What is true love? Can we discern between true love and neediness? Have you ever really explored your own romantic love? And do you use the word “love” too freely?
We have asked these questions about the nature of love for centuries, but love is a slippery thing to catch hold of and describe, and, when we finally have it in our mind’s grasp, it’s possible that we aren’t at all comfortable with the answers.
So, because love is vague, and because we might fear what the answer will mean for our relationships, let’s first talk about what love is not. Then, what remains might be love.
Some things that love is not
We know that romantic love is not selfish. No one will disagree with this, because when we are selfish we care only for our own needs and desires. This cannot be love of another, because there is no other occupying that selfish space.
Actually, when we think of everything that love is not, we can see that they are all deeply rooted in this selfishness. This is handy for us because it simplifies our task.
Selfish relationships lead to power struggles. Each partner wants to satisfy their needs, so they struggle. Soon, one of them is victorious over the other, and then we have a relationship of dominance and submission. This is definitely not love.
In the midst of this selfish drama, we act out all the jealousy and anger that is in us, backed by our weakness and fears.
We want to possess what we need, and so we will defend our possessions. Selfishness, possession, dominance, submission, jealously, and anger — they are everything that love is not.
So true love must be…
If we exclude everything that is not love, what are we left with? Well, if we say that selfishness is the root of all that love isn’t, then we must feel that the root of love is the opposite of selfishness. The core of true love then must be — giving.
And if love is giving, it must mean that love gives equally to the beloved and to the lover. For if there is no selfishness in love, there cannot even be projections of selfishness. We cannot for instance, satisfy our need for self-denigration, by giving to another who will then selfishly take from us.
In a true love relationship, our giving and receiving is not at all needy. It is based on a genuine connection and appreciation of who our beloved, and we, really are.
When we are truly in love, we do not have that feeling that we are a vacuum, sucking this person in to fill the void within us. We feel complete with or without the other. We are attracted because their very being resonates through us. We know somehow that we are similar, and yet, there is this mysterious gulf between us; a space that calls us to explore; a place to build and dream within.
“let there be spaces in your togetherness, and let the winds of the heavens dance between you.”
How to tell if your relationship is true love
In a real love relationship, you connect to the core of your partner. You see through all of the masks and armor they wear as if through water. Somehow, you sense their essence — the beauty that resides at the core of their soul. They may often act contrary to this essence, but because you are connected, you see it regardless, and it attracts you.
This is the beginning of love, because you establish it on a mutual core of goodness that you both share and honor.
Because you are attracted to this inner beauty that you see in your partner, you want to explore it. You want your partner to experience more of it as well, because you know it is their essence, and you know in your heart that it is good.
A few telltale signs of true love are:
- You can articulate your core attraction to your partner without hesitation, and in doing that, you describe your partner’s essential nature.
- When you are together with other people engaged in group conversations, there is never a power struggle between the two of you.
- Both of you freely give and take space. You do not cling to each other.
- You both support the best that is in each of you. You then celebrate each other’s successes, even if it takes your partner in a new direction that could change the life you’ve come to enjoy.
- As years pass, your love becomes quieter, deeper, as your understanding of each other grows roots.
- You enjoy talking with each other. You both share your thoughts and feelings without fear or remorse.
- You are both comfortable with the other having friends of the opposite sex.
- You never hesitate to take what you require for your own wellbeing. And when giving — you do not give yourself up to your partner — you give of yourself to your partner.
Even a true love relationship challenges us, but needy and selfish relationships seriously damage us. Take some time here to examine your own relationships. Are you able to trust your partner and give space in your relationship? This small amount of time to self-examine can change your life.
True love is a decision. Really, it is a decision, and not something that mysteriously happens to us. We decide not to relate to others in a needy, selfish fashion, and we decide never to be the object of someone else’s selfish needs. We decide to try our best to see the core of good in people we meet, and we decide to support only that. We withdraw our support and compliance from any lack of integrity.
In this way, you set yourself up for love. Even if true love is absent from your present relationship, perhaps it can still be found. Every moment is an opportunity to decide on loving truly.
Please share some of your thoughts and feelings in the comments section. What do you think? Are most relationships based on need? Can you change a selfish relationship to one of true love? What have you experienced?
Over to you now.