Published: 21 July 2006
Sometimes we see things not as they are but as we are: Love brings understanding.
What is the ideal loving relationship? Many are searching for Mr./Ms. Right, or questioning the relationship they are in. It is relatively easy to imagine all of the qualities one might want in a "perfect" partner, or to compare a current partner to an ideal standard.
While certainly we all have some parameters when we think of a mate, the truth is that the quality of the relationship is not so much about the "quality" of the two individuals as it is about the quality of the way they treat one another.
Finding true love is not a matter of finding the perfect mate, but more about being ready and willing to give true love. What is true love? It is not "falling in love." It is what we do in the days, weeks, months and years afterwards. It is all the things described in Corinthians: it is patient, kind, does not envy, is not proud, rude, self-seeking nor easily angered; it keeps no record of wrongs, does not delight in evil but rejoices in truth; always protects, trusts, hopes and perseveres. Truly, that says it all.
To really love another is to be loving towards that being. Saying "I love you," often means "I want you," or "I like having you in my life," more than it is a statement about actively loving the other.
Active loving means being as concerned for the wellbeing of the other as for our own. It means getting our ego out of the way, so that we are not needy, controlling, judgmental or demanding. Actively loving another means we are neither critical nor hurtful. We are as careful around the feelings of our partner as we would be if there were a small kitten underfoot. We will go out of our way to ensure our words and actions will not be harmful, even accidentally.
It goes even deeper than this. Truly loving another means that we do not even think negative thoughts about the person. Everyone has aspects of their being that could be judged or criticized, but when we commit to loving another, we commit to hold only the purest thoughts about that person. This is so very important, because if we hold negative thoughts about someone, even if we do not utter them, they will know.
Holding pure thoughts of our beloved is the most powerful nutrient we can add to the garden of our love. It provides a safe and positive environment in which our loved one can blossom. The more that we create this for one another, the more beautiful and bountiful our garden.
Criticism and judgment are like hailstones that come crashing down, damaging the tender plants. Angry words and harsh actions are like strong winds that cause breakage and weakening. Non-communication or days of silence are like winter frosts, stopping the flow of life. Dishonesty or infidelity is like disease that slowly disfigures and eventually kills the blossom, if not the whole plant.
How often it happens that couples bring negativity into their relationship, but then blame the other when the relationship does not flourish. How ironic that some will try to "fix" the relationship by pointing out the defects of the partner. You cannot fix a relationship by bringing pain to your partner.
We can think of two partners as mirrors. If one starts reflecting negativity, it will be reflected back, often increasing in intensity, and gaining momentum with each reflection. If each reflects unconditional love and acceptance towards the other, it is like a hall of mirrors with endless reflections of love.
Truly loving another means only seeing the good, and reflecting that back to him or her. This applies to our children, as well as our partner. Ultimately, it also applies to every other human. This is what it is to be a loving being.
Maybe that is what relationships are for: the opportunity to practice growing in love, even when we are challenged, tired, irritable or cranky. It could be the highest purpose, with the greatest reward.