What is love? This is quite a valid question this month as we go about flaunting our love for another on Valentine’s Day. But do we really know what it means?

He loves me, she loves me not? As a young child, teenager or even adult, how often have we asked ourselves, “Do they really love me?”. We ask this of our current, past and possible future partners. We ask it of our children, parents, friends, siblings, family and really just about anyone. But how do we determine the answer to this question? What do we base the answer of “Yes, they do love me” or “No, they don’t love me” on? For a long time, I used to think ‘love’ as expressed based on what people did. They love me because they:

  • Bought me flowers;
  • Bought me a gift, but not just any gift as the value and effort of choosing the gift also determined the level of love they have;
  • Cooked me my favourite dinner;
  • Packed my lunch;
  • Took me to my favourite restaurant;
  • Let me choose what movie or place we went to;
  • Helped clean the house;
  • Phoned or texted me in the timely manner I pictured they ‘should’ phone or text;
  • Said how much they loved me on a frequency that I wanted or needed;
  • Said the ‘right words’ at the ‘right time’;
  • Knew what I wanted, needed or was thinking without me telling them.

In fact, this list could be endless. In my career as a counsellor, I have come to realise that this way of judging love is very common and unfortunately it creates the foundations of many, if not all, failing relationships. In my observations, I’ve come to realise how imposing this style of love judgment is and how much it is setting people up to fail; setting our loved ones up to not be held for who they are, rather rejected based on what they do or do not do.

What if there was a different way of assessing love? What if love has absolutely nothing to do with what a person does? Hmm… Could there be another way?

What if love is about the quality we hold a person in and never about what they do?

I found it helpful to examine a recent quote I heard, “love is an observation” – no doing or judgment required here, just observing. “A situation that allows another to be held no matter what” – judgment is not possible when people are held just for being them, and not judged based on what they do or do not do rather understood for the choices they make.

“Giving them time to get to their own amazingness” – comes in the knowing that people are already amazing and their amazingness has absolutely nothing to do with what they do, and in time they will come to express their full amazingness that is already there as it is in us all.

An overriding message I received from this is that love has nothing to do with any other person – rather, how willing we are in being able to hold another person and hold ourselves without any judgment. “Does she love me?” or “Does he love me not?” could be replaced with “Do I love them?” or “Do I love them not?”. Even, “Do I observe, hold and allow people to come to their own amazingness?” or “Do I judge and evaluate based on their doing?”.

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Tanya Curtis

Tanya Curtis  

Tanya founded Fabic (Functional Assessment & Behavioural Interventions Clinic) in 2006 with a vision to support people to understand and change unwanted behaviours. Tanya is an author, writes and presents behaviour specialist DVDs, and has developed online behaviour support programs // www.fabic.com.au