Love is friendship that has caught fire. It is quiet understanding, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving. It is loyalty through good and bad times. It settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weaknesses. – Ann Landers
There are so many different kinds of love. Relationship love, animal love, motherly love, love of a friend, love for a cause, self-love, and so on.
Recently, I have had the opportunity to explore a different kind of relationship. I met a person with whom I had an instant connection, and whom I love dearly in the way I love the important people in my life.
The reason it’s interesting to me, is because he doesn’t love me back.
He likes me, I believe, and likes hanging out with me, but he doesn’t love me, like I love him.
In the past, I have always been the last one to say I love you, the last one to acknowledge I had any feelings, the last one to show emotion (lest I get hurt).
I thought to myself, I will keep myself closed off, and if I do that, if the other person doesn’t like me, or doesn’t want to be with me, then it will be alright. I don’t have to feel hurt. I protect myself by numbing myself, by not allowing myself to feel, not acknowledging how much I love the person.
It is such a small, mean, horrible way to live, I realize now.
I am only going to give love to you, if you love me.
I’m only going to do nice things for you, if you do nice things for me.
I am only going to, if you do it first.
It turns everything into a zero-sum game – where there has to be a give and take.
Everything has to be equalized, otherwise, life isn’t fair. I realized slowly that life isn’t fair in any case, even if everything is equalized in the manner above. So what is the point of trying to equalize everything? It ruins the fun that is giving someone else something because you want to give it to them.
Now with this person, I am in the stage where I am giving him love, adoration, affection, without receiving back.
At first, I wanted to hold back. I thought to myself, “Why should I be the first one to offer love? Why should I give and not receive? It isn’t fair!”
But reading Brene Brown’s books on vulnerability, shame, and joy, I realized I had to let go and be vulnerable for the first time in my life, reveal who I am, how I feel, without needing the other person to reciprocate.
It is such an odd feeling to have this one-sided relationship. It was scary at first – I felt like an idiot. I judged myself. I thought to myself, “I am pathetic – I am loving someone who obviously doesn’t love me.”
But I realize slowly that, love isn’t about reciprocation.
The more I think about it, love is about feeling joy, gratitude and pleasure at being alive and sharing that pleasure with someone else. I feel love for life in general. I feel love for everyone around me. I feel love for the mere fact that I am here on this planet, alive, happy, healthy, and able to say ‘I love you’ to someone else. I am lucky enough to be able to feel something for another human being. I am lucky enough to find another human that I wish to even say I love you to – that I feel this major connection with.
Why not say ‘I love you’ – without feeling shame after?
The first time, I said ‘I love you’ I did feel an immense amount of shame. I withdrew into my shell. I ran into my condo, and hid there for a few days. I felt exposed – like every nerve in my body was out on my skin. I wanted to switch off all the lights, and sit in the dark in my condo until this vulnerable exposed feeling went away. I felt like everyone around me on the streets, at work, stranger and friend alike, could see exactly what I had done, and were laughing at me. It was not a good time for me.
Once, I actually sat down with this feeling of vulnerability, and this feeling of being exposed, I let it go. I felt free. I was unbounded by the constraints of give-and-take. I didn’t need to receive love first in order to give love back. I could give love unhindered. I could give love to anyone and everyone around me (and I do) without feeling like they have to do something for me first. It is such a freeing feeling.
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