Thursday, November 21, 2013

Maybe success is simply loving people well.

I was talking to Nick the other night about that painful feeling when you realize a relationship isn't capable of handling a certain type of closeness,... not because you don't want it to,... but simply because the best we can offer is friendship ... or even distance, sometimes.

He's on the other end of a similar experience to what I've been facing, since he had to reject someone's request for a closer relationship because they damage each other when they're too close. And that isn't easy, either.

It's really rare for anyone to clearly say that love isn't about being in "the closest possible relationship" but about making sure both of you are healthy, strong, or at least healing within the relationship. 

Love cares more about how the quality and types of interaction affect each other than it does about some external construct of the way love ought to play out. 

How do you know when the best relationship you can offer someone is friendship?

See, Hawk and I had this discussion. 

I was waiting, you know ... for him to think about it and decide if he might be interested in adding another level to our relationship. I knew his answer was encoded in our communications already ... the "it's not going to happen" was implied. But for some reason I really needed to hear him say it. 

Did I say this directly? No. Maybe I should have. Next time I might face down the fear of having someone say, "I can't accept more from you, really." 

But he figured out what I needed and told me clearly and firmly, "What I feel toward you isn't romantic."

He appreciated what I offered, though, and didn't reject the love ... simply one of the ways love might have played out. I told him that I would instead love him as a friend and support him that way, and he accepted. 

It was inspiring to feel free to offer what he is capable of accepting from me. Friendship is a gift. I don't know. I often think we need a better term for caring deeply about someone for unselfish mutual benefit, because "love" is such a corrupt term and friendship has such a casual connotation for most people.

I have a choice, now, between three kinds of "love." 

I can "love" him for my own benefit. (Not really love, in my opinion.)
I can love him for HIS benefit.
I can love him with a love that is for everyone, equally, and that love extends to encompass both his life and my own ... because we are both connecting points within networks of relationship ... and ...

who we are to each other affects everyone we touch.

This is very, very important, and true for everyone from family and friends to life-partners. 

Culturally,... we tend to tie more on top ... the love plus the romance ... the love plus the expectation of ... well ... it could be any benefit we see as intrinsic to love, however we categorize the term. 

Love isn't the part we add to the relationship that looks at how the other can serve oneself, but rather it looks to create a healthy place for both.

I made a graphic out of my examples:  Feel free to share.

I had this same choice with X.

I gave him everything in the black lines, and only learned how to live the second kind of love toward him by recognizing how the first kind twisted everything in life, especially our relationship. 

It was better for him, for both of us, for everyone ... to be apart. When a relationship is not only mutually destructive, but also a negative influence on family and friendships, then it's time to consider what it is you think you're building. 

By the time I learned to love him well, the best way to love him was to leave ... because anything else would have been a wide-spread lie. Because that corrosion of relationship isn't love ... it's an unfulfilled expectation that is wearing the label "love." Our reality was his abuse and my acceptance of that treatment from him, along with the influence that relationship had on everyone. Not love. 

If I had latched on to the idea of Hawk and I together ...or  if Nick had tried to stay with the girl ... it would have been based on those same destructive mental patterns. I don't think we're alone in this, either. 

Real love exists by facing the full reality of a situation and finding the unique pathway that offers what is best for everyone. Or ... at least ... to the best of our ability. (Sometimes we are not our own ideal of ourselves, and admitting this is difficult.) People must be free to be who they are, where they are in life. That is the only way to have anything honest or real, even if this sometimes means the most honest and real act is to leave each other to more beneficial relationships. 

I read a small portion of the letter I wrote (from my conversation with  Hawk) to Nick. And Nick said, "I feel like you wrote that to me, because that is how you handle our relationship, too. You could say that to any of your friends, I think." 

It's true. 

Love. Real love ... is something you can give anyone. 

It's not about romance or marriage or ... that feeling of being "in love" ... it's the core of caring for and about someone. Now that I realize this, it won't be as difficult to admit and allow love,... or at least not the real kind. Expectations will always be painful to work through, I think.

Shouldn't it be normal to love?
Isn't love the best foundation for any type of interaction between people?
I'd like to figure out how to live that way with everyone. 

I'm so thankful for friends who help me figure this out. (and not "just for Thanksgiving")


I'm linking up with the Faith Barista community again, for the topic:
Share a reflection or story about your journey walking through the Thanksgiving season.
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