UNIVERSE WITHIN by Gwen Randall-Young
• I want to be in a relationship where you telling me you love me is just a ceremonious validation of what you already show me. – Steve Maraboli
We have always heard the Inuit have at least 50 different words for “snow.” We really need at least that many words for love because it is hard to understand what someone means, specifically, when there is only one word for love.
There is love for one’s favourite food, car, colour, family members and pets. There is spiritual love, love for one’s religion, romantic and sexual love, idealized love and needy love. The list could be endless.
And what is meant by the term “unconditional love?” There is no one meaning. It can mean “I love you no matter what” or “I love you just as you are.” When it comes to our children, unconditional love is so important. They need to know we love them even if they are not perfect and that we will not withhold our love if they are not exactly how we wish them to be. We do not make them responsible for our emotional wellbeing.
When it comes to romantic love, I prefer to talk in terms of mature, healthy love and immature, unhealthy love. In mature love, there absolutely are conditions, but they are healthy adult conditions. For mature love to survive and thrive, essential human needs must be met, including trust, companionship, communication, appreciation and respect. Love cannot remain grounded if these are compromised by lies, neglect, rudeness, secrets, criticism or stubbornness.
If we do not have appropriate boundaries, conditions are set for abuse, co-dependency and loss of the ability to express or be one’s authentic self. We need to have enough self-respect to set limits and our partner needs to respect us enough to honour them.
When the basic conditions for healthy love are in place, the couple can love each other within those boundaries. Notice these conditions do not include being responsible for the other’s happiness, meeting all of a partner’s emotional needs, always doing things our way or controlling each other.
In mature, healthy, unconditional love, love is more than a feeling; it is an on-going action. We are loving toward our partner – not to get our needs met, but because it comes from a generosity of heart. Our partner’s happiness and wellbeing are as important as our own. We work as a team to resolve issues, not as competitors in battle. Notwithstanding major threats to the basic conditions of the relationship, we choose not to judge our partner. We let little things go and focus on all that is good in our partner. We do not carry anger and resentment or hold grudges once we have processed the issue and agreed to move on.
We probably all enter into relationships with all kinds of conscious and unconscious expectations. It is common to think if our partner really loved us, he/she would meet all of those expectations. This is unhealthy, conditional love.
For healthy relationships, we must first be emotionally healthy ourselves. We need to establish a strong, loving relationship with ourselves and validate and emotionally comfort ourselves when needed. Our partner should be one with whom we share a healthy journey: two emotionally mature individuals enjoying life and growth together.
Gwen Randall-Young is an author and psychotherapist in private practice. For articles and information about her books, Deep Powerful Change Hypnosis CDs and new “Creating Healthy Relationships” series, visit www.gwen.ca.