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Monday, April 14, 2008

Are You “In Love” or Do You Love?

Love is such a vast part of life, whether because it brings sheer joy such as almost nothing else is capable of doing, or because ultimately it may lead to agonizing suffering (more often than not it is a harbinger of a bit of both). It seems quite absurd to ask if you are “in love”, or if you love, since one appears to automatically imply the other.

Or does it?

Being in Love (Is it all just raging hormones?)

Being in love brings to mind that heart-pounding, mind-jolting passion we feel when the person we say we are in love with enters the room, touches us, or unexpectedly smiles or looks at us. It refers to the moments when we feel most alive, when we can not imagine what life would be like without the other, when we most fear being abandoned by the other, when we are capable of surviving on 2 hours’ of sleep, need little food, and no matter what else occurs in our existence, we gaze benignly on life, because we are in love. The sun shines brilliantly in an impossibly azure-blue sky, even in fog, wind, rain, and storms. We pity ordinary mortals who do not share in our sublime experience, and in the rosy haze of our over-powering state of being in love we fail to see those small or large shortcomings in the beloved that are clearly and utterly obvious to others…because we are in love. Being in love – and being reciprocated in the feeling - is nearly unequalled by any other experience in life.

Loving – Freedom - Strength

Loving, on the other hand rarely goes about doing so by wearing rose-colored spectacles. Loving may have begun by the less conscious state of being in love, but loving implies – you guessed it – consciousness and awareness of the reality of the other. That, in turn, implies being very aware of yourself, your thoughts, feelings, actions, and reactions. And this self awareness implies an individual who strives to take total responsibility for him or herself, who is not with another person because he or she needs the other person, but because the two people, by loving one another, complement one another from a position of individual freedom and strength. Loving is a state of affairs that is as different from being in love as day is to night. Loving, if it really is loving, is so much more awe-inspiring and endlessly magnificent than being in love.

What is the difference?

Imagine the pleasure you feel as a light summer breeze touches your skin. Now imagine your most mind-blowing orgasm. Imagine the satisfaction you feel after you have tidied up your office or your home after having procrastinated about it for days. Now imagine the satisfaction you feel after having published your first bestseller. Imagine the happiness you feel when a puppy cuddles on your lap. Now imagine the indescribable happiness you feel when you hold your newborn in your arms the first time. I leave it up to you to guess which of each of these extremes in each sentence pair is an analogy for being in love and which is an analogy for loving.

What About Sex?

I can sense some readers squirming uncomfortably in their chairs. What about sex? Being in love makes it sound as though sex is a lot more passionate and fun than the kind of sex you might get when you love. Somehow loving seems more laid back, less erotic, less ardent, these readers seem to be saying. Nothing could be further from the truth. The consciousness factor; in other words, being aware not only of oneself but of the other in this very conscious way is what makes a relationship of love (as opposed to a relationship of being in love) so extraordinarily more passionate, more erotic, and more sexually stimulating in the long term, rather than the typical short term crazy passion most of us have experienced when we are in love. Truly knowing the other makes the difference. Truly seeing the other makes the difference. Truly loving the other the way he or she really is rather than the way you want them to be makes the difference. Obviously this implies being loved back in the same way. Having a loving relationship between two people who know themselves as they truly are makes the difference. And truly not needing the other for one’s own well-being, and therefore being with the other out of pure love and complementarity rather than need makes the difference. Being in love implies dependence on the other for sustenance; in loving there is independence and freedom, and yet the desire to be and share with the other.

How is it possible to move from being in love to loving?

So how do we get there? Clearly almost everyone starts on the “being in love” side of the coin. Hardly anyone is conscious in the way described above, at the beginning of a relationship. Getting to the other side of the coin basically requires an understanding that the two kinds of love do exist, that the one implies dependence and the other freedom, and above all, it requires a desire to become aware and conscious of the self and of the other. I know, I know…easier said than done. But you see, once you know that this is what it requires, you can never go back to the old way of thinking without deceiving yourself. So now you have a choice to make, and by making it, you have the power to begin to change all your relationships.

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