“My fears may be realized. It is something I cannot predict. I know, however, that my best chance at joy lies in giving love without letting the fear that it won’t be returned close me off. My major task in an uncertain world is feeling and giving the fullest measure of love I can manage. I actively cultivate this style of loving and aim to get better at it every day.”
Response: I’m undecided on this… I understand what you’re saying… but without expecting that return, you can allow others to take you for granted…
Mind Crush: Yes, we’ve had this discussion before. We can’t confuse loving with pleasing or consistently elevating someone else’s needs over our own. Seeing our needs as equal and managing the ways in which they may conflict in an active way is an important relationship skill (for all our relationships not just romantic ones). We have to know how to hold our needs as equal to others’ yet respond out of love and not out of fear that our needs may not be met or resentment that they have gone unmet.
What does “loving without the fear that it won’t be returned” really mean? Well, let’s start with what it doesn’t mean. It does not mean that I will do whatever you want; it does not mean that my job is to satisfy you at the expense of self-care. I don’t think it has anything to do with being a doormat. And so, you can only continue to take advantage of me if I allow it (fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice…). I would argue that the most loving thing you can do for someone is never ever to let them take advantage of you or any one else. To know this, you must understand that taking advantage of people hurts them too (even if they don’t care about the ways in which it hurts them).
When someone is not meeting your needs, what is the most loving thing you can do? The “love as sacrifice” paradigm suggests that the most loving thing you can do is swallow your needs and carry on. If it’s merely a desire, swallowing it is fine. If it is a core need, then swallowing it will ultimately reduce your capacity to be loving because it will erode your peace and sense of agency.
It does not mean staying in a relationship that is not healthy or meeting each others’ needs. Leaving might be the most loving thing I can do for both of us (I have actually made this choice). If we rely on the emotional charge (of resentment, anger, or fear) in order to motivate ourselves to not continue in certain situations, it is often very difficult to act in ways that aren’t destructive and harmful to yourself and others. When we need the motivation, we most often find that we have to build the initial emotional charge into something bigger in our heads. Doing so often blinds us as we start to feed the hurt, reinforcing it and reliving it. This is a good way to re-traumatize ourselves and reduce our capacity to heal. And, it is a terrible way to consistently act wisely.
Isn’t it still possible to act out of love even if we feel someone is taking advantage of us? Isn’t it still possible to act out of love, when we’re hurt? Isn’t it possible that when we are acting out of love we can still change or remove ourselves from a hurtful situation? I believe so. And, think there are times when I’ve done so. I want to make that standard practice, my SOP, my Modus Operandi.
More than anything it means that I’m always willing to ask the question “What is the most loving thing I can do right now?” Having asked that question, I want to always have the will to act out of love more than out of fear or anger or, even worse, indifference. It means that I’m able to hear your joy without jealousy, that I can see your pain even when it causes you to be unkind, and I won’t ignore your authentic self in favor of who I wish you to be. It also means never hiding from the truth of the situation when it can be understood. So, regardless of whether my loving act is a simple hug, a grand gesture of romantic bliss, ending a relationship or simply ending an unproductive conversation, I know that I’m not doing it to retaliate or justify my resentment. I’m doing it because I believe it’s ultimately the most compassionate, loving and appropriate thing I can do in that moment.
Sometimes growth feels like pain. Similarly, sometimes a loving act hurts more than a non-loving one. Because it hurts, doesn’t mean it’s not loving, healthy or good.