Reflections on Love


                   Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies — Aristotle

Those of us fortunate enough to have experienced that euphoric sensation we call ‘love’ might describe it as the joining of two individuals into a single entity …  a couple. Some would consider this attraction, magic. Others will be more elegant, calling it Nature’s pre-eminent gift, and still others prefer the more basic label, animal magnetism.

However defined, when two people find themselves drawn toward each other a highly sensitive process begins. Could this physical attraction be the prelude to something more serious and lasting, and mutually fulfilling … perhaps even an enduring love relationship? Neither of the two is certain about that just yet, nor are they aware the path they contemplate is filled with both enormous promise and an abundance of challenges.

The couple-to-be advance to the next step. It’s a big leap. They decide they’re falling in love. This is where rational thinking evaporates, both having been swept into the vortex of emotional tidal waves. Are the feelings real or wishful thinking? Are they mutual? Hearts become vulnerable.

At this stage, many couples may not yet understand that building a relationship is enormously complicated. The path to unity as a loving couple requires a dizzying array of emotional adjustments and formidable compromises in search of ‘common ground,’ particularly with all the ‘excess baggage’ each will assume they can bring into the relationship.

It took some of us far too many years to realize what that excess baggage – i.e., interests and likes and dislikes and wants and perceived needs and biases and priorities – is all about: ego.

Consider this: two people with different life experiences voice the same words to each other. Guaranteed each will ‘hear’ those words differently. Sometimes the ‘received message’ will not come close to resembling what the other intended to communicate. Why? The history of the sender is different from the history of the receiver.

All too often these differing perceptions can lead to elevated emotions. Our couple would do well to consider how one of them would feel if, during the heat of a disagreement, strong words they might be tempted to direct toward the other were instead directed at them. Combative emotions can be eased by remembering that constructive (positive) words build a loving relationship, while destructive (negative) words damage that process. One antidote to neutralizing damaging words is, quite simply, silence. To be blunt: keeping your mouth shut.

Let’s bring into the discussion another word, this one capable of performing miracles: respect. Put that in capital letters. RESPECT. It’s an antidote to disagreements even stronger than the awesome power of silence. Consider ‘respect’ as a collective term incorporating trust, honesty, caring, loyalty, patience, and a host of other virtues, all essential components in the ‘glue’ that builds and binds a lasting relationship.

Author and teacher, Bryant H. McGill offers this compelling thought: ‘One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.’

Some of us also took a while to realize all those differences we reacted to while building a relationship were insignificant compared with the priceless value of the relationship we were in the process of creating. What helps make that happen? Respecting the other’s right to be right as well as respecting their right to be wrong.

Over time, a loving couple builds an accumulation of shared experiences that supersedes the individual lives each had previously. It is this shared history that creates the foundation for a thriving relationship, made even stronger when there is a willingness to respect the separate interests of the other.

Example: one partner might be passionate about an indoor hobby while the other might be deeply committed to some outdoor pursuit. Both interests can blossom under the same roof. Having respect for the other partner means genuinely honouring different interests, all the while cherishing and building upon that body of shared values, interests, and experiences. Of course, it takes work.

Relationships nurtured with loving care by both partners will almost certainly thrive. A personal vignette: My father quite literally ‘courted’ our mother throughout their lives together, with loving words and thoughtful deeds, that were reciprocated. The love they shared has become a cherished family legend.

Finally, consider this: what defines our worth as individuals is determined not by our physical possessions but by how we treat ourselves and others, especially by how we treat our life partners and our offspring. To get there we must first learn to respect and love ourselves … and then we will be ready to love and respect others in a manner they deserve.

The only thing we never get enough of is love; and the only thing we never give enough of is love  — Henry Miller

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