Gina, a.k.a. MagicMoon, Half Dome Dancer and my yoga friend, recently posted the following questions on her website, The Unfolding Self …(https://theunfoldingself.wordpress.com/2015/02/12/love-2/):
What is YOUR definition of love, of intimate relationship? How do you define being in relationship? What’s relationship about?
Before I get into that, I’ll create a temporary diversion:
Because I’m going through a divorce and am in somewhat of a Love Stinks phase (not necessarily in a bad or bitter way, just being with it), frankly I was not in the frame of mind to seriously consider Gina’s questions. Nevertheless, given a bit of distance from Valentine’s Day, some thoughts popped into my head today. I shared the gist of them with Gina but did not elaborate. I decided to use my own blog to expound.
My definition of Love is the strong desire to meet the needs of another soul.
Although there are certainly many definitions of Love, and mine is unlikely to resonate with everyone, it works for me on several levels.
Above all, I like it because it encompasses the various types of Love.
Platonic Love, or loving friendship, means wanting to meet another’s needs that have nothing to do with romance or sex. Thus, friendly Love involves the desire to fulfill another’s need for friendship, community, social interaction, and the sharing of personal thoughts, feelings, opinions, and so forth, perhaps even on a very intimate, detailed level, just not sexually. I have a number of female friends and family members with whom I share mutual conveyance of love with no romantic notions (and I have to poke fun at my own statement by adding, thank goodness for the lack of romance with my family members! ha ha, ahem)… We do actually tell each other “I love you” on a regular basis.
For example, I love my friend Gina, and I know this and tell her so because I have the desire to help fulfill her need for Community by spending time with her and our mutual friends in our Tree House circle. 🙂 Also, when she wishes to share personal thoughts and wants feedback from her friends, I like and want to do so, because we have a bond of friendship, and she matters to me as a person. I receive back much positive energy and validation from her, so it’s mutually beneficial. Although it’s not necessary for me to receive all that energy back, I enjoy it and thrive upon it.
People typically think about Love in the context of human significant others; however, Platonic Love can actually encompass love of a pet, a tree or a plant, or really anything at all. For example, we love a dog when we have the desire to meet its nutritional needs by feeding it, its physiological needs by walking it, and its need for fun by throwing a ball around and playing with it. We love a plant when we water and fertilize it. Thus, Platonic Love is very wide ranging and significant and has many applications in our daily life.
One helpful way of looking at Love is considering what it is NOT. Love is not Like, or simply a strong Like. The way I view Like is that it has to do with shared interests and preferences. That’s why one can Like a friend without really loving him or her. Two people may enjoy going out to a movie, getting drinks, or playing a sport or game together, but when it comes right down to it, they need not necessarily strongly desire or need the other person to be there at all. This is especially true in larger social groups. We may honestly feel that we Like each and every person’s company in the context of a given social activity, but the fact is that there are enough members in the group to fulfill our need for community whether everyone in the group participates or not. Again, Love includes the feeling that we strongly desire the company of another soul doing the activity, because we want to meet their specific need for companionship in doing so, not simply be there with whoever shows up.
Romantic Love seems much more complicated, and I believe it can be so for many people, yet intellectually it’s a simple enough concept. Romantic Love includes the desire to fulfill another’s sexual needs. The problem is that Romantic Love is NOT an intellectual exercise, but rather an emotionally charged one.
In the context of Romantic Love, it’s important to distinguish between Love and Lust. Lust is the desire for sex, but it need not necessarily include the desire to pleasure a sexual partner — it may solely involve the desire to achieve pleasure only for oneself. That’s why one sexual partner may Romantically Love another yet be confused and hurt when Love is not returned; the second partner may simply want sex without intimacy, attachment, or commitment or even care for that first partner feels satisfied or fulfilled.
Unrequited Love means that we want to meet another’s romantic/sexual needs, but the object of our affection has no desire to fulfill our needs in that way. This happens a lot. The other soul may only Like us, or may actually, platonically Love us, but not in a romantic way. This usually leads to the other placing you in the “friend zone”, or being dumped or let go entirely, and of course that can be very painful for the Dumpee.
Romantic Love gets especially complicated is when there is a mismatch or imbalance between one person’s feelings and the other person’s feelings. One person may be confused or not fully in touch with his own feeling, such that he may think but is not even sure whether he loves his romantic partner. Or, he may lie and proclaim Romantic Love for a partner when he actually feels Lust or Like. Such imbalances are quite common, and I would go so far as to contend they are so prevalent that they consume the majority of people’s thoughts and energies when they feel as though something is not quite right or fulfilling enough about their significant other relationships. That’s because when two people both feel and believe in a strong sense of each other’s Romantic Love, they enjoy True Love and Trust and all those wonderful things, so much so that they don’t even have to think about it or discuss it. Whereas, so many people seem to have unhappy or unfulfilled relationships, and we tend to hear all about those problems when we talk intimately with our friends and confidantes.
Returning to the difference between Love and Like, this explains why we can romantically Love another soul without actually liking them. We may wish to satisfy their sexual needs yet share no real interest in the the other things they like to do or their cultural, vocational, or social preferences. In other words, we may Love the sex but not Like their personality.
Unconditional Love means the desire to meet another’s needs without expecting anything in return. One may hope for something in return without expecting it, and it’s not invalid to do so, although hope can easily morph into something more.
With respect to my definition of Relationship, to me that means sharing sex & intimacy, and it usually connotes at least the belief that two people are seeing each other exclusively. (Obviously, we all have “relationships” of all types, such as parent-child relationships, etc., but I’m setting those aside for purposes of this post and focusing on “romantic”, significant-other relationships.) However, relationships are such a broad topic that I will revisit that topic in a follow-up post…
It’s very beneficial and useful to consider and meditate about what type of Love we feel towards the various people in our lives whom we consider important. Specifically, we can examine which needs of others we want and are trying to meet and fulfill, which needs of our own they may be fulfilling, and whether or not there are serious imbalances. between our feelings of Love and theirs. Furthermore, we may identify mismatches between what we think their needs are versus what they would say their needs are. Love is a powerful form of energy, and it is so powerful that we need to be aware of why, how, and to whom we are directing such energy and whether or not is is perceived and accepted in the form and intent with which it is given.