Helping Love

"Because where there is no courage, there is no love: Love demands honesty, which is frightening, or it is only pretense. It demands vulnerability, or it is hollow. It engages our deepest power, or it lacks force. It brings us to confront sorrow, loss, and death."
— Starhawk, The Spiral Dance

Be honest! This is quite possibly the most important basis of Love I know of. If you don't tell the truth, how can your beloved know what you want, who you are, whether or not you're trustworthy? Would you like it if your sweetheart lied to you? Here's a big one I've unwittingly done myself, which has caused all kinds of unnecessary stress and pain: hinting about what you want instead of being forthright.

I didn't even realize I was doing it until I read with disgust the following paragraphs in an on-line article — then watched my sweetie express heartfelt sympathies for the men involved in the desperate guessing game of figuring out what was desired — from nothing more than vague hints.

Women are in unanimous agreement that they want to be surprised with gifts…. They want, of course, to be surprised for the thrill of it. However, a deeper, more important reason lies behind this desire…. "freedom from guilt."

Some of the women pointed out that if their husbands enlisted their help in purchasing a gift (like diamond jewelry), their practical nature would come to the fore and they would be compelled to object to the purchase. The element of surprise, even if it is feigned, plays the same role of accommodating dissonance in accepting a diamond gift as it does in prime sexual seductions: it permits the woman to pretend that she has not actively participated in the decision. She thus retains both her innocence — and the diamond.

It's from the article I mention above regarding diamonds. Read the actual quote in all the context — it's well worth it for an eye-opening look at societal expectations regarding the public demonstration of Love.

Love yourself! If you have no faith in yourself, why should anyone else? I've seen far too many people who were so sure they didn't deserve a wonderful lover, that they chased off anyone who might have gotten close. I've also seen loving people treated horribly — because their lovers believed no one truly worthwhile would possibly want to be around them! Be nice to yourself… then treat your lovers more nicely than you treat yourself.

"The more you love, the more you can love — and the more intensely you love. Nor is there any limit on how many you can love. If a person had time enough, he could love all of the majority who are decent and just."
— Robert A. Heinlein, Time Enough For Love

Be friends! How can you love someone you trust less than you trust your dear friends? A beloved is so much more than just a best friend. How can you share (but not require) loving and caring, with someone who is not even a friend? When you are hurting, if you cannot turn to your beloved, you will have to cut them out of part of your emotional life. Would you like it if that were done to you?

Be fair. Double standards are when you expect to get something which you aren't willing to give in return. Quite frankly, double standards are not compatible with love. A few simple examples: you expect your sweetheart to always have dinner on the table when you get home, because she's already at home by then… but if you get home early, it's not your job to put dinner on the table!

…or your sweetheart always picks up the kids from school because you're at work then — but if you get home early and your sweetheart has to stay late at work, still it's not your job to pick up the kids!

That's not love. That's ownership.

Yes, I know there are relationships where the participants have unequal expectations — but they're honest about it and happy with those choices. The critical point for me is that all involved are consenting adults who make informed choices together. Browbeating someone into doing what you want isn't true consent, and isn't loving. If you wouldn't like it done to you, then don't do it to the people you claim to love.

Give without expectation of reward. Taking out the garbage without having to be asked, not always demanding dinner be precisely when you want it — I'm not suggesting you be a doormat for your beloved, and it takes a thoughtful eye to tell when you're being taken advantage of. But when beloveds are constantly worrying about who did what last… is that really Love, or is it arguing about power relationships?

(conclusion tomorrow)

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