I am not the best person to talk about love. Particularly the romantic sort of love. I have blundered all along when it comes to receiving and giving love. But perhaps for that very reason I am qualified to talk about it. So here we go, 3 insights into what makes love work and what does not.
The first thing that happens when a man and a woman meet with the possibility of love is a spark of attraction. The man looks at the woman. The woman looks at the man. It is a moment of sizing each other up. No words are spoken, but the physicality of each other is taken in, processed and stored in some corner of the brain. If there is physical attraction it manifests as a sensation in some part of the body. The seductive feeling in the stomach, the fluttering in the chest or the tightness in the throat. Sometimes the sensation is not so evident, it is just a feeling of warmth, comfort and safety in the presence of someone.
After the physical attraction comes the emotional connection. What does that mean? It means when I say something the other person is able to understand the essence of what I am trying to say easily. Do we have common values and interests. Can we make each other laugh. Are we sensitive to each other’s needs? All of this creates a feeling of warmth and oneness. This is more subtle than a physical attraction. After all conversations outlast love making.
Touch is an important aspect of connection. Holding hands. Caressing the face. Hugging tight. Often the tactile non-verbal communication is more vital than the spoken communication. Touch is the most primitive language. The body registers a touch and feeds the soul.
What Does Not Work
When we form relationships for short term pleasure or mental configurations of — what you do, how much you earn, what caste you belong to — the foundation of relating is weak. It may not bear the turbulence of life’s upheavals. Or simply stagnate to meet social requirements. The relating may have a name, a legal binding, a social obligation, but it will have no life in it. Like a person in a coma, it will be alive but in name only.
If connection creates a relating, communication sustains it. Like watering a plant each day, communication nurtures relating. Responsible communication is both an art and a skill. If our intentions are pure and our communication blunt, it will weaken the roots of relating. Good communication has three qualities — honesty, responsibility and timeliness.
If your partner says or does something hurtful. The first thing to do is take note of the hurt. That is honesty. Don’t rationalize. Don’t suppress. Don’t react. Simply take note. Then take responsibility for the hurt by simply stating what happened and how it affected you. This requires tremendous courage, as it requires being vulnerable. One does not blame the other person. One simply states how one is feeling in the moment. This communication is best done as soon as one realizes their feelings and has a good window of opportunity to communicate.
Unshared hurt in relating leads to undercurrents and judgments of the other. And these erode the relating over a period of time. Like a water pipe that needs to be cleaned from time to time, effective communication clears the emotional blockages in relating. Every time a difficult emotion or a difference of opinion is shared and resolved it deepens the trust and intimacy. Strengthening the roots of relating.
What Does Not Work
Fault finding, psychoanalyzing, reacting and suppressing. All of these are dysfunctional ways of dealing with emotions in relating. Blaming someone else for how I feel is the sign of immaturity. Playing counsellor and coach by bringing patterns of behavior to the other person’s notice does not work. A relating is between two equally vulnerable individuals. Not between one who knows more about the other than the other himself. Impulsive reactions and swallowing feelings don’t work either. The more we operate out of anger and fear the more we alienate the other person. Relating is respecting the other person’s truth, as much as I respect my own.
3. Shared Vision
Connection ignites love. Communication makes it burn bright. Shared vision keeps the flame burning for a long time. What is shared vision? Something purposeful that two individuals wish to do together. That purpose may take the form of bringing up the children, living in nature, setting up an enterprise or helping others. The shared vision is like a North Star that guides the relating. It keeps two individuals together for a larger common cause. It is an unsaid charter of the relating that unites the future landscape of two human beings.
After some time in the relating, if the connection and the communication goes well, it is a good idea to ask each other what is our vision for the future? What is it we want? What excites us? Where do we wish to stay? What do we wish to do? Clarity of vision also indicates the maturity of an individual. While one could be open to what life brings, it is good if one has a certain degree of self-awareness about what one values in life.
When there is a shared vision it is possible to plan a future together. At least the pathway to living together leads to the same destination. And that clarity brings a certain degree of assuredness in self, the other and where both are headed.
What Does Not Work
Having no idea what one wants from life. Having an idea but not articulating it. Or having visions that are in opposition to each other. One person wants children, the other does not. One person wants to stay in nature, the other does not. One person wants to belong to a certain community, the other does not. When we are clear about each other’s vision early on in the relating, we can sense whether a shared future is possible or not. Clarity is the inner compass that tells us where we are headed.
Relating over relationship
If you care to notice, nowhere in the article have I used the word relationship. When we label what is happening between two individuals it tends to become static and role based. Relationships lead to expectations and obligation.
Relating is taking note of what is happening now and bringing that into the interaction between two people. Relating is always fresh and alive, as it is always in the moment. One moment leads to the other and there is a natural unfoldment.
Finally one must realize even if you have a connection, communication and shared vision there is no guarantee that what is happening between two people will last forever. Uncertainty is an inherent part of life. When we make peace with this, then we learn to keep our attention in the now. We share what we feel now, what we think now and what we want now.
More important than our relating with each other, is our relating with the Now.