So of course, that is a question that probably has been asked since the dawn of time. Is it 1:Corinthians 13? Is it a sonnet by Barrett Browning? Is it just plain ole secure place in attachment theory of Bowlby and Ainsworth? How about the work of Robert Sternberg? Is it all of this? Of course it is-and more.
There are different kinds of love. In addition, yes, I refer to everything from the love of friends, spouses and strangers. It seems to me that love changes constantly. Sometimes it is romantic, sometimes just being there, sometimes life enriching, sometimes life threatening. Yet for me it breaks down to three things--two of them are identical. First and second, love is unconditional between two people. Exactly as you are,
period. It cannot be if you are only different (i.e., thinner, sweeter, more thoughtful, or whatever.) Some say that that is not possible. I am not sure. Yet, I know it must be.
Third, and most important, love is a verb. We need to change it into an active act to be fulfilling. I can love my job, my car or my socks but am not "in" love with them. It is different when it relates to people. Yes, love can be quiet or dormant. Perhaps much love is quiet. Yet for it to be the sound in a silent forest, it needs to be seen, heard and felt.
People have to be willing, at least sometimes, to put aside "Their Stuff" for the other persons "Stuff." At least sometimes, you have to be number one on each other's list. Not all the time mind you, you have to take some time for yourself. But really, too much self-time is... well, selfish.
We are not perfect beings in any way. That is the "human" in us. Sure, we get angry and wounded sometimes, and circle the wagons to protect our delicate ID, as our Psychoanalytic friends would think. Yet we need to strike a balance I challenge any of you constant readers to contradict this... and some have in the past. But mostly, they add things to the list. Like trust, commitment and so forth. But yet, they are all encompassed, in my mind, in the word "unconditional."
To borrow on the word, love is U-shaped. It starts out at the top of the U with romance, flowers and sweet nothings. Then it slides down the arm of reality to the bottom of the U. This is where many find apathy, mundane, or in the worst case, desperation and divorce. In order for a relationship to be stronger, you have to climb back up the steep other side. It is a difficult apex to climb. Yet when you get there, you are in a different place than where you began but just as high. I think it is a lonely climb but one that all relationships must endure.
So as I ponder poetic words and biblical quotes, I think love is not just words or thoughts... it is a state of being. Perhaps that is what we find in the unconditional love of our God. Grace. Being loved even if you have not earned it. Unconditionally. Perhaps that is where we find our faith, rather than on bended knee. It is what we do when we stand up that is just as important. To get to that, we have to forgive. And frankly, we stink at that. Each day many of us pray for that. To be better people, to be more loving, etc. Yet we have to keep praying because we keep screwing up. I I prefer to think of it as critical self-reflection. It is here where we learn to love ourselves.
As you think about your relationship, were you able to climb up the U or did you fall off the bottom of L? For most us us, Love is work.... except for those few couples that have been together since 5th grade, the rest of us have to work. It's when we stop working and coast, is where the problems come it.
Forgive, make them number 1 sometimes and keep reflecting on how to make it better. I am sure Barrett Browning had at least a few rough drafts.