Fall in Love with Love
My therapist, a 60-something male with solid-white hair, is gentle, kind, and somewhat mischievous. He’s a perfect fit for me. He’s a man who understands empathy and connection, and he sort of assumes a pseudo-father role, something I desperately need.
“Do you believe in love?” he asks me. He knows I have adapted the Christian faith of my childhood upbringing into a more humanist value system. I believe in the inherent worth of every individual. The homeless. The hurting. The rich. The poor. The devils and saints. I believe they all have value.
“I’m not sure,” I respond. When discussing my humanist value system I rarely encounter any resistance. Most agree that all human life has value, and they expect a counselor to hold such a value. But when I talk about what I believe about love, clients, peers, teachers alike often respond with skepticism and fear. “Yes,” I clarify, “I do believe in love,” after taking a moment to sort out my feelings.
“Why do you hesitate?”
“It feels so … cliche.”
I reassess. “I’ve been hurt by love, so I’m afraid of it.”
“You’ve been hurt by love or those who claimed to love you?”
It’s easy to look back on my experiences with love and confuse it with the people who hurt me. The mangled family relationships, the messy romances, the ones that got away. It’s also easy to confuse love with that chemical high that rushes our hearts and brains and causes us to make sometimes disastrous impulsive decisions. These heartaches and mistakes can easily make us wary of love itself.
“I’ve been hurt by people who claimed to love me.”
“They didn’t love you. At least, not in the way you needed them to. What do you believe love is?”
“I believe it is a force that exists outside of us. It calls us to greater intimacy; it calls us to see each other, respond with understanding and compassion, and then become moved,” I explain.
“It’s the best word I have to describe what happens to my clients when they really fall in love with their partner again. They move. They change. They become more themselves and more able to direct a flow of energy to their partners. An energy that helps the other person move as well to become more themselves. This energy is what I call love. It both moves us and causes others to move. It’s a game of tennis, a back and forth, a dance that asks us not to just dance but to change the music to better fit our unique partnership.”
“So what does this mean for your life?”
“It means that I realize now how much love has driven me. It’s why I chose this profession. It’s why I left my family after coming out. It’s why I’m in my personal therapy every week. It’s all because I believe in true love, and I’ve been pursuing it my entire life. But it’s so easy to get distracted by life and fear and doubt and pain. I, like so many of my clients, lose sight of love, because life is just too damn hard. But every time I lose sight of it, life becomes more difficult, and the struggle becomes less worth it. So, I guess, it’s time I fell back in love with love again.”
I work with couples who have lost sight of love. They get sidetracked by life and its challenges. They forget to communicate their needs and end up fostering resentments. They struggle to feel heard and understood and grow apart. They forget what it’s like to be in love. They either don’t know how or they forget to foster that “in love” feeling, so it slips away. Then one day they wake up and wonder where it went. In short, they’ve forgotten how to be “in love.”
When I ask them if they believe in love, they often reply the same way I once did - with skepticism. Isn’t that “in love” feeling something that’s supposed to eventually wear off? Isn’t love a commitment more than a feeling? Isn’t is supposed to be like this?
After having done so much of my own soul-searching, I now always answer, “No. That ‘in love’ feeling is the only thing in a relationship that can and must persist.”
These couples have confused their commitment to love each other with their commitment to a contract of marriage. “In love”, they made a commitment to love each other, but as life gets busy and hard and hectic, they commit only to stay with each other. Their commitment to love itself dwindles, and then, the feelings die.
Love is a thing that exists outside of us, it impacts us, it draws us together, it heals us, it sustains us, it inspires us. For thousands of years, our greatest poets, philosophers, scholars, bards, and storytellers have marveled at love’s power. But in modern society, we’ve dismissed it as a chemical reaction, a flight of fancy, something to be left to the young and stupid and irresponsible. Something only falsely depicted in corny chick-flicks to make us buy more movie tickets and boxes of crappy chocolates on Valentine’s Day. It’s something to be felt only once or twice, if we’re lucky, and then mourned forever.
But, every day, I watch people renew their commitment to stay “in love”, and then fall in love again. I know it is possible, because I’ve seen it happen. I’ve watched lovers betrayed, heal, and recommit to their love for each other. I’ve watched people who’ve grown apart rediscover the romance of their youth and grow back together. I’ve seen the blindness of selfishness and fear be transformed through love’s power to compel us to change. I know that love is a powerful thing, and, if we can believe in it again and commit to a process of being “in love”, it will revive us and our relationships.
I am a fierce defender of that “in love” feeling. I’ve fallen back in love with the idea that being “in love” is one of, if not the most, important human experiences possible. And I believe that if we rediscover this truth, we will realize that love never leaves us. We only fall out of it in order to fall back in it again. All we need to do is learn how. The first step is to fall in love with the idea of love, remember it exists, and seek it once again.