I’ve always had difficulty with the “L” word, using it or hearing it. It seemed to mean such different things to different people, that its use was more likely to create confusion than understanding. But I’ve realized that even if I can never be sure what anyone else intends by it (unless they tell me) I can at least be clear what it means to me, in case anyone ever asks; and so that I’ll know if I’ve found it!
Real love to me means:
When another person’s world is as real to me, and as important/interesting to me, as my own (not more real, or less real; either of which can lead to co-dependence, domination, manipulation and other “entanglements”).
Experiencing real love has had two very liberating outcomes for me: my ego has become less in control of my life; and I’ve become more connected with some of the deeper truths of my existence. The path of real loving in my relationship has felt like a path to really loving LIFE!
One surprising thing I’ve learned is that real love is not a “feeling,” or about being kind/supportive…although that can often happen as a result.
It’s also not about attraction, friendship, or companionship, although any of those on their own, or combined in any way, are lovely. And they can grow from the cultivation of real love…and when they are combined it’s marvellous. But they’re not the only starting point, or the most important part. This is why arranged marriages can work, but great romances can fade if they don’t evolve into real love.
Real love to me means choosing to commit to a process of slow cultivation of learning about each other, and it only thrives in a relationship when it’s mutual. If another’s needs, level of development, or practical circumstances prevent that level of sharing, it’s going to be more fruitful to plant the “seed” of real love in a more fertile place.
Getting to deeply know and connect with another person is challenging, so growing real love takes time and focused effort…with many mistakes and recoveries/forgiveness, and much learning and rowing along the way. It’s exciting work, and the rewards are great. But if sufficient time, or level of commitment is not there on both sides, it may be possible to have a lovely romance, but it won’t be possible to grow real love!
I nurture real love by showing my partner all the ways I know her, whenever I can, whether I “feel the same” as her or not. To know, and feel known, is one of life’s most enriching experiences. Attraction and friendship can fade over time, but this bond only grows stronger, despite diversions and pitfalls.
Real love requires a significant investment of emotional energy, so it’s unlikely that I can experience or share it with more than one person at a time. Not impossible, but unlikely. However, I can love several people in an equally committed but less intense way: my friends and children for example.
Any deception and dishonesty, toward my partner or myself, destroys the possibility of real love.
My capacity for real love starts from having a sufficient acceptance that I am fully worthy of love myself. I need to be open to connecting with the reality of my own essence. Being really loved by someone else helps to make that more possible, but it can never be a substitute for it.
If another person is unable or unwilling to really love me, it’s pointless to take it personally. Any hurt and disappointment I feel about it is because of having unrealistic expectations of them, and usually just replaying my own past pain, likely from childhood.
Humor can be a way of sharing another’s reality and cultivating real love, but may be a cover for a fear of intimacy. Listening to, and empathizing with my partner, and sharing some sense of responsibility for her well-being, is essential.
Like almost everyone, I can feel insecure and jealous, therefore, anyone who really loves me will have some sensitivity about that and learn about my raw spots so they can take that into account in how they communicate with me.
And if I have “loving feelings” for someone that I don’t feel, or can’t grow, real love with, that’s not “bad,” as long as I recognize them for what they are; probably projections of unmet childhood needs. This is exactly what a lot of romantic fantasy is based on; and these magical feelings usually last for between six to twelve months before some kind of deeper reality about the other person starts to creep in. Whether this can evolve into real love depends on a combination of inner levels of awareness and understanding, and outer circumstances as well as the extent to which either can be changed if that’s necessary.
Any kind of love is a jewel to be treasured and enjoyed. But real love is the gold. Harder to dig out—and you need to know what you’re looking for, and how to find it—but as I now know, so very worth the effort.
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