Here are some thoughts & advice about love:
What is love? Is it when you get butterflies in your stomach or when you feel like you would die without the person? Is love a feeling, or is it something more?
We often characterize love as being some sort of intense feeling, because that is what we see on T.V. and movies. Love is always portrayed as this deep feeling or attractive that is so strong you could not imagine being apart from that person. However is this really realistic, is this really healthy? I think the butterflies and the good feelings are part of it, but are they all of it?
So, love is more than just a feeling. It is a million different things. It is showing forgiveness, or being loyal, or the choice to work through a conflict. Something we have to keep in mind though is that these things are only healthy within a healthy relationship. What do healthy and unhealthy relationships look like?
At The Reality Project, we define love as: “being willing to put your own wants aside to do what is best for the other, even if it costs us something.”
Once I heard this story about a couple. He was 19 and she was 18. A few months after they got married, he had an accident at work, and his entire body was burned from head to toe, third degree burns. Unconscious, they rushed him to the ER where he eventually woke up with his wife waiting for him at his bed-side. He was unrecognizable and when he woke up he realized this. He looked at his wife and he said, " I want a divorce. You have your whole life ahead of you and don't want to have to take care of me. Everything is going to be different for me and don't want to drag you down." She was shocked by this, looked at him and said, “When I vowed to you that I would be with you for better or for worse, I meant it. I’m not going anywhere.”
Now, do you think that staying with this man cost her something? Oh yeah. But see for her, loving her husband wasn’t about what she could get from him, but what she could give to him. I have no idea what I would do in that situation, but I know that I want to love someone that much that no circumstance would change that. I want to“being willing to put my own wants aside to do what is best for the other, even if it costs me something.”
Now, don’t get my definition skewed. I had one student ask me, “So if my boyfriend wants to have sex with me, but I don’t want to, I should anyway cause that’s what love is? Putting my own wants aside to do what he wants?” NOOOO!!!! That’s NOT what I’m saying. Love is NOT putting your values aside to do what someone else wants. That’s different. That's is hurtful to who you are. We don't sacrifice our boundaries, values, and we don't sacrifice in away that is going to hurt who we are or who we want to be. It is more about sacrificing the little things. Like you might not like to dance, but you go out dancing with your partner because they love it. Again this is just one definition of love out of a million, but this definition is really stressing that we can't be selfish, we can't only take, if we want a relationships to work.
Both people giving of themselves to do what is BEST for the other is key for a relationship to be healthy. You try to look out for their best interest and they will do the same for you.
This definition of love is also good for us to think about for ourselves. Are we loving ourselves well? Are we doing want is best for us over what we might want in the moment?
Like my health is super important to me, but most of the time I want to eat junk food and ice cream. So I make a lot of sacrifices to eat healthy and do what is best for myself. That is just a funny example, but we should think about this. Are we making decisions that are loving for ourselves and others or are we motivated in some other way?
I have heard it been said there are two main motivators in our would love and fear. I feel like we are making a lot of decisions based off fear. You know FOMO, doing something based on the fear of missing out. We might also make a lot of our sexually decisions motivated by fear. Like I’m afraid this person will leave me if I don’t have sex with they, or I’m afraid of what my friends will think if I do not lose my virginity soon because that isn’t cool. Is this healthy? Making choices based on fear? What if we were to make decisions and be motivated by love. This sounds cheesy, but again it is really choosing what is best for ourselves over what is easy or what we are afraid of in the moment.