People are often surprised when I say that love is not an
emotion. Love is believed by many to be a force of nature. I don’t disagree
(though I call it something else.) I believe that force is instrumental in the
attraction we feel for someone and in everything that we care about. But it does not serve us to simplify the
extreme complexity of human beings in relationships to an intangible energy that
no one can explain or prove.
I find the most useful way to view love is that it is a
verb, an action. You may experience it as a force, but what you do
with it is what counts.
Love has a feeling component to it, for sure. Yet, you can
experience a wide range of emotions towards and about people you love. You can
be angry with them, sad about them, fearful of them, even disgusted by them.
To love is a verb. When you say, “I love
you,” what does that mean exactly? How do you love?
A woman writes to Dear Abby, saying, “I am having an
affair. It’s wrong, I know, but I can’t seem to stop it. I love my husband and
don’t want to hurt him. Should I tell him?” The way she loves her husband
is to deceive him. It’s her actions that matter, not how she feels.
The Doing of Love
How do we love on a more intimate scale? Many years ago, a
spiritual teacher of mine taught that love is an action, a ‘doing‘
that produces specific results of ‘being.’
Giving, respecting, responding, knowing, committing, caring,
being truthful – these are all ways in which we love someone. But we don’t do
it for the sake of self-satisfaction. We do it to produce a result for the
people we love. We want them to feel secure, to know trust, experience
pleasure. We want them to be able to feel vulnerable and safe, to reduce
their fear of loss and experience the wonder of being known.
As the saying goes, love makes the world go round.
What would the world look like with this kind of love fueling it?
Sometimes, giving to others is more comfortable than giving
to ourselves. Yet, when you can respect yourself, respond to your own needs, be
vulnerable, emotionally truthful, and compassionate with your self, you build
an inner strength that will bring other things to you.
Valentine’s Day is nigh. It used to be a sad day for me. I
couldn’t seem to make relationships last past a few months. I spent a lot of
time alone. My family was no comfort because none of us knew how to be truly
intimate. In my early thirties, I decided I wasn’t going to date or even think
about being in a relationship until I knew what a really fulfilling relationship
consisted of. I’d never seen one up close.
It took a long time, but at age 42, I met the man who would
become my life partner. He was nothing like my younger fantasies. He was also
nothing like the uncommunicative men I’d known. Instead of focusing on being
loved, I focused on loving by putting into practice the things I’d learn. Then,
I learned more. I’m still learning. That’s the beauty of it.