Love does not consist of gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction. ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery
We usually think of hate as the antithesis emotion of love but it’s not, hate still has an emotional involvement. Fear is the opposite of love. While love expands, fear shrinks, while love joins, fear separates, while love trusts, fear doubts and while love opens, fear closes.
So what happens when one of our deepest fears in life is that of being unloved? The ultimate separation occurs.
Because we live in a culture that fears being alone, being rejected, feeling unworthy and unlovable, we confuse love with attachment, dependency, sexual attraction, romantic illusion, lust, infatuation, or obligation. So why exactly is love a selfish affair? We’ll explore that more in this article.
Love as a Desire
Our perception of love and our language of love encourages us to think of love as a quantifiable substance (“make love“, “fallen in love“, “lots of love“), something that can be given, received, and taken away. Love, like everything else in a consumerist society, has been turned into a commodity, an object of pleasure or happiness.
Movies and songs tell us that love hurts. But when love hurts, it’s not love anymore, but an immense desire we create that manifests itself in a variety of ways: our desire to get rid of the fear of loneliness or rejection, our desire to indulge in needy attachment, our desire to satisfy our possessive need for control.
As a child we were taught that liking something, or loving something, were only different degrees of the same thing. “I love that car“, “I love this show“, “I love this food”. What was really meant is that: “I really really like this car/show/food“.
Liking is a very superficial emotion. Today you like a music band but in a few years, you might outgrow it. Love, however, is the opposite. While liking is temporary and is an external superficial emotion, love is boundless and deep. Love is what allows you to see another person’s soul and admire their essence.
To grow up thinking that loving something is wanting it very badly creates a lot of the typical problems we see all the time within relationships. Jealousy for example isn’t a symptom of love, it’s a symptom of desire – in other words: to want something so badly that you are afraid that someone else might take it away, like a toy. Pure love is different from this; it is knowing that there’s no need to own something or someone beautiful by making it yours, instead, you simply celebrate their existence.
Love is all-selfless. But why do we turn it into desire? Why do we objectify it in order to gain something out of it? Before being capable of appreciating love’s selflessness, we must first cultivate selfishness.
Love is Impossible Without Self-Love
“Why is it you love someone?”
Whenever I come across couples who are struggling in a relationship I ask them that question. Usually they’ll say it’s because the other person makes them feel a certain way, or they like the same things and have so much in common.
The truth is that many people love each other because the other person provides something for them. For example: they don’t like being alone and the other person gifts them with their company, or they have intense insecurities that the other person calms and soothes. But if two people are sad alone how can they be happy together?
The worst part is when we begin using the other person as a tool, a means towards a purpose: making us happy. You aren’t just exploiting and disrespecting another person by using them as a tool, but by putting your happiness in another person’s hands you are disrespecting yourself. You are failing to love yourself.
Happiness never comes from outside of us, it only comes from within. As soon as you put your happiness in another person’s hands, you are avoiding responsibility for you life and for your well-being. Yet this is what we do all the time when we make our marriage vows. When we have no respect for ourselves or the other person, there is a war of control because each person feels responsible for the other. “I have to control you because I don’t respect you. I have to be responsible for you, because whatever happens to you is going to hurt me, and I want to avoid pain.”
Unless you cultivate self-love before entering a relationship, everything will be off-center. Relationships only work if you control your side of the relationship, and the other controls theirs. Abusive relationships are the perfect example of a lack of Self-Love before entering a relationship; the amount of self-abuse you inflict on yourself will be the same as the amount of self-abuse you accept from others.
Another example of a lack of love for yourself (outsourcing your happiness) and your lover (disrespecting them) can be found in relationships that are created in order to “change” or “improve” another person. This is only really a mask to cover low self-worth, and a way to make you feel better about yourself. You either love a person the way they are, or you don’t. You either accept a person the way they are, or you don’t. From the beginning you should find someone who is compatible with your views and your values — emotionally, physically, economically, and spiritually.
If you can’t love yourself, you will never truly believe that anyone else can love you – you will always feel unworthy. Without Self-Love you are a starving beggar accepting any form of “love” that anyone will throw at you. We see Self-Love starved beggars everywhere in society. For example, it’s common to hear people complain that their lovers or spouses don’t truly understand them, when in the first place these people accepted love, affection and attention in exchange for fitting in with certain standards and expectations from their lovers, essentially denying the person they truly are, their authenticity.
With enough Self-Love you are like a King or Queen, you enter a relationship as an equal to your beloved; there is no begging, you don’t need anything from them because with Self-Love you already have happiness and everything else that you want. There are no conditions and you don’t avoid your personal responsibility – you simply enjoy the company of your beloved without thinking of them as a body, a bank account, a source of energy, attention, flattery, or happiness for you – as a means towards an end.
If you don’t love yourself, you can’t share what you don’t have. If you don’t love yourself, you can’t love anyone else either.
Love can never be a means towards something else. True love has to be aimless and pointless (lacking purpose) to keep its beauty, its fragrance and its joy. When there’s a destination in mind, the journey loses its value. Love can have no conditions.
When you enter a relationship be aware that your fulfillment can never be found in the other person, each person is responsible for their own happiness. If you do so you’ll unconsciously begin judging them, controlling them and demanding that they should be all the things you need them to be, and that will hinder their authenticity. You’ll end up disillusioned, disappointed and resentful; the main feelings that destroy most relationships.
Love is unconditional but fear is full of conditions. These conditions hinder the authenticity of the ones we care about because of our selfish demands and expectations. Unfortunately, this is what we call in our society “love”. Love sets someone free so you can fly beside them, whereas selfish love is finding a free bird and caging it up in your living room. Every time you look at the person it reminds you of your guilt and self-dislike, and the fact that you took that freedom away from them.
Selfishness comes from poverty of heart, from the erroneous perception that love is quantifiable and there’s a scarcity of it.
Once you’ve found so much love and respect for yourself, you will come across someone else who is enjoying their inner richness as well. Finally you will find that there are no desires or expectations that arise, and suddenly you both begin to experience the pure pleasure of sharing the presence of the other person who is whole unto themselves, who isn’t trying to steal, gain or possess something.
It is only when we find Self-Love that we witness the height of love reflected in the eyes, heart and soul of another; this is where the boundaries between our individual ego and the others begins to melt away. That is when we proclaim with all clarity that the imaginary lines don’t exist, and I and You are One.
We could say that love is frequency, a vibration, a state of consciousness that can never run out because it’s not a quantifiable object. True love can never run out: the more we spend it, the quicker and denser it grows within us.
Nobody can truly describe what love is, but if you are aware of what it’s not, you can stop confusing yourself.