The Nature of Love
Updated: Apr 9, 2020
This post comes out of a letter I wrote to a very good (and young and quite mature) friend. He posited the following:
"I know the ones we love are never things we own.
And I know that love is something to be given freely, not to be expected.
Finally, I know that all things change in time, especially human beings.
It is for all these reasons I wonder why long term relationships are to be pursued."
You asked me about the nature of love, specifically why long term relationships are something to be pursued. Wow! Great question.
I humbly offer the following illustration.
I love Marcie for many reasons, very few of which I can actually articulate. Not won't, but can't. I don't have adequate words. That in itself should tell us something about the amazing nature of love - indescribable.
But when I boil it down I come up with this: I love Marcie because she invites me to see the goodness within me. When I see my own goodness I love me more and I attribute (rightly) that to Marcie. So I love her as an extension of me. If she caused me to see only aspects of myself that I could not love, I would not love her because she would be inviting things out of me I could not love about myself.
There is no guarantee that by loving someone else they will see their own goodness. It may simply be we are not the right person to love them. Something about us, to them, doesn't represent that invitation for them to see their own goodness, to love themselves. And if they don't find in us a way to love themselves they are not likely to love us back.
Or it may be a lack of trust. If Marcie makes a suggestion of a corrective nature I can choose to see it as an attack on my character or as an opportunity to learn and grow. If I trust her (which I do) I choose growth over attack and love myself more and love Marcie more because she invited me to greater goodness. If I am hiding or defending, I love myself less and attribute that to Marcie as well. Same two people, same exact words, different outcome based on trust or mistrust.
Trust is often given but deep trust is built. Short term relationships don't allow for deep trust to be built. In the short term the initial granted trust may be broken and the relationship discarded. If it ends there, no deep trust can be built. As a result we don't get to see our full goodness that would emerge from a love held deeply over a long span of time.
After 35 years Marcie and I are still discovering and rediscovering things about ourselves. We see things in each other that only years of loving could have uncovered. Habits, inherited traits, cultural beliefs, persistent likes that show up decades apart. Without the thread of history we would miss out on the deeper aspects of our own goodness only long term relationships can uncover.
We asked for advice from my grandparents when we were just getting married and they simply said, "Spoil each other." Because "each other" presumes a two-way street, there is little chance for either to become selfish. By heaping love on each other we invite continued goodness to our marriage.
I can't describe how much I loved Marcie 35 years ago but that is nothing compared to the words I don't have for it now.