involves. Chocolates, flowers, and a nice dinner on a particular day may express a nice sentiment; however these gestures will be feeble in sustaining a good strong relationship unless followed by a steadiness of actions which convey a loving attitude.
Giving flowers on one day and being distant, unavailable, and more self-involved the next day is akin to praying on Sunday and being critical of others the rest of the week. In fact, to profess love one day and withhold it the next can actually do more harm because it delivers a promise in one hand and withdraws with the other. While a card, candy, and flowers can be nice, it is the daily little things that we do for each other that build the foundation for enduring love.
Falling in love is akin to having what can best be described as having a “spiritual awakening,” which amounts to a new state of consciousness that allows for someone to feel, believe, and do things they were not capable of before. And what is love if it is not the igniting of two spirits? And like a spiritual experience, it can be short-lived if it is not followed by actions that include further exploration, continued curiosity, open-mindedness, trying new behaviors, and abandoning selfishness. In spite of what some might think, sitting patiently and waiting can fall into this category of a loving action. This would be especially true if one gave up their time in order to wait for someone outside a doctor’s office during an anxiously awaited appointment.
Lest I give the wrong impression, let me make it clear that love is not all about the other person. There is a difference between selfishness and self-care, and one of the most loving things we can do for both ourselves and our partner is to also take care of oneself. This is something only an individual can do for themselves; some might say that this is mostly “an inside job.”
In order to have the capacity to be a good partner or join in spirit with someone else, one has to attend to their own spirit and well-being. Self-care is an essential ingredient to a healthy relationship.
Too many relationships fail because one or both hope that by being together a person will be made “whole” or healthy. The fallacy of thinking that your happiness is dependent upon the other person, or that you need the other in order to live has suffocated more potentially good partners and ruined more relationships than we can imagine.
It is also naive to think that just because you have feelings of love for someone that this will solve your problems. If one member of a couple has a problem, whether it be with anxiety, depression, employment, or alcohol, drugs, food, gambling, etc., they need to address it and take responsibility for it if the relationship is to have a chance on a long-term basis.
Having said this, it is also important to acknowledge that another important ingredient in forming a high-quality relationship is supporting each other through life’s trials and tribulations. There is however a difference between supporting a person as they work through a problem and taking on their problem. Getting into a relationship with a loving partner helps us to deal not only with life’s challenges but also share in each other’s successes.
A good partner is a witness and can acknowledge and help celebrate one’s efforts in achieving victories, large and small. It’s always more fun to share happy moments with someone else. A good relationship helps to sustain us and brings joy in good times and comfort in bad times. It is tolerant of each other’s differences. Unfortunately, when the support is lacking, a relationship can become more draining than sustaining. If you want more love in your relationship, be more loving. This is what turns the noun into an action verb, thus creating more love between you.
“Love is not about finding the right person, but creating a right relationship. It’s not about how much love you have in the beginning but how much love you build till the end.”
Editor’s Note: Dario Lussardi is a licensed psychologist-master, providing consultation at the Community Counseling Center in Wilmington.