How many times have you heard people say, “I am a lover, not a fighter”? I have rarely said it, mostly in jest. When you think about your journey in life and how you have treated people, especially the romantic partners in your life, you develop a framework for who you really are within the context of being a lover.
If you walk with empathy, being a lover extends far beyond your relationship with a sexual partner of any sex or gender. In a larger context, being a lover can extend to social justice, neighborhood, community, children, animals, and even healing the world. It includes true love for all beings, beyond the physical limitations of the world, the universe, and things yet unseen.
My mind operates from a Judeo-Christian context with a strong Buddhist bend. I am a religious mash-up of sorts. How I was taught about love was based upon that background and in my formative years, I was told there were two types of love: Agape and Eros. (I was a smart kid, go figure.)
Agape is a Greco-Christian term referring to love, “the highest form of love, charity” and “the love of God for man and of man for God.” It embraces a universal, unconditional love that transcends and persists regardless of circumstance. It goes beyond just the emotions to the extent of seeking the best for others.
Eros refers to “passionate love” or romantic love. I love this part of the definition:
In the classical world, erotic love was generally referred to as a kind of madness or their mania (“madness from the gods”). At times the source of the arrows was said to be the image of the beautiful love object itself. If these arrows were to arrive at the lover’s eyes, they would then travel to and ‘pierce’ or ‘wound’ his or her heart and overwhelm him/her with desire and longing (lovesickness).
I was 8 or 9 years old the first time I found “romantic” love with a girl named Karen, some 50 years ago. She was my first real crush. I can only describe those feelings as very pure and a desire to be surrounded by her beauty, her personality, and her smile. It was a crush; a simple kiss on the cheek meant the world to me at that time.
I started to understand the deepest sense of love, agape, with the birth of my sister. My understanding of love with her to mean I was to protect her and be a source of calm and peace for her. She was my blood. On my watch, nothing was to ever happen to her, and she was to always be happy. I believe that was the first time in my life where the love I exhibited was completely selfless; it was all about her and had nothing to do with me.
My concept of love and how I have chosen to love in relationships is based upon what I was taught as a child in the church, in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
I don’t expect everyone to share my beliefs. There are brothers and sisters out there who are atheists with no belief in a god or higher power, but just a belief in self. The basis of love as we understand it is grounded in the same beliefs. Everything about love can be good, and it is necessary for human existence.
As for me, I have chosen to love everything and everyone. “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great…,” Luke 6:35. I am struggling with showing love to the people that destroy life and upend civil society, the people who harm children, the people who murder, and the people who hate. Unfortunately, any love that extends to those types of people are based on the human condition and love of all humans is not what these particular humans choose to do to other people due to their internal evil or pain.
The lack of love in society is clearly evident in some of the laws that govern human behavior: in regards to what women do with their bodies; in regards to how we view some as lesser in society; how wealth is distributed, and with the numbing gun violence in the United States. Whether you believe in God or not, love plays an important part in your life.
For those of us who believe that erotic love is an important part of their life, the more unselfish you are, the better that part of your life will be.
Be sensitive to a lover’s needs and desires. Be patient with lovers who need more time to be comfortable. Be willing to listen to your lover, their rhythm, her guidance of you in bed and in life. Being a lover is not only what you do in bed.
In the context of an intimate relationship with a woman, my experience has told me that some women see foreplay in thoughtful, everyday events: her partner doing the dishes without being asked, or buying flowers when you didn’t screw up. For others, it’s a free night out with the girls while you stay home with the kids, or dating her throughout the marriage. Love for many women starts with foreplay in the mind. For some of us more empathic men, what human can resist being told how much they are loved or what their good attributes are?
To be a good lover you need to be present.
You need to focus on the object of your affection and for me, in a relationship (and because life is really short) I want to be surrounded by the people and the things that I have fallen in love with. For me, the most important love that I have is for myself, and not in an egocentric narcissistic way, but you have to love yourself before you can truly love another properly. Past myself, my child, and the women in my life matter most. As a lover, to be gifted by a woman with her body is one of the greatest gifts that any man can receive. Men need to internalize that this is a privilege, not a right and if she has chosen you to be naked with, in her body and soul then you need to exercise great care in cherishing that gift and ensuring that you do no harm and that if you are able to, you can leave her spirit better than when you first encountered her. The dumbest question any man can ever ask a woman after an intimate encounter is how was it for you? If she invites you back it must’ve been pretty good or at least good enough for her to want to know more or to see if she can improve your performance.
If you are an empathic lover then you give of yourself without question.
You are passionate. You are deeply caring and you resonate with your partner emotionally, so there is a risk that you can be hurt. Empathic lovers, however, bounce back and then realize that even more important than the hurt it is the fact that they can rebound and grow. We recharge and love again even more passionately than before. That’s the kind of lover I choose to be.
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