Let’s talk about love. Not the Hallmark kind of love, but the real, down and dirty, doesn’t-always-feel-good kind of love.
Love is everything and everywhere, but often we can’t see it because we have no idea what love really is.
In my private practice as a life coach, whenever a client is having a relationship issue (partner, spouse, family member, friend), I ask them why they love who they love.
“Because he gives me butterflies.”
“Because she’s so beautiful and smart.”
“Because he fits in with my family so well.”
“Because she’s so fun to hang out with.”
And I tell them that is not love. That is prison.
Because they think they need reasons to love, their ability to love and be loved is contingent upon having tingly sensations and good thoughts. They are not free to love, because they think that they can only be loving if and when the other person is making them feel good.
Their relationship is conditional. Their love is based on reasons.
What we are really saying when we say “I love you because…” is “I will only love you if you stay that way,” or “I only love you when you make me feel good.”
This is conditional love, and it causes a great deal of suffering.
Conditional love is manipulative. It forces the other person to feel, be or act a certain way, or else be un-loved.
Conditional love is a prison. “I love you because you make me happy” means that I am not free to love you when you do not make me happy and you are not free to be who you are unless you make me happy.
If I believe that I only love you because you make me happy, then I am forced to withhold my love when you do not.
Conditional love is love with an expiration date, because all conditions are impermanent.
If we love someone because they give us butterflies, because they’re funny, because they’re beautiful, then when those conditions change, we will punish them (or make them feel punished) for taking away our reason for loving them.
We will stop being loving and withhold ourselves.
What we fail to recognize is that we can love someone we don’t like. That everyone is equally deserving of our love. That those who are least lovable are those who need love the most. That it is possible to have unpleasant thoughts and sensations about someone and love them anyway. That our thoughts and sensations are irrelevant to our ability to love. And that we are only really hurting ourselves by withholding our love.
The opportunity to love is always right in front of us, but our limited perspective of love blocks it from our view.
Love is our natural expression. Love is who we are when we strip away all of our judgements and misconceptions.
We come into this world with undifferentiated love for everything. We don’t start out needing reasons to love. But as we go through life, we start deciding what love is not. We make up our mind about who we can’t love. We begin withholding our love from everyone except a select few.
It’s not that we have decided who to love, it’s that we have decided not to love everyone else.
We withhold our love as a manipulative tool to get others to cater to our desires, to get others to be who we want them to be.
And then we miss out on the opportunity to love others exactly as they are.
We think that withholding our love protects us. We think that being loving toward everyone would be a threat to our survival and would give others permission to walk all over us.
But the truth is that conditional love is the greatest threat.
Our planet is in grave danger precisely because we think that we know who and what is valuable, because we think that we need to like others in order to be loving to them. It is the reason there is violence; it is the reason there is war.
It is not possible to hurt someone and simultaneously be present to love them.
Violence is a symptom of us not being present to our unconditional love for one another.
This is simply because we have wrong ideas about love.
We think we know how love is supposed to look and feel. But loving someone because they meet all of our needs is not love. That is reacting to pleasant sensations.
When we think we need good reason to love, we are not truly free to love.
When we believe that we must withhold our love from those who are “undeserving,” then we are not free at all.
True love doesn’t look or feel like anything. It is not contingent upon conditions.
True love has no prerequisites, it requires no manipulation.
True love is choosing to be loving—even when we don’t feel good, even when we don’t like how others are.
Love is an unconditional way of being.
Love is a place to come from.
For no reason.
Author: Brandilyn Tebo
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Editor: Emily Bartran