I can’t tell you how many people sit in my office and say, “I know I love ______, but I don’t know if I’m “in love” with him/her.”
I’ve never really known what “in love” meant. Most of us experience the passion and constant obsession of early infatuation. But for almost everyone I’ve known, that eventually wanes. Many interpret this as no longer loving that person, and for some, perhaps that’s the case. But some recognize that a more mature, tangible love can gradually take it’s place.
Dr. Henry Grayson says “falling in love” is a syndrome. The very words we use to describe it (falling head over heels, being swept away, I’m crazy about you) imply a feeling of powerlessness. It’s immature – and says “I love you because I need you.”
Mature love is not just emotion. It’s a consistent series of acts of kindness, compassion and respect; occasional passion; and most of all – loving thoughts. It’s our thoughts that lead to how we feel about something/someone and ultimately to how we behave.
Mature love is empowering and unconditional. It’s an active striving for the growth and happiness of the loved one. There are no conditions, expectations or bartering (which I call “keeping score”).
One very real example of mature love in my life was shown to me when our granddaughter was living with us. I came down with a horrible case of the stomach flu in the middle of the night. It really took me down. I won’t go into the gory details, but suffice it to say, it wasn’t pretty!
My husband came to my rescue and stayed with me, helping me clean things up, wash clothes & towels, and sanitize everything as much as we could to prevent him and our granddaughter from coming into contact with it if at all possible. He probably lost more sleep that night than I did, even though I told him on several occasions to let me do it.
I know others who cared for their loved ones at the end of their lives, when the person could literally do nothing to care for themselves. Again, it’s not pretty, and often it’s thankless. That’s mature love. I strive to learn from my husband, and from these others, how to give unconditionally.
It’s easy to love someone when they’re clean, attractive and smell good. But real love shows up at these other times.