I’m not in the habit of being a contrarian Oh, who am I kidding? I felt compelled to directly contradict a RT in my Twitter feed today for getting love exactly backwards. No, love is NOT “giving someone the chance to hurt you, but trusting them not to.” Love is giving someone the chance to open you up, and trusting yourself to get through the hurt if/when it comes. I’m toying with the idea of opening a Love Academy just to right these wrongs, but in the interim, let’s just break this little nugget down.
Love and responsibility
The problem I have with “Love means giving someone the chance to hurt you…” is how it places all the emotional responsibility on the other. What a recipe for disaster! Here you are, looking to love to fill the emptiness inside you or to reassure you of your self worth. …Is there any way that this story can have a happy ending? No. And it’s not because people are jerks. Well, maybe some are, but even the best partners will end up hurting you because they’re people. We all have the capacity to hurt each other, even with the best intentions. But to place the burden of happiness on the other person just begs for trouble. Trust me, I’ve been on both ends of the stick there.
Love and fear
There are some folks who are so fearful of love they never really give themselves over to it. They hold themselves in such vigilance and rigidity, with the expectation of things going south, and guess what? Things go south. And I’m not talking about any hokey Law of Attraction dynamic here. This is cause and effect on the behavioral level: You only half show up for your relationship, you do all kinds of weird things out of fear, you avoid doing all kinds of wonderful things out of fear. You’re probably controlling or co-dependent, maybe you blow hot and cold. –> Is it any surprise that things fall apart?
Also—and maybe this is a sort of Law of Attraction, but it’s attraction of another kind—if you aren’t making an effort to work through your stuff, you probably aren’t attracting (or attracted to) people who are self aware, either. Water seeks its own level, in other words. If both of you are too busy defending the big, gaping hole inside of you instead of being present for yourselves, you’re not connecting.
Let me be clear: the problem with being fearful is not that relationships will inevitably sour. All relationships have their disastrous moments. You only run into serious trouble when you don’t have the resources to find your way back to center again, either with your partner or on your own in the wake of a bad break up.
Love and self-trust
I’m not here to diminish trust in the other. But I will say that trusting your partner is a necessary but insufficient condition for a real, intimate relationship. At the root of it all there needs to be a massive amount of self-knowledge and an equal heaping of self-trust. Can you be present with yourself when fear, anger, and sadness crop up? What are you okay with? What are you not okay with? If your boundaries are crossed, do you have the capacity to speak up in a constructive way? Do you have a bottom line? If that line in the sand is violated, do you have the self-respect, courage, and resources to leave? Notice how these questions have nothing to do with the other person and everything to do with yourself.
Love and flexibility
All those questions are part of an on-going, dynamic process. Your answers will shift over time because things are always going to change within you, in the other person, between you two, and in the environment that holds your relationship. Buckling up and disposing yourself to say wheee! when the roller coaster is on a downward swing prepares you to enjoy the ride. Some people like to brace for the fall by tightening their bodies, but if you open to that sinking feeling in your belly, you also open yourself to laughter.
Opening to love
I’m not in the mood to write a paean to love, and I trust that my readers already know the joys that a loving relationship can bring. So I’ll end this post with my deepest and sincerest wish that you open more fully to the love that is already in your life, that you welcome the risk of new love entering, and that you embrace the self-knowledge and transformation that profound intimacy can bring.