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The bitter-sweet taste of love

August 12th, 2013

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How to describe love...?
I recently read an interesting article where 5 writers from different fields (a physicist, a psychotherapist, a philosopher, a writer, and a nun) were asked to describe this emotion.

Each one of them had a different approach to the question, for the Physicist, love is chemistry, because it is a powerful neurological condition that involves the release of many different chemicals in our bodies. For the Psychotherapist, love has many forms but it is basically an emotion that connects us to ourselves and other human beings in positive ways. For the Philosopher, love is a passionate commitment that we nurture and develop. For the Writer, love is our inspiration, what drives all great stories. And for the Nun, Love is more easily experienced than defined.


To me, love remains a big paradox, it is the most beautiful emotion we can feel, yet it can also cost us dearly. Love is totally free, yet it can bind us strongly. When we love, we almost inevitably become attached to the object of our love, and with that attachment comes fear of loss, and fear is the opposite of love!

Just as love can bring positive attitudes in us: compassion, kindness, understanding, generosity, etc. Fear can bring negative ones: worry, insecurity, anger, etc. Love and Fear seem to be opposing forces, yet they can be interchangeable in the presence of attachment.

Some people resist love, they try to shelter themselves from it in order not to get hurt, not to feel pain, avoid grief. It seems like sooner or later love will inevitably bring hard emotions out because of the attachment that comes with it. So, how can we love without feeling attached and scared?

I believe it is virtually impossible to love without attachment, however, the degree of the attachment and its nature are important, for instance when the attachment creates dependency, there is more suffering.
There are many different kinds of love and different intensities of attachment of course, there is love for our parents, our children, our partners, our friends, our family, our country, our pets, etc. But probably the love relationships that will create the most intense attachments are those of romantic relationships (in the first place) and those of family relationships: siblings, parents, children (following close behind).

In any case, there is no doubt that romantic love is the most bitter-sweet love of all. As we start experiencing it when we are teenagers, we go from ecstasy to broken hearts and from incredible happiness to unbearable grief, over and over again, until... hopefully, we find that one partner that we commit to and that reciprocates our love, but even then... even when we think we have found the perfect love, there can be more suffering down the road, as in love, there are no guarantees.

The high degree of attachment and dependency in romantic love, may be due to the idea that we are not "whole" until we find that one person that will "complete" us, that will understand us beyond words, that will share everything with us, including the most intimate part of them. But, is this idea really true?

I feel like the secret to a successful relationship in the romantic arena is to feel whole without the need for another, and this is tricky... but possible. We can't be looking for a partner that will make us happy, or make us whole, instead we need to work on our own capacity to be happy, to be whole (which starts with understanding, loving and nurturing our own selves), and then maybe we can attract someone who is equally capable of self love. This kind of partnership can be more solid as the attachment that develops will be healthier, less intense and less dependant.

Also, with true self love and respect you can ensure that when you fall in love, you will not loose yourself in the process, you won't become someone else for your partner, you won't sacrifice your values for the sake of the relationship, as this will likely bring suffering and separation sooner or later. By knowing yourself and respecting yourself, you are more likely to find someone that will love and accept you just as you are, which is what most of us dream of.

We also need to remember that love can have many qualities to it: it can be blind, one-sided, steadfast, fickle, reciprocated, misguided, unconditional, etc. It is very important to be able to tell if we are in a relationship that is reciprocated in order to avoid further suffering.

But probably the most important element to a healthy love relationship is commitment, without true and conscious commitment there can be no real and lasting relationship, and commitment requires nurturing the relationship every day, with little things.

"Love is a passionate commitment that we nurture and develop, even though it usually arrives in our lives unbidden. Without the commitment, it is mere infatuation. Without the passion, it is mere dedication. Without nurturing, even the strongest love can wither and die." - Julian Baggini

As I get older and look around at all the couples that I know, amongst my friends, my parents and their friends, etc. I realize that there are very few that are lucky enough to have a really, truly fulfilling relationship; there is no such thing as a perfect relationship of course, but there are relationships that are successful, with a similar degree of fulfillment and passionate commitment from both partners.

The majority of the couples, however, as long as they can tolerate one another, they remain together for many different reasons (that can be more or less valid): dedication, fear to be alone, staying close to their children, financial constraints, social norms, religious beliefs, etc.
But those few couples that after many years can still laugh together, look at each other and feel excited, enjoy each other's company, share their intimacy, are indeed very few...

I believe we can all find the relationship that works for us, but it is important to start by understanding and loving ourselves, having enough clarity on who we are and what we want so that we will know when we find the right partner, and last but not least, being capable to passionately commit to that partner by nurturing the relationship every single day.

One thing is for sure, love will bring tears to our eyes, those of joy and those of sorrow, which I guess is part of the wheel of life: sometimes we are up, sometimes we are down, and so it goes...

Have a good week!

Related posts:
The Myth of a Better Half
Relationships are complicated
Finding Happiness and Peace Within



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