What is Love?
(This blog was originally posted on monicaburtonlmft.com)
Love. What is love and what is it not? Our understanding of what love is can get a little blurry. I got to thinking about what real love looks like when I was recently asked to write an article about love. https://www.floridacurrents.com/
I sit with couples every day who are trying to hold onto, or remember, what brought them together in the first place. In my own life, I remember times when love really stood out for me. My parents, married for over forty years, are an example of how love evolves, how it can look through life’s rich journeys.
Since I was a kid I’ve seen them go through the highs and lows of job loss, stress, moves, my dad’s cancer, my mom’s life-threatening illness, the death of their parents, and that’s before we add my sister’s and my own challenges. My parents’ love has stood the test of a lot of suffering. What is their magic?
A commitment to fighting for love and each other…and laughing, lots of laughing.
My folks laugh a lot together. Jokes about sex…and, well, it doesn’t take much. They are good at not taking themselves seriously. To this day, they hold each other when one is upset, think up fun vacation ideas. They go on dates, and they say, “I love you” to each other every day.
My parents are not perfect, but they have an unspoken and spoken willingness to stick it out and fight for each other. They warrior on through the power of their love and connection.
My dad still makes my mom’s coffee every day. He takes her car to get gas, he buys her cards and makes her popcorn at night. My mom supports my dad through her own small acts of kindness: she listens, supports his career, encourages him every day and, when he was diagnosed with cancer, she became his caregiver.
So naturally, when asked to write about what love looks like I thought of them, I also thought of my children. Love to me is seeing the world through their eyes — laughing, crying, yelling and trying new things with them. It’s like we get to experience life all over again with them.
Love, to me, is a softness in the way we think about each other.
I often feel so honored when clients share with me the small positive thoughts they experience throughout the week between therapy sessions. The compassion they can show when the other breaks down in tears of the conflict between the two. Love to me is seeing couples laugh, cry, hold hands, letting each other vent and giving each other empathy.
Love is so amazingly powerful. It has the ability to take us to our ultimate highs and our devastating lows. When living with love, we thrive. We feel like we can conquer the world. We feel safe. When we are fear losing love or when we have lost it, we feel low. We feel physical pain. Our brain is literally registering a physical pain response.
Dr. Sue Johnson talks about our need for secure love to thrive in this world. We all need connection with other. My favorite quote from her book, Love Sense, is: “secure love is a constant process of tuning in, connecting, missing and misreading cues, disconnecting, repairing and finding deeper connection. It is a dance of meeting and parting and finding each other again. Minute by minute and day by day.”
How powerful this quote is, and how true.
Love is an ebb and flow, coming together and drifting apart with the security of knowing your partner is with you all along the way. I guess throughout all the years and even today, I see my parents’ love even in this definition.
Love is appreciating the imperfect parts of each other.
Love isn’t fireworks and roses, or intense passion 24/7. Nor is it about everything being completely perfect. Love is patience when there are disagreements or when your differences arise. Love is in the small ways we reach out to each other — “Hey, I’m thinking of you…you are on my mind.”
As Valentine’s Day nears, my hope is that we remember what love really is. Celebrate love with your special person every day. My hope is that you sit down with your loved one and express the really special ways you love them, the particular ways you appreciate them and the reason why you are so committed to them.
May you all feel love.