“If he desired to know about automobiles, he would, without question, study diligently about automobiles. If his wife desired to be a gourmet cook, she’d certainly study the art of cooking, perhaps even attending a cooking class. Yet, it never seems as obvious to him that if he wants to live in love, he must spend at least as much time as the auto mechanic or the gourmet in studying love.” ~ Leo Buscaglia
In the spirit of valentines day I wanted to touch on something that so many of us struggle with, are confused about, or are not sure how to define love.
Abraham Maslow included Love and belonging as a part of his hierarchy of needs in his paper “Theory of Human Motivation” in 1943.
To this day I think it is safe for us all to say that love is something that all of us require. Along with happiness, I believe that the two of them are universal currencies in which all of us can agree that we need and strive to obtain.
As Leo’s quote above so eloquently puts it, if you want to get better at love, to know it, to feel it – You must spend time studying it, practicing it, and understanding it.
I don’t know about you but I find it to be one of the more confusing and frustrating topics to breakdown. There are so many thoughts, theories, and opinions out there and the topic can often turn as polarizing as politics and religion.
The last few months and specifically the last week or so I’ve spent an enormous amount of time reading and discussing love with a variety of people in my best attempts to understand what the hell it is and how I can get better at it.
This is my best attempt to share some of it with you.
What’s love got to do, got to do with it?
Please re-read that header in your best Tina Turner impression.
Love. It may be the single most under appreciated and overused word in the english language. Somewhere and somehow it seems like we have desensitized ourselves to it. Movies, TV, News, and more impersonal connections and less face to face or physical personal connections have led to what seems to be more isolation from one another and the overuse of a powerful term.
At some point in your life you’ve probably said (and I’m no saint here either) that you love the following:
- This food
- This song
- This book
- This person
- That person
- This bag
- This car
- This lamp
- Her hat
- His coat
It feels like the word has turned into something you use to describe something you like or desire. How about we get away from that and start using it to display the way we want to treat people and want to be treated ourselves.
Who you become is based heavily on what you love. The people, places, and things that you love. You’ll most certainly be influenced and often take on those qualities. And it’s very easy to fall into love wishing to find in others what we know is in ourselves.
Love is pleasant and addicting. Helen Fisher, a human behavior researcher has broken the process of love into three separate stages.
Lust: Includes a large release of androgens and estrogens and is often described as intense physical attraction, sex, euphoria, but also depression. It’s an erotic passion that is needed in order for you to find the “one.”
Attraction: Loss of appetite, sleep, day-dreaming, and often include large releases of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin.
Dopamine is known as the pleasure chemical in our bodies. It increases desire and the need for rewards. It has a similar response and addictive properties as cocaine.
Norepinephrine is like adrenaline. It creates that rapid heart beat, sweaty palms, excitement, dry mouth, and all that other fun stuff 🙂
Serotonin is the reason someone may keep popping up in your thoughts. It has been shown that new lovers have the same levels of serotonin as to those diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder. Damn you serotonin… damn you!
Attachment: This is the most powerful and strongest stage of love. The one that can withstand difficulties and distractions. This is often characterized by idealizing the one that you are with. Seeing them in a ray of light, on a pedestal, putting a positive spin on them and the relationship.
The hormones Oxytocin and Vasopressin are most prevalent here. Oxytocin is released during sex and childbirth. It makes you feel closer to someone not only physically but emotionally as well. Vasopressin is tied to social behavior, sexual desire, and building personal relationship bonds.
What is love?
Feel free to disagree with the thoughts below. Actually, if you have your own thoughts on love I would love… I mean like 🙂 to hear them in the comments below or in a private email.
- It’s an emotion just like any other emotion. It comes, it goes, it changes, and it evolves. It has an opposite and it’s often confusing…very confusing.
- It comes in many shapes, sizes, and forms. You probably love your dog, your sister, your mom and your dad, a significant other, and best friend. All of them very different, very unique, and very much expressed differently.
- Love is not painful. If you feel pain then it’s not love, it’s something else. Love is often described as something you feel when you want something so badly that it hurts. This is not possible (see below)
- Love is a gift. Something that you give with no expectations in return. If you give love and expect it back, or other rewards back it’s not love. It’s something else. Giving a gift can not hurt. At it’s heart and soul it is a selfless act. You can’t really have love. You can only really give it. Therefore it is not something that you own. You choose to give it to another and they choose freely to give it back or not.
- Love is not scary. If you’re scared it’s due to something else. Fear of love or the feeling of not being able to love is due to feeling unsafe. Often outside influences help to influence or create this perception. The news, movies, television, or personal isolation might help to skew your view.
For anything to be great or grand there has to be some sort of inherent risk to it. You have to be willing to allow yourself to be vulnerable and to be exposed to challenges and fears.
Some of the risks of love have been made much easier for us.
- Text message (easy) vs. Personal phone call (hard)
- Facebooking (easy) vs. Face to face meeting (hard)
- Emailing “I love you” (easy) vs. Saying it while looking someone in the eyes (hard)
Maybe today is as good a day as any to do the hard things.
Love has nothing to do with being in a relationship. I believe I read this quote from David over at Raptitude. “Loving has nothing to do with being in a relationship and everything to do with being selfless. If you’re hungry for that your hungry for a companion. Not love.”
If you want more love, show more love
If you want more love, then show more love. Express that you are deserving of the gift by showing that you believe enough in it to give it away.
Many complain about not having enough love in their life. The first question to ask yourself is how am I giving it to others?
The first step is to love thy self. As a human you may be very quick to love another and seek love from someone before actually loving yourself. It’s almost as if the love of someone else validates you and proves your worth.
Truth is you’re already valuable because you’re unique. There is no one else like you. No one that moves the way you move, thinks the way you think, act the way you act. In fact, the odds that you are even born are 1 in 400 million. Basically, you’re a miracle.
This takes practice. Seems like it would be the easiest thing in the world, yet so many struggle with it.
Be honest with yourself. We often tell ourselves stories and create myths in order to make ourselves feel better about ourselves, a situation, or an outcome. Lets commit to being honest. Honest about our feelings, dreams, insecurities, and strengths.
Trust yourself. You’re possibilities are limitless. Just look to your past. I’m sure you’ve accomplished some things that you thought were impossible. If you can’t think of something then use him, her, them, and this guy as inspiration to know that so much is possible.
Actually tell yourself. Affirmations are an amazing and powerful thing. Head out for a walk, talk to yourself in the shower, look at yourself in the mirror or whisper to yourself as you meditate how awesome you are. How much you love yourself, and how you plan to kick-ass at life and take names later.
Something I got from John Assaraf when performing affirmations is to tell myself:
- I am __________
- I can __________
- I will __________
Start to believe that there is no such thing as falling in and out of love. Only growing in and out of love. Falling in and out of love is aggressive, can be rough, and usually has a tough landing. It’s fast, doesn’t last very long, and you often miss out on the journey in exchange for an end-result.
Growing in and out of love takes time. It gives you the chance to learn about yourself, others, and the world around you. It allows you the opportunity to embrace change. Love is not constant, you, your attitudes, your feelings, and others change. Learn to change and evolve with it.
Sometimes in ways that are aligned with your virtues while other times you may find there just is not a fit anymore. Regardless, don’t fight it – it’s growth. Sometimes you grow together with others and sometimes you grow apart.
Jerry McGuire had it all wrong. Now I get it. “You complete me” is totally romantic. But I prefer to be with someone who compliments me. I don’t to put the pressure on someone else to fill a void that I feel is a part of me.
Before I declare love I prefer to be a complete person already. I want that person to compliment me, to challenge me, and to support me.
Two independent, strong, and capable people who choose to support each other.
Love is fluent in many languages
Most problems arise in love when you expect someone else to live up to your definition of it. When you try to dictate how someone else displays and feels love the same way you do you create an impossible standard for someone to live up to.
Love is a language and most of us are fluent in many different versions of it. In order to make it work you have to be willing to understand and speak someone else’s language. I remember my first few days in Tokyo, I was completely uncomfortable. It was my first time in another country where English was not the prominent language. If I would have tried to walk around the city, communicating to be people in English because it was completely comfortable and safe for me I would have been ignored, misunderstood, and looked at cock-eyed.
I tried my best to learn basic phrases that would get me by for the 10 days that I was there. I efforted as much as I could to speak Japanese. it was awful, embarrassing, and I’m pretty sure I asked someone to put a cat in my coffee at one point. But it worked, I met some wonderful people, they appreciated my efforts, and it made my trip that much more enjoyable.
“To understand someone’s love language you have to ask them. You have to communicate.”
Are you spending more time talking to others about love in a language that is comfortable and safe for you. One that you understand, when you should be talking to that specific person?
The Five Love Languages breaks it down into five major love languages. (adapted from personalitycafe.com)
Verbal/Affirmations: Hearing the words, “I love you,” are important—hearing the reasons behind that love sends your spirits skyward. Insults can leave you shattered and are not easily forgotten.
Time/Complete attention: Being there for this type of person is critical, but really being there—with the TV off, fork and knife down, and all chores and tasks on standby—makes your significant other feel truly special and loved. Distractions, postponed dates, or the failure to listen can be especially hurtful.
Gift: Don’t mistake this love language for materialism; the receiver of gifts thrives on the love, thoughtfulness, and effort behind the gift. If you speak this language, the perfect gift or gesture shows that you are known, you are cared for, and you are prized above whatever was sacrificed to bring the gift to you. A missed birthday, anniversary, or a hasty, thoughtless gift would be disastrous—so would the absence of everyday gestures.
Acts of service: Can vacuuming the floors really be an expression of love? Absolutely! Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on an “Acts of Service” person will speak volumes. The words he or she most want to hear: “Let me do that for you.” Laziness, broken commitments, and making more work for them tell speakers of this language their feelings don’t matter.
Touch/Physical contact: This language isn’t all about the bedroom. A person whose primary language is Physical Touch is, not surprisingly, very touchy. Hugs, pats on the back, holding hands, and thoughtful touches on the arm, shoulder, or face—they can all be ways to show excitement, concern, care, and love. Physical presence and accessibility are crucial, while neglect or abuse can be unforgivable and destructive.
What language are the people you care most about speaking? What are some ways you can communicate with them that shows you understand what they need?
- 30 days of compliments for the verbal/affirmationist?
- Quality time on a hike, skydiving, working on a puzzle, just getting silly?
- Pay attention to this little things that friends, family, and lovers like. Keep tabs in your smart phone and randomly pick them up.
- Take a load off someone’s back and take on a task that they normally do. Cook healthy meals for the family, take the dog for a walk, or just make the bed.
- Grab someones hand, brush hair off their forehead, give them a hug for no reason.
More love then less love
Dr. John Gottman is one of the world leading marriage and parenting researchers. Through his practice he has found that those in strong, healthy, and loving relationships have at least five positive interactions together for every one negative interaction. Even when areas of struggle, disagreement, or “rough patches” arise more prevalent are emotions and displays of humor, acceptance of the others opinion, and positive wording towards each other.
This may be difficult to pull off if you have a very stubborn lover, family member, or friend. But just like most things it will take practice and if you force the issue a bit I think you’ll find that a silver lining will poke through.
Not only when tough situations or conversations come up but on an everyday basis try adding more of the following in your conversations with one another.
- Playful touch, even hold hands when you talk
- Soothing comments
- Ask more open-ended questions
- Listen better (turn off the TV, the phone, the newspaper, any and all distractions)
- Be empathetic and show your concern
- Thank them at the end of the conversation for opening up to you
Happy valentines day
I’m definitely not a relationship guru but if you’ve been reading the site for a while you know that one of the major premises to it is “Getting Better at Being Human.” I have may own strengths and weaknesses and personal relationships and love is definitely not a strength. But like the opening quote says – We spend so much time searching for love and trying to have more of it in our lives but we never really take the time to learn and understand it.
Consider this my first of many attempts to teach myself about love.
I think it is very important to learn to love yourself first. It’s really tough to give all of your love to someone else when you only have half a tank of love to give. You’re doing yourself and others an injustice.
Like most things love is ever chaining and evolving. Don’t fight it, let it grow. Allow yourself to grow and change with it. If you find yourself in difficult times simply recommit to love and practice consistency – and that starts with loving yourself first.
Lets not take love for granted. Use it as gift and something you give instead of a way to get what you want.
Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. Remember, love can’t hurt. If it does it’s something else.
Love is always bestowed as a gift – freely, willingly and without expectation. We don’t love to be loved; we love to love. -Dr. Love (Leo again 😀 )