What does love look like? Movies show us courtships and bits of relationships, but usually end at happily ever after. So where do we get a good picture of love?
We all know what it feels like to feel love. We are also keenly aware of what is feels like when we don’t feel it. So if we know what it feels like, can we describe what it looks like? This is such a difficult question, and it’s so hard for many couples to really describe what love is. So let’s give it a go.
What Does Love Look Like? Well, It’s Not Giving with Strings Attached…
As I think about this, I wonder if it might be easier to describe what it is NOT. I was talking to a client recently and she was telling me how she loves her man very much. When he asks for something she goes out of her way to give it to him. For the client, this is an action of love.
Another client was telling me about a vacation where her husband was trying to make his two daughters happy by buying them everything they wanted. And they were still not happy.
Doing things for your mate with the expectation that they will be happy is not love. It may feel loving to be a giver and do things for another, but if you expect that your mate will feel better or be grateful then you are not giving something out of love, you are giving them something because you expect something in return.
What Does Look Like? Giving and Giving, While Dissatisfied with the Result, Isn’t Sustainable Love
How often are you disappointed? I imagine a lot. In the two examples I gave, in the first where the client does everything for her boyfriend, he is still unhappy. She is left feeling drained and he is anything but grateful. This does not work. Even though she feels loving towards her boyfriend every time she gives something to him, his happiness lasts only for the moment of receiving whatever she is giving. It never finishes or completes. It just continues, this pattern of him wanting and her delivering. There is no long-lasting happiness for this couple. So, I ask you, is this love?
And consider the second example, where the father buys his daughters everything to make them happy. I know he is doing this because he loves his daughters and wants to see them smile. But that smile lasts only for the minutes while the gift is received. The joy which the father hopes will extend does not. He becomes bitter and angry at his daughters. They become withdrawn and sullen towards him.
Giving with Expectation Isn’t Love
Again, everyone begins the action from a loving place. But these actions are not loving in the long run, because they are attached to some outcome, and that outcome never occurs. We are driven to do things for the person we love. This is only natural and very human.
Healthy interaction between two people means we are aware that we want something in exchange for the action. If we are the givers, then we have to wake up to the idea that we are expecting something from our loved one. It could be gratitude, appreciation, time together, to feel important in their eyes, or it could be something different. The first step is to recognize what your strings are. What do you expect or wait for?
So, when we ask, “What does love look like?” we know that giving with strings attached may not get you the love you are after…
As a Receiver, Your Happiness Has to Come from YOU, Not Others
If you are the one who receives, can you become aware of what your needs are? Can you see that you might be waiting for something or someone on the outside to help you feel better about yourself? Do you find yourself waiting to feel better, or happy, while dependent on someone giving you something so this happens? A good first step, for you, would be to realize that you are expecting some feelings to last, or other feelings to go away by receiving what you receive. Can you feel better without someone giving you something? Can you unplug from your need of others to give to you?
Love Looks Like Giving Within One’s Healthy Boundaries
This is how we grow in a relationship. We get awareness of what it is we expect from our actions. So again, is this love? Yes, and no. The love part, is loving someone so much you will do anything for them. I am a big fan of loving someone this much. Just get to know which actions you take in that “do anything” part that are just too much for you. This is your healthy boundary. When you withhold an action, this does not mean you are unloving. It means you are practicing self-care, and that is the most important skill any human can exhibit.
What Does Love Look Like? How About Like What Your Relationship Could Be?
Listen to Linda, Pastor Trevor, and Pastor Cedric break issues just like these down on Two Wise Men and a Smart Chick, airing Fridays at 11:00AM PST.