Defining love can be as complicated as catching sun rays between your fingertips. We all crave love, need it, and want it. But how do we know when we have found it? Is there a universal definition?
I’ve come to the conclusion that love is like family. What makes up a family can be so different for every person. For some people it is a mom and a dad, for others it is a close group of friends. For some it may be foster parents, aunts and uncles, one dad, or two moms. What is family to us may not be family to others. But do we have the right to tell someone that their definition of family isn’t right or accurate? This is why it seems so counterproductive to use our own experiences to define someone else’s emotions or to tell them that what they are feeling isn’t love. “Anyone who would call you names doesn’t love you.” Really? Well then let’s throw in parents and caretakers. So many people have experienced verbal, sexual, or physical abuse during their childhood. Did their parents not love them? Yeah….it gets complicated and “Well, that’s different” isn’t going to cut it.
When you are in the middle of a relationship, when you sleep, eat, and dream about the other person, when you would rather give up everything and everyone around you rather than be without them…it is a little difficult to ingest the idea that what you are feeling isn’t love…especially when it duplicates the only blueprint of love you know: your parental relationship.
We accept abuse or become abusers because we were impacted by it. We place our partner’s needs over our children’s needs because that’s what was done to us. We accept less than because our childhood made us feel less than. We are cheated on because our parents put up with a cheater. Or, we end up with a “taker” because we watched our caretakers give everything they had to someone who didn’t deserve it.
I will never tell someone else that they are not in love or that another person doesn’t love them. I have come to understand that love comes in two forms: healthy and unhealthy. But it’s still love. Unhealthy love tells you that you are not enough, that you will never find anyone else who will love you, that you have put in too much time and energy to find anyone else, that because of something you did, you deserve what is being offered.
Healthy love does not demand what it is not willing to do. Healthy love does not keep tabs on you, berate you, and attempt to control you. Healthy love allows you to feel like you are looking at yourself in the mirror. It allows you to be who you are, to be enough, to be worthy, to be deserving of happiness, and to deserve love, despite what you have done in past relationships, who you have loved, and the choices you have made.
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