Many believe love is a sensation that magically generates when Mr. or Ms. Right appears.
No wonder so many people are single.
This is how many people approach a relationship.
Consciously or unconsciously, they believe love is a sensation (based on physical and emotional attraction) that magically, spontaneously generates when Mr. or Ms. Right appears.
And just as easily, it can spontaneously degenerate when the magic “just isn’t there” anymore.
You fall in love, and you can fall out of it.
The key word is passivity.
Erich Fromm, in his famous treatise “The Art of Loving,” noted the sad consequence of this misconception: “There is hardly any activity, any enterprise, which is started with such tremendous hopes and expectations, and yet, which fails so regularly, as love.” (That was back in 1956 ― chances are he’d be even more pessimistic today.)
So what is love ― real, lasting love?
This is a question I have been attempting to answer myself, for most of my adult life.
As children we are entertained with stories of Princesses who live a life of intense boredom, and depression until one day their Prince shows up, and they ride off together and live happily ever after.
Problem is…that story sets us up for failure later in life. They lead us to believe that if you feel an intense attraction to someone, then it must be love.
But it isn’t love, it is just, well…intense attraction.
Love takes time.
LOVE IS A CHOICE.
Love is active.
You can create it.
ACTIONS CREATE FEELINGS…
Now that you’re feeling so warmly toward the entire human race, how can you deepen your love for someone?
By behaving in the way God created us to behave.
What do I mean when I say, “Actions affect our feelings most”?
For example, if you want to become more compassionate, thinking compassionate thoughts may be a start, but offering charity and goodwill is the behavior that will ultimately get you there.
Likewise, the best way to feel loving is to be loving ― and that means giving.
While most people believe love leads to giving, the truth (as Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler writes in his famous discourse on loving kindness) is exactly the opposite: Giving leads to love.
What is giving?
When an enthusiastic handyman happily announces to his non- mechanically inclined wife, “Honey, wait till you see what I got you for your birthday ― a triple-decker toolbox!”
That’s not giving.
Neither is a father’s forcing violin lessons on his son because he himself always dreamed of being a virtuoso.
True giving, as Erich Fromm points out, is other-oriented, and requires four elements.
The first is care, demonstrating active concern for the recipient’s life and growth.
The second is responsibility, responding to his or her expressed and unexpressed needs (particularly, in an adult relationship, emotional needs).
The third is respect, “the ability to see a person as he [or she] is, to be aware of his [or her] unique individuality,” and, consequently, wanting that person to “grow and unfold as he [or she] is.”
These three components all depend upon the fourth, knowledge.
You can care for, respond to, and respect another only as deeply as you know him or her.
One of my favorite things to do is to plan out a perfect gift that is centered around a theme.
So I take great care to observe what the person is interested in, what their hobbies are, what sports team they cheer for etc. then, I will go shopping for a gift that will be useful to them in their life.
I am showing them how important to me they are by taking the time to do this.
My close friends know that, although my gifts may not always be expensive, they have had a lot of thought put into them, and therefore, they look forward to receiving gifts from me.
I have learned that what most people crave is the feeling of being KNOWN.
When you show a person that you KNOW them, and then by your actions communicate that you accept and care for them, love is the natural result.
It is impossible to NOT feel love for someone who knows and accepts you for who and what you are… and then loves you for it.
The effect of genuine, other-oriented giving is profound.
It allows you into another person’s world and opens you up to perceiving his or her goodness. At the same time, it means investing part of yourself in the other, enabling you to love this person as you love yourself.
Many years ago, I met a woman whom I found very unpleasant.
So I decided to try out the “giving leads to love” theory.
One day I invited her for coffee. A few days later I offered to help her with a personal problem. On another occasion I read something she’d written and offered feedback and praise.
Today we have a warm relationship.
The more you give, the more you love.
This is why your parents (who’ve given you more than you’ll ever know) undoubtedly love you more than you love them, and you, in turn, will love your own children more than they’ll love you.
Because deep, intimate love emanates from knowledge and giving, it comes not overnight but over time.
The Bible tells us, “Greater love has no man than this: that he lay down his life for a friend” (John 15:13).
I could easily say that I have “an intense feeling of deep affection” for my dog.
However, I certainly would not give up my life to save my dog.
Also, the Bible verse says, “friend.”
Maybe I could show true love to a friend without feeling “a deep romantic or sexual attachment” to them.
The world would say that is not possible.
However, I would say that not only is loving a friend possible, it is a better way of showing love than in a physical way to a romantic partner.
Love is not a feeling.
Love is making a choice to show someone in a tangible way that you will put them above yourself no matter what.
The ultimate example of love is Jesus Christ.
By coming down to Earth as a baby, He made the choice to show love to all humans.
Although many people sinned against him…and continue to do so, he showed unconditional love through his forgiveness of them.
His death on the cross put the spiritual needs of all humans above his own needs.
Christ is love, and he embodied love perfectly on the cross.
Love is so much more than a feeling; it is a choice.
Choosing to love others is the only way to bring joy into a relationship,
and Jesus’ love gives us an example of how to do so.