“I’ll love you if….” “I’ll forgive you if…” I hope I’ve never said either of those things to anyone. Not in a serious way I mean. My friend and I say “I’ll love you if you do thusandsuch… for me,” all the time. We’re not serious. I hope I’ve never said it to a person I love. That is neither love, nor forgiveness. There shouldn’t be conditions on either of those statement. True love, true forgiveness stops right there. “I love you.” “I forgive you.” That’s the beauty of them! They’re all you need to say if it’s real. I’ve been thinking a lot about love lately. I have been wondering if I’ve ever experienced being “in love.” I know you can have love in your heart for someone without being in love with them. I believe I loved Andrew, but was I ever in love with him? Or did I just think I was because we had been together for so long and since we were SO young. The plan was to stay together for the rest of our lives. We HAD to get married because that was the plan and it HAD to be perfect. Why? Why did it HAVE to be that way? I have no idea now. Well, yes I do. I couldn’t stand the thought of ending up alone, so I settled for what was there rather than what I really deserved. He wasn’t always all bad, he was charming and kind and “loving” when we met. It was after we’d been together a while, that things started going down hill.
So the question is, what is the difference between loving someone, having love in your heart for them and being IN love. Does it come from a emotional stand point or a physical stand point or a combination of both. Like… I have several guy friends that I love. Definitely would drop everything to make sure they were happy. I’d sure never marry them. The thought of even holding their hand…just…ugh, no. (Sorry!) So if I took those same friends and added a level of attractedness to that love, would that constitute being in love? Would not being repulsed by the thought of possibly having more than casual physical contact constitute being in love? I don’t think that’s the right track either. Nature is very invested in us being attracted to someone in order to perpetuate the species, but it doesn’t particularly care if we stay together. The staying together part is a conscious decision on our parts. Is that it? Being willing to make that decision to stay together. That seems logical to me. But we always seem to tell people we’re in love with them before we make that decision. Where is the balance? “You’ll know when you’re in love.” *Insert googly eyes here.* Hate that statement. I really don’t think it’s that easy.
I also don’t think it has anything to do with conditions. I love my friends unconditionally. They don’t have to do anything special for me to love them. Doesn’t mean I’m in love with them. Obviously I love my daughter unconditionally. (Although I wish she’d quit throwing tantrums that I don’t know how to cope with.) It was, however, when I realized I was putting conditions on Andrew, that I realized I didn’t love him anymore. I needed him to change. I needed him to be better, be more than he was. I needed him to want to be a provider and get his act together. I needed him to want to be the kind of dad that I see at church. That was a big thing. I realized he’d never compare to them. He’d never run around with Aubree at church. He’d never be active in her life in that way, and that was a defining moment when I realized he wasn’t enough anymore. So to sum that paragraph up, loving someone unconditionally doesn’t necessarily mean you are in love, but when there start to be conditions on love, then you definitely aren’t in love with them. (Well that’s just about as clear as mud…)
So… being in love. In love… IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIN LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVE. We all know where it starts for a lot of us. Infatuation. Which we then feel compelled to turn into saying “I love you.” I think there has to be a more practical place for it to start. It’s wanting someone to be happy, caring about their happiness as much as you care about your own. Wanting what’s best for them. Being willing to help them out, them being willing to help you when you need it. It’s definitely a reciprocal thing. (Stating that will probably make this paragraph easier! Ding, ding, ding!) Letting them inside your emotional walls. Not having conditions. Not being repulsed by them in physical/emotional situations (yes I know that’s a weird me thing). Realizing that you’re going to hurt each other, deeply even, and being willing to work through it. Making a commitment to be an active part in each others lives. All these things could be your best friend, too, though. Although, ideally, our lover SHOULD (oh hate that word!) be our best friend.
Part of being in love, too, is realizing that you deserve to expect what you’re giving in return. I know I said earlier that it was reciprocal. Pouring your whole self into a relationship where you’re getting nothing in return isn’t being in love. I’m not sure what it is, but it’s not that lifetime love that can sustain you for the rest of your life.
That’s it. In love is that love that you know can sustain you. We’re pack animals. We’re not designed to be alone. We need love to survive. In love is not that love that burns so hot that you can’t stand it. Those fires die quickly. In love is a warm, slow, gradual fire. It doesn’t just burn on the surface. It burns underneath too, that’s how it lasts so long. You can put that fire on the surface out, quickly and in a lot of ways, it’s that fire under the brush that has to be there to keep restarting it. It’s hot, but not too hot that you can’t handle, or maintain it. In love is always maintainable. Manipulable, but not manipulative. In love is giving and receiving, always. It takes time to develop.
And definitely no “I’ll love you/forgive you if…”