Love. It’s pretty ironic, really. Humans are these complex beings, but need something as simple as a four letter word to survive. Maybe it isn’t ironic. Maybe it’s detrimental. I mean, we’re all looking for it, right?
What is love? Apparently there are several different ways to say the L word. Just ask the Greeks, they have six different ways to describe our four letter friend: Eros; sexual passion, Philia; deep friendship, Ludus; playful love, Agape; love for everyone, Pragma; longstanding love, and Philautia; love of the self.
The message the Greeks want to get across is to nurture the varieties of love and tap into its many sources. They believe that we should let go of our perfectionist ideals when dealing with love, and strive for patience and tolerance with each other, as we are all constantly growing and evolving
The issue is that most of us, myself included, are ready to run or cut someone off the moment we face a bump in the road, or our fantasy of that perfect love is tarnished in some way. See, we have these things called expectations, which can be both a great and damaging thing. Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to know your worth and expect others to treat you with respect. Having high expectations for yourself helps to keep your focus, and is used as a safety measure to keep from accepting anything less than you deserve.
But love isn’t perfect. We’re human, and we all make mistakes.
When those expectations aren’t met, it’s easy to want to give up and throw in the towel. This can be damaging because it means that the tolerance level or patience needed for growth isn’t too high, or is nonexistent. We tend to project our own expectations of what’s missing within us on to other people, and nine times out of ten, they aren’t capable of providing it because it isn’t their jobs to fix what’s “wrong” with us in the first place.
We’re all damaged, it seems. Some of us more than others. We carry the damage with us from childhood, then as grown-ups, we give as good as we get. Ultimately, we all do damage. And then, we set about the business of fixing whatever we can. – Meredith Grey; Grey’s Anatomy
Pain is interesting, and can affect every individual uniquely. Some of us were raised in confusing situations with confusing families, where love was hard to define. No matter how you were raised, that love we received growing up, (or lack thereof), heavily influences the types of relationships we form in our adult lives. Whether you lived in a conventional two parent home or not, it’s going to affect you in some way, shape, or form. Some choose partners who are perpetually unavailable, while others pick those who are the exact opposite of the love they once received. Hurt people have a way of choosing other hurt people to occupy their space, and it can spread like an infectious disease.
Growing up in an abusive household, whether that be emotionally, physically, mentally, verbally, or sexually, can shape your views on how we choose to receive and give love, both to others and ourselves. The sad part is, pain is usually recycled if not realized or treated. Have/had abusive parents? How were they raised? What kind of love did they receive as a child? The hurt we feel, if not healed, can cause us to hurt other people, even if those aren’t our intentions. And we have the tendency of hurting the ones we love most.
We learn how to love from the level of love we feel within ourselves and have experienced, which in turn help create our expectations. Because we are such complex creatures, the way we express love varies from person to person. Couples counselor and author Dr. Chapman wrote The 5 Love Languages, which explains the five universal ways people convey and interpret love.
The 5 Love Languages include:
- Words of Affirmations– verbal compliments that express your love and appreciation.
- Physical Touch– a non-sexual touch that reinforces your presence.
- Receiving Gifts– tangible symbols that reflect your thoughtfulness and effort.
- Quality Time– focused and undivided attention spent together.
- Acts of Service– any act that eases the burden of responsibility.
It’s important to hold yourself accountable for your actions and the people you allow in your space, if you can help it. History has the tendency of repeating itself, and we can become what we hate if we aren’t careful. You’ve got to understand the way you love and utilise your love language to break the cycle of poorly expressed love. My top LL’s are Acts of Service, Quality Time, and Physical Touch. What are yours? Take the quiz here and start a conversation.
We live in a world of Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, all full of sad and played out “relationship goals,” that emphasize on the importance of likes, shares, and retweets. Some just want to accept the minimum of what love has to offer (based on past experiences), while others want that perfect fairy-tale version of what they believe love to be, with constant fireworks, flowers and chicken nuggets. I still don’t understand the internet’s obsession with chicken nuggets and receiving the bare minimum from people, like it’ll earn them extra brownie points, but I digress.
I’m currently in a seven year relationship with my high-school sweetheart, and from what I’ve learned is that love isn’t all mushy gushy, flowers, and (vegan) chicken nuggets. At least, not all of the time.
It gets hard, especially when you’re starting out as a teenager and growing together into your adult years. Pain is inevitable with growth, and is to be expected. I’d be lying if I said we both haven’t questioned our relationship at some point during those seven years. But the love has always been there. And if anything, my relationship has taught me what it means to love and be loved, unconditionally.
Us millennials usually want to be in the constant honeymoon stage, only to eventually be swept over by the disillusionment of reality, resulting in break-ups and divorces. But it’s something you both have to work at, if it’s worth it. The key is learning how to give and not just receive, how to listen to understand your partners needs and feelings, and proper communication.
What I’ve come to realize after much trial and error, is that love is freedom. Love is being comfortable with letting your significant other be themselves without trying to change them. Love is given without conditions, having that grow together type love, knowing that you and your partner aren’t perfect, but they’re your best friend. And maybe that’s what love is all about. In all of its complexities, acceptance is the most important thing.
You just need to decide if you want to deal with someone else’s baggage or not, because let’s face it- we all have a bag or two.
*If you think you are in an abusive relationship, click here to read the checklist.*
Written by Teresa Johnson