I’m fifteen. I’ve been in two relationships in my life. Who am I to start writing about the nature of love?
Perhaps I don’t have all the experience in the world, but I have done my research. And the truth is, no one knows exactly what the true nature of love is; there’s no one-size-fits-all definition of love, as it comes in so many forms. There is love towards a child, love towards a spouse, love for God, love for humanity, and love of the Earth. Throughout human history, I’m sure nearly everything, every idea, has been loved.
I’m here to use a second-hand definition of love which I’ve come to believe is true. This idea of love focuses on human love, between two people, and I believe that’s the ultimate type (above loving nature or pets or things). I read the Road Less Traveled about a year ago, and ever since my view of love has been forever changed. The definition of love is longer in the book, but what I drew from it is this: Love is about growth.
So what do I mean by that? Growth? What kind of growth? Love, in essence, is about helping you and your partner grow spiritually and emotionally. It’s about recognizing when your partner needs you in order to grow, and helping them by providing support, advice, and someone to talk to. When you yourself are in a dark place from which you need to grow, it is also your partner’s responsibility to reciprocate.
As social creatures with deep capacity for connection, we can only grow so much on our own. In order to achieve our full potential as a member of a human society, we must have another to help us grow as one person in a world of people.
The beauty of love is its symbiotic nature. What we give, we ideally receive. And we want to give ourselves to our partners in order to fuel our love. What we give, however, must be decided based on growth. I must give my partner extra love when they are suffering from loss, but I must not coddle them when they need to learn to overcome their challenges. We must do what is best for our partner on their own spiritual path to growth, whether that means giving them space or giving them more concrete affirmation.
Love is an action, not a feeling. Love is the will to help another grow, and to help oneself grow within the relationship.
So this brings me to my next point: when is it time to let go of a relationship? In the fall, I was approaching the year and a quarter mark with my boyfriend. We had maintained a wonderful relationship for the first year, but things began to fall apart as we passed our first anniversary. I couldn’t understand why; neither of us had undergone any huge changes in behavior, and we hadn’t fought. I just didn’t feel the love anymore in our relationship, and I was so frustrated that I didn’t know why.
Eventually, after a lot of time reflecting, I realized that we weren’t helping each other grow anymore. He had help me grow by leaps and bounds in the first year, but the two of us could only grow together up to that point- we were not suited for helping each other on our spiritual journeys anymore. So I left, and am now in a different relationship where I am growing further and in new and more complicated ways.
This is not to say that married people or adults should discard their relationships the minute they feel that they aren’t growing to their full potential anymore. If this were true, I fear divorce would be almost inevitable. At my age, it’s normal to move on and experiment with dating different people, but once you settle down it’s not so simple. Once you’ve committed, you’ve committed.
Growth can be rekindled. We all enter periods of spiritual stagnation, and that’s okay. We can’t all be growing with each other at any moment. In order to fix a stagnant relationship, it’s most important to refocus your lens on what love is to you. What do you want from your partner on your own journey, and what do they need from you? We often take love to be a feeling that comes fiercely at first and then fades. But that’s not true love; that’s the feeling of falling in love, which sadly can’t last. We must truly talk to our partners about where we want to go spiritually and emotionally in our lives, and figure out how to help each other grow. That is how we love each other. And we should want to help each other grow, because that is what we should mean when we say “I love you”.
Hopefully I will continue to grow from love. I try to evaluate my relationships on the basis of growth, and whether I’m willing and able to help my partner grow anymore. Thankfully, if there is a will, there is a way. Love is work. So long as you want to put in the work that love requires, it can flourish.
I suppose I’m about ten days early with this. I am trying to create some posts with more picture in the future, but I haven’t quite gotten around to it. Instead, there’s your pre-Valentine’s day thought about love! Happy relationships, everyone. They truly are the best way to find meaning in life, in my opinion, and I hope they are everything you hope them to be.