Eureka! I have found it! The problem all along has been vocabulary. As many of you know, I wrote an award winning book called “What Is Love?” that looks at all of the confusion society has with the term love. This confusion has not been resolved by all of the new age fanciful romantic homilies to the notion of true love, soul mates, twin flames and such. Personally I have been married twice and had many “gf’s” but have never found “the one”. I completely understand the post on Facebook the other day, “You know that life lesson that you swore was your soul mate?” My picker has been diagnosed as “broken”, my karmic bus proclaimed to have four flat tires and my mantra is “I suck at girls.”
My childhood training about love has heightened the dilemma. My parents taught me to completely disempower myself to those who I am supposed to love. They further taught me that if I loved someone then I had to completely become co-dependent and sacrifice whatever needed to be sacrificed. My experience with fundamentalist Christians only deepened the training with the notion that “you don’t get divorced, no matter what. Put your faith in Jesus.” My experience is Jesus doesn’t do marriage counseling. This training was underscored with the painful lessons that if you don’t become co-dependent and disempower yourself to the ones you “love” then they will leave you. My parents would withdraw their love and affection; my wives would simply withdraw into their personal hell in order to teach me the error of my ways.
There was a parody of a popular song several years ago entitled “Love Hurts Part II”. It lamented the end of love because the parties weren’t getting what they wanted out of the relationship. And there is the true root cause of the problem. We don’t know what love is, we only know love as a completely different emotion called “lust”. Now I am not only talking about sexual lust, although for most people that is the crux of the matter. Many people go into relationship to secure a supply of steady sex. That is the purpose behind romance after all. Romance is simply a Middle Age version of stalking and capturing your prey. Some French poet long ago decided that poetry, flowers and candy was sure bait to set the trap for some young lad or lass. And the primal need for sex and candy became civilized.
Lust is much more than the craving for sex. It is the craving for companionship and attention. When we find someone that fits our parameters, that is “like-minded”, then we go animalistic and want that person to be by our side for the rest of our lives. That is not love that is lust. When we meet someone that is attractive in just the way we want our true love to look, we “fall in love”. We do not “fall in love”, we “fall in lust.” If you are feeling a little resistance to this truth, it is probably because we have heard that “lust” is a bad word. The Christians have labeled lust as one of the seven deadly sins. So we can’t admit to one of the oldest emotions in our repertoire, because of fear that we may become a sinner.
Quite to the contrary, if it weren’t for lust, none of us would be here. If our parents had not lusted for each other, the chemistry would not have been there and they would not have satisfied their lust ending in us. There is a real need for lust in perpetuating the species, so there obviously isn’t anything wrong with that. Thank heaven for that. But I digress.
So if everything physical is lust, what is love? As I explain in my book, love has nothing to do with what we get out of a relationship. If you are unhappy in a relationship because you are not getting what you want, then you have lust, not love. Love goes out, lust comes in. Love is simply compassion. Compassion is the human response to the suffering of others. In fact, the ideal love we all talk about, unconditional love is also known as “compassionate detachment”. When we unconditionally love another, we wish them well. That is all. If you are attracted to that person in any way, your love has turned into lust. Attraction is a desire that you want the other person to fulfill. Detachment is the absence of that attraction.
So if we truly love someone, we do not care whether they are beside us or not. When we do care, that is lust. When we admit that to ourselves, then we begin to take control over our lives. We can let go of the lust and simply enjoy the love. To make this even more clear, when people tell us to “love ourselves”, that does not mean to become narcissistic. That simply means to accept ourselves exactly as we are and don’t try to be someone we are not. It means to tell the truth to others and ourselves and not to hurt anyone. It means to do loving actions without any desire for gain or return. When we start being selfish, we are starting to lust for ourselves.
We have to start to admit the truth of what motivates us and why we do what we do if we are going to stop suffering. If we suffer because the target of our lust is not staying still in their cage, then we have to take responsibility for what we do to keep them there. Love would open the cage door, lust puts more padlocks on them. When we truly love ourselves and others, we don’t need anyone else to make us happy. We just are happy.