Beware of Love
Love and relationships are the most complex experiences we can meet in life.
The following stages of love may help in defining this.
Completely dependent upon the loved person for ones needs, physical, emotional and social. Great anger, jealousy or pain if the loved one relates to anyone else, is lost, or threatens to leave. In an adult this enormous feeling reaction may also be felt at a time of emotional withdrawal of the partner, even if there is no sign of them withdrawing physically. There is a desire for unconditional love and a need to be always with the loved one. In an adult with this level of love, sex may be a part of the relationship, but the main need is a bonded connection. This is sometimes felt as a need to have the loved person want you as much, or as desperately, as you want/need them. Obviously many people never develop beyond this level.
Possibly the greatest fear, that can trigger great anger or an enormous desire to placate or earn love, is the threat or fear of being abandoned.
Initial uncertainty or clumsiness concerning emotional and sexual contact. Desire to explore many relationships. Still finding out what ones boundaries and needs are. Great sexual drive. Partner will probably be loved for dreamers own needs – for example the dreamer wants a family and loves the partner to gain that end; the dreamer loves the partner because in that way they can get away from parental home. Great romantic feelings and spontaneous love which are not easy to maintain in face of difficulties.
Growing sense of recognising needs of partner yet not denying ones own. Ability to be something for the partner’s sake without losing ones own independence or will. Becoming aware of the issues that colour or influence relationship, and meeting them as partners. Independence and closeness together. Caring sexual partners through discovering each others needs and vulnerability. It can lead to needs and directions that are not considered natural. For instance many people desperately want a partner, but those who have developed an adult love can live easily without such need.
At this level of love we offer freedom to those we love, and of course we therefore expect freedom in return. But that can be very painful to those who are still in other ages of love. Very few people grow beyond the baby stage, therefore the pain when a partner dies or leaves.
Okay, so it’s a strange title, Beware of Love, but it’s true. When somebody says they love you they are usually telling a big lie.
What they really mean is, “I will be nice to you and share myself with you as long as you do exactly what I want you to do.”
In detail this means that I will have all those exotic and erotic feelings about you as long as you don’t dare look at another person, and as long as you fulfil all my needs of dependency, fear, and all the other hang-ups I don’t really admit to myself.
That is the baby stage of love.
The word love in the English language is a crazy word. If you look up its meaning it simply says that you love somebody, or care about them. That is really no definition at all. And when most people tell you they love you, what they really mean is, “I will let all my childhood dependency, unfulfilled need for love and attention that I didn’t get from my parents; and all my fears of being abandoned, all my need to possess somebody and have them do what I wish, and of course all my sexual needs, be projected onto you”. That is one hell of a load to put on someone – and to carry.
Most of us have not actually matured to the point of being capable of love. The very roots of love arise out of the incredible survival drives of a baby totally desiring its mother to give utter and complete attention to it. Without that attention, millions of years of survival in harsh environments, tell the baby it will die. So it holds on to that connection with its mother or carer with every jungle trick it knows. These includes tantrums, acting out sickness, sulking, anger, emotional cut off to see if the parent still cares; and if you haven’t outgrown those, then you will use them in your adult relationships.
Quite honestly, few of us have outgrown them, so we are mostly five or six year olds when it comes to the business of love. I remember a man driving many miles to consult me because, as he said, “My wife is going to leave me if I do not change.” He explained that his wife said that he was so jealous that if she talked to another man it would cause a row. So I asked him to remember the first time he felt like that. It took him a while before he said, “I was about five”. I then explained that he had not learnt to grow emotionally since then. I also explained that I, in my mid forties, had married again, and discovered much to my horror that I had regressed to a four years old in relationship to my wife, and I needed to be near her and follow her around. Realising what was happening I started leaning to grow, and went through childhood, teenage and on. the man went on his way with a new intent.
Often we make a satellite character of the person we “love”. In other words we try to make them swing around us in the way that suits our emotional and physical needs. Notice how many people have breakdowns, depression, or even commit suicide when their partner leaves them, goes with another person or dies. Those things point to pretty desperate internal situations – in other words the baby level of feeling response.
What ‘lovers’ are really saying is, “I will love you if – if you don’t go against any of my childhood needs – if you remain my possession – if you don’t do those things that remind me I am a vulnerable baby and open up that incredible pit of feeling.”
Mature love is when we accept that the person we care for is a separate and unique individual with their own needs and directions in life. We do not love them “if”. We love them simply because they are who they are, because we respect and admire them, and we allow them the freedom that hopefully we give ourselves. This is a level of unconditional love. It doesn’t place the conditions on the other person of only being loved or lovable when they remain our satellite. When we do that we make of them a possession, somebody manipulated by our own moods, emotional blackmail, or underhanded tricks. If we are grown up in love and our partner leaves us or goes with someone else, having matured we will have already seen that as a possibility (come on, look around. There are only a few marriages that survive). It will mean difficult changes, but not ‘heartbreak’, not depression or long years of grief. It will also mean that because we love that person we will continue to be interested in their welfare and be glad if they are happy.
To grow up and become a mature lover takes courage. Each time we try to possess the other person, lash out at them through jealousy, curtail their life through our fears and insecurities, we need to stop and say, “This is childhood behaviour. I will not let this anger, possessiveness, jealousy or emotional blackmail be perpetrated on the person I presumably love. I will face this and deal with it as a problem in my character, and will not rationalise and excuse it by saying to my partner that I love them. That is an underhanded excuse. It is not love.”
Love for someone can be a strange thing, wonderful but sometimes painful. I have traced love back into the deeps of dreams and myself, and I found that although love has many faces, your mother or partner for instance, it has in the end only one source and it flows through all if we allow it. So don’t be hard on yourself, but let love flow through until it becomes one great love that is everyone – it is Life itself.
So, how about it? How about growing up?
Also we are always alone. It is that which drives us on to seek others so frantically. If we love, it must be out of this realisation of aloneness and death, of not being, of the Nothing. Then human existence is seen as a poignant togetherness against the nothingness that is actually everything. All importance and rigidness drop away, and there is only a tenderness.
See Learning to Love