As a psychologist specializing in working with couples struggling in their relationships, I often hear individuals tell me that even though they are angry or frustrated with their partner, they still love them and believe they are loved in return.
When I ask them how they actually experience this love within the relationship, they often offer explanations such as, “because we’ve stayed together this long”, or “even though he get’s angry at me he can also be really kind and gentle”, or “because she tells me she loves me” and so on.
My intention here is not to criticize these explanations, but to use them to reflect something that strikes me as quite remarkable.
My clinical and personal experiences suggests that most people seem to have given very little thought or reflection about this thing called love.
It seems odd to me that something most of us would argue is essential and important for us in our relationships, and which we generally consider to be such a powerful source of motivation in our lives, receives so little consideration on our part.
Without question the experience of love is a complex, powerful, and mysterious process. Many knowledgeable and learned individuals have discussed this topic from innumerable angles, and I am not suggesting that we should be scholars in this area.
In fact I would even argue that it does not matter one bit what one “knows” about love at the intellectual level in order for that person to be loving.
But I would argue that there are many things we do in the name of love, which have nothing to do with love at all, and can even be harmful and destructive.
When we equate love with having security and comfort for example, or when we confuse love with being possessiveness and controlling, it becomes very difficult to see what we are doing to others, or what is being done to us.
I will offer some of my reflections on this complex topic of love over this next series of articles.
My primary purpose is not to enter into an intellectual discussion of love but rather to discuss a particular way of looking at this subject which I hope will provide a clear and useful way of looking at our relationships and our life.
I hope it will also help clarify many other terms which are relevant to relationships such as power and control, discipline, responsibility, and honesty and truth, just to name a few.
I would also hope that this viewpoint will offer some direction and guidelines for parents in terms of caring for their children, and ideally, will perhaps help each of us learn healthier, more productive ways of relating to each other, to ourselves, and to our world.
Unless I am mistaken, it looks like were going to need it.