Problems with love is one of the main reasons why people seek counseling. Couples want help with feeling it for each other again. Sons and daughters need guidance in their struggle to understand why a parent couldn’t love them in the way that they needed. Lonely people want support in their search for love and others want to recover from a love that has been lost. It’s a word that gets uttered in my office dozens of times a day, and when we talk about love we tend to focus on the feelings and not so much the act of loving.
I believe love to be as much about behavior as it is a feeling. Love in the absence of acting lovingly doesn’t have much substance. People profess love all the time and then proceed to treat the object of that love in ways that are destructive. In order to understand what love truly is I believe that it’s equally important to understand what it is not. This is what I share with my clients:
Love is not cruel, disrespectful, or selfish.
Love is not control, obedience, guilt, or manipulation.
Love is not the same as neediness or dependence.
Love does not intentionally hurt, destroy, or use threats.
Love doesn’t show contempt or purposely elicit shame.
Love is not the same thing as passion.
Love is not acting lovingly only when you feel like it or when there is something to be gained.
Love is not just a declaration of words in the absence of congruent actions.
Sometimes because of the way we were raised we don’t recognize what loving actions look like. Truly loving someone requires a commitment and attention to love, even if we don’t particularly like the one that we are loving in the moment. Love is not self-serving, it is a purposeful activity designed to genuinely demonstrate our caring for others.