I once read a quote that said, “Love me and I’ll move mountains for you. Hurt me and I’ll drop those mountains on your head.” I think this basically sums up two aspects of our lives. One, how love, or lack of it, can make us feel about someone (or ourselves) and two, how we have mistaken self-gratification for love. Does love really mean that you will always be happy in a relationship? We are naturally miffed when things don’t go our way or when the other person doesn’t behave the way we expect them to.
I get a lot of emails from those who are hurt in love and I meet many more who are unhappy because their relationships are not working out. Some keep complaining yet stay together, some rare few work it out and many just part ways to restore peace in their lives. “Why is it so hard for men to understand us?” an influential woman speaking on behalf of a group said to me once. “All we want is to love and be loved back.”
I didn’t mean to but I ended up chuckling. It sounded so simple — to love and be loved back. That’s what everyone wants. More or less. But, love is anything but simple. And what does it mean — to love and be loved back? If you ask me, it certainly doesn’t mean that you will be entwined in an eternal embrace with the one you love like two serpents locked in a love tangle (not the best visual, I know). A sunset walk on the beach with two people holding hands may be seen as loving and being loved back. Then again, I don’t think it’s doable every day, unless you are a lifeguard perhaps.
A candlelight dinner, maybe a vacation, a lot of attention, empathy, understanding, forgiveness, security, togetherness, loyalty, commitment and appreciation — this is how most of us see love. Many of us believe that in love you always feel secure, you feel wanted, happy, cozy and complete. That the other person is always there to fill your cup up (as if he’s an eager server at the Tiffany’s waiting to refill empty cups). All of this may be possible for all you know, but not at all times.
Ask those who have been together for decades and they’ll tell you that’s not how they see love. Ask those who have figured out the secret of life, those who are happy, and they’ll tell you that’s not what love is about. It never was. No one has ever found the “always” in love. Because, often how you see love is not how the other person sees it too. Their definition of loving may be different to yours. And, true love is reconciling the variance. It is about finding a common ground. Love is synchronizing your heartbeats, so you may both be comfortable with each other’s dissimilarities. In the absence of this mutual understanding, love remains a mere abstract and a quixotic definition.
Loving is not changing the other person but accepting the change that comes in your life with their entry. Love makes no attempt to make the other person want what you want. That is best left to possessiveness and ego.
To love means to find out what matters to the other person, to appreciate their efforts and to care about what they care about, because this shows understanding, it shows respect. It is love, for loving someone is not possible without understanding them first. To love someone the way you want to love them is not really love. To truly love means to love them the way they want to be loved. If you are loving him or her the way you like to be loved then you may not be loving them at all. You may just be giving love according to your preference and perspective. Know the difference. Learn to love if you want to be loved back.
The foundation of an everlasting relationship rests on a fundamental question two people ask each other: “What matters to you?” Once you find out what matters to the other person and begin to care about it, you are then “loving” him or her. Peace, respect, harmony arises naturally in such relationships.
Saying I love you has no meaning if you don’t know what matters to the one you love. If you have not cared to find that out or if you can’t support them in what they care about, you are mistaking attachment for love. It should not be I love you then. Instead, it should be I want you. I want you because you fulfill certain needs of mine. I need you because you make me feel a certain way. This is certainly not love but a misconception of love. Such relationships where one partner has his or her way just because they can are dangerously unstable, toxic and taxing.
When you love the other person their way, you fill them with happiness, joy and a sense of security. And then something amazing happens. What you have filled them with, flows back from them to you. This is the way of love. If you love truly, you will be loved back. The only condition is to satisfy the condition of love itself. That is, to love is to care about the other person in the way they want. If they like spaghetti and you take them to an Asian restaurant for noodles, it’s not love.
Besides, love is a universal phenomenon and not an individual acquisition. Your account of love is not only linked to the one you love but everyone else too in the creation. When you commit to a life of love, Nature will flood you with love. You’ll be loved back. There is no other way. And then, sometimes love shows up from the most unexpected quarters. I’m reminded of a little joke someone emailed me a while ago. Quoting verbatim:
‘My grandmother told me how she ended up marrying Grandpa. She was in her 20s, and the man she was dating left for war.
“We were in love,” she recalled, “and wrote to each other every week. It was during that time that I discovered how wonderful your grandfather was.”
“Did you marry Grandpa when he came home from the war?” I asked.
“Nah, I didn’t marry the man who wrote the letters. Your grandfather was the mailman”.’
Hopefully, your love won’t show up as twisted. But then again, love is a strange visitor who knocks on the most unexpected door, at the least expected time.
Let me ask again: does love really mean that you will always be happy in a relationship? No. Love means that you share your joys and sorrows, that you grow together and accept the vulnerability that comes with being in love. You will get hurt at times and you will be unhappy sometimes. As long as you care about the other person, you are still in love.
If you are aching to love and be loved back then begin by asking the most important question to the one you love, “What matters to you?” Thereafter, listen to them and pay attention. Align your thoughts, speech and actions accordingly. And then wait to be loved back. You will receive love in return. For, the only thing true love attracts is love. You love someone the way they want to be loved, and you will be loved back the way you dream of. As you continue to love, your own dreams and ambitions will change over time. This new change better positions you to receive grace and love. Be patient though.
Love is but your own reflection in the mirror of your consciousness. You take one step towards it and it takes two towards you. You move away a step and it moves away twice as many. You stay still and it remains still. At any rate, a great deal depends on you.
Love like you’ve lost yourself. It’s only in that loss that you gain anything significant. Besides, loss or gain, either way, you grow as a person — spiritually and emotionally. It’s worth it.