I’ve been thinking a lot about what love is lately, and although it’s 1 a.m., I still have a lot of mental energy left so I’m using it for this.
A lot of people questioned my humanity today as we got in a discussion at work stemming from the question: “If someone you dislike and your dog were both in the road and going to get run over and killed and you only had time to save one, which would you save?” I chose my dog. Now when they changed the circumstances to a baby, or an old man, or a paraplegic, it was harder for me to answer (still don’t have a straight one). But I love my dog, a lot. Like a really unreasonable amount. The amount where I take pictures of his vomit just in case I need a record if he is really sick and it wasn’t just that he swallowed something gross. Like he’s my baby. But look at him!
How are you not in love with that?!
But as I’ve pondered that question, along with all the other facets of love I’ve been thinking about, I realized that the reason I love my dog so much is because he gives me everything I need concerning love at the moment. He’s excited to see me every time I walk in the room. We spend time outdoors together. I get to give him all the physical affection I can stand and he’s okay with it. And most importantly, he’s never going to make stupid choices and leave me or make me feel like I have to leave him.
I love him because it’s 100% safe to be vulnerable with him. And there are pretty much no human beings on the earth that can give me that guarantee. After so much time and so much vulnerability that came crashing down into obliteration, it’s hard not to take the easy way out for a little while and just love my dog.
Because that’s what it’s about, isn’t it? Vulnerability.
The particular facet of love that I’ve been prodding about in my mind is this: sometimes it’s hard to tell whether you love someone so much that you’ve chosen to be submissive, or that you’ve been manipulated so much you can’t tell that what you’re feeling is fear and not love. (And by the way, I’m not just talking about romantic love here, I’m talking about all relationships in which love can develop: parent-child, siblings, friends, other familial relationships, as well as lovers.)
Loving is about choosing to be vulnerable, but often manipulation can make you believe you’re choosing to be vulnerable/submissive, but in reality you are a slave to the whims of the manipulator. It’s hard to see because both in love and in subservience you serve.
Is it love when you cancel plans with others to spend time with a friend who says they need you? Or is that just you being whipped? I think the differentiating factor has something to do with the way you feel after the service is done. Because love never makes you feel bad about yourself (though it can still hurt in so many situations!). The one thing I do know about the nature of love is that it always, always, always builds you up.
I don’t think I’m really an expert in how to tell what you really have: love or manipulation. When I’ve found myself in those unhealthy relationships, I usually just have an epiphany that I’m not who I want to be and the relationship is not helping me get there. So I burn that sucker to the ground because I don’t believe in willingly throwing my energy into a black hole. If you find yourself in that situation, you may choose a different way to handle it. I just hope that if you do find yourself in that situation, you also find yourself believing that you deserve real love, because you do.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to build that love without being vulnerable (when I say hard, I mean not possible). But more on that another time…