Three Kinds of Love by Martin Luther King, Jr.

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LoveThat’s what’s on my mind these days. There’s a lot of schools of thought on it… but I think that LOVE is answer to almost any question you ask. Martin Luther King, Jr’s teaching on love:
Eros..a romantic love for your mate. It’s inevitably a little selfish. You love your lover because there is something about your lover that moves you. It may be the way he talks or the way he walks or the personality or the physical beauty or the intellectual power– but it’s always based on that there’s something that attracts you.”

One year prior to “the 9/11” that transformed all of our lives, is the wedding anniversary of my mother and her husband. Mom classified him as a silver-haired fox (translation: a good-looking catch), a dating requirement. She was absolutely stunning with nary a wrinkle on her ivory skin which enhanced her deep blue eyes, chin-length bobbed red hair, and trim figure that turned many heads.

For 30 years, Mom was a perpetually single, conservative Southern Baptist, who never opened a newspaper unless it was to cut a coupon, and who read her Bible and Norman Vincent Peal quotes daily. He was a newly single left-winged liberal who enjoyed daily New York Times crosswords, literature my mother has never heard of, travel to countries she’s has never been to nor cared to go, wine she’s always refused to drink and was debt free.

He had a sparkle in his eyes that spoke of infatuated honeymoon-ish love whenever he would look at her. He adored her. Ignoring all their differences, they married anyway. The 12 year marriage evolved into something unconventional, proving he’s a man of sticking power. His secret? It began with Eros and grew into something more.

“Philia…intimate affection between personal friends. These are people you like. It’s reciprocal love. You love because you are loved. You love the people that you like. People that you like to sit down at the table and eat dinner with. People you dial the phone and talk to. People you go out with. This is friendship.”
My father and his wife, married over 25 years ago. He was intensely career driven man for all my growing up years who relied on her for everything from bill paying, cooking, decorating to organizing cross country or international moves.
She had a flare for interior decorating, retired after 20 years as a flight attendant and became a devoted full time personal assistant to Dad. Their marriage has endured the typical family squabbles and strangeness that comes with an array of colorful relatives and a spoiled daughter (me), family losses (after both of her parents passed, there are now no other living relatives since she was an only child), more moves and houses than I can possible recount, and now, her disease: Alzheimer’s.
My father said to me when he learned I was contemplating my own marriage few years ago that, “at some point, love evolves. It’s no longer a romantic love or even close to that. It becomes a completely different kind of love and simply endures.” As her full time care-giver, his dedication to her well-being is beyond admirable, it’s saintly. She can no longer carry on a 2 way conversation, remember how to wash her hands or hair, let alone prepare her own meals or even order at a restaurant. His secret?  Simply talk to her to engage her mind and be with her constantly…Love evolved.
“Agape…is more than romantic love… more than friendship…it’s understanding. It is creative and redeeming good will toward all men. It is the love of God operating in the human heart. It is the overflowing love which seeks nothing in return. And when you rise to love on this level, you love people who don’t move you. You love those that you don’t like. You love those whose ways are distasteful to you. You love every man because God loves him.”
All of them either approaching or into their 70’s, for better or for worse, are still married. Each transformed through enduring hardships and sharing in some kind of happiness, even if that happiness is just a memory. It is a strange, unspoken, yet profoundly demonstrated kind of love. Love is always the giver, never the taker. Real love doesn’t ask for anything in return. Where there is love, there is no fear. Love is the answer.
“We can do no great things, only small things with great love.”–Mother Teresa

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About Melissa Smith Smith

Melissa, Yoga Alliance ERYT® 500 in Yoga Therapeutics, Restorative and Sustainable Yoga Teacher Trainer, International retreats, Alzheimers and other Dementias caregiver advocate, and Mindfulness in Schools Educator. Native Texan, Melissa currently lives in Calgary, Alberta with her 2 sons and leads Retreats in Southeast Asia, Canada, Portugal, France and the United States. She also leads retreats for caregivers of Alzheimers in Texas and Alberta. Her teaching style lends itself toward mindful, slow with a dash of sustainable strength. Her for desire is for students to connect within and integrate their own intuition in practice offering each student the opportunity to deeply listen to their own body’s needs. Connect with her on Facebook, her Melissa Smith Yoga Website, and Instagram, or read other Elephant Journal articles.


29 Responses to “Three Kinds of Love by Martin Luther King, Jr.”

  1. Kimberly says:

    "Love is always the giver, never the taker." Hits home. Thank you for sharing…you have a gift with words.

  2. chriscander says:

    What a lovely reminder of how love evolves. Thank you for sharing.

  3. tamiapland says:

    So beautiful, Melissa. I did not know that about your mother. Thank you for sharing. xo

  4. I watched a very old couple in the store the other day. Wife obviously had many physical issues and I think maybe some dementia as well. Her husband looked at her with such love, and was taking care of her with such tenderness it brought a tear to my eye. They truly embodied enduring love.

    • melissa says:

      Lovely. I know I've seen that too. And, your heart just does a combination of smiling & mine- a little pang of ache. Because I know that what sweet man probably sees is the young woman he fell in love with… years ago.
      We should all have that kind of love offered – given and received.
      thank you, jennifer for sharing.

  5. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Just posted to "Popular Lately" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

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  6. DeAnna Nielsen says:

    Wow, this is powerful. Made me cry. Thank you. XO

  7. david romanelli says:

    BEAUTIFUL MELISSA! really poignant and deep and awesome read….

  8. This is such a touching piece. I especially liked these words from your father: "“at some point, love evolves. It’s no longer a romantic love or even close to that. It becomes a completely different kind of love and simply endures." So moving it brings tears to my eyes. Was your father sharing this to you to encourage you to find, or create, such an "evolving" and "enduring" love in your own marriage? It is so sad that so many marriages end, while they all begin with the same goal of finding that eternal love. But not many find it these days. I hope you do, Melissa. I think love is ALWAYS the most worthy subject of contemplation! This is a beautiful article, and I thank you for sharing it. xoxoxo

    • melissa says:

      thank you Katarina.
      He was trying to convince me to stay in my marriage. After 4 years of trying, I finally divorced in December. I do have hope, for a soul mate and companion… one day… I believe in serendipity.
      I know that there is many different kinds of love. I'm even seeing it in my former husband (calling him ex-husband sounds rough and odd), he is being gracious and kind… I see glimpses of the man I feel in love with 20 years ago in him now that we are no longer married. I think 4 years of living in limbo was hard for him. And, now that it's final, I think he feels free to be himself again.
      All that said, to bring me back to my dad… he's not at all so saintly… full of flaws and impatience and frustrations, just like all of us. But, what I admire most, is how he is able to put himself in her shoes. He is truly treating her just as he would want to be treated if he could no longer care for himself. I could not be more proud of him. I have always admired him for his business savvy growing up but now, I admire his honor.
      I also see this in my former husband, honor. Doing the right thing, even when it hurts. When the first reaction is to be bitter or revengeful. Those actions don't serve anyone. And, certainly not our children.
      Love does evolve. Even after divorce. It's evolved for me, yet again.

  9. Lisa Scott says:

    Such a wonderful and beautiful soul you have! Your words truly inspire me…

  10. Martha Pritchett says:

    Thank you for sharing with me Melissa. I knew there was something special about you. Love does endure many twist and turns in life. A good friend of mine and my husband, just past Dec.23. His wife, my friend, took care of him with such love and devotion. Her strength is amazing to all that knew Steve. He also had a brain tumor. He was given 3 months but was blessed with 1 year of joy with family, friends and so much love. She posted and shared many wonderful stories, ups and downs through Caring Bridge. We were grateful to share the year in that way with him. I see that strength coming through more and more with my little yoga buddy. I hope she will be blessed with many more years with her life long love.

    Thanks for being such a wonderful teacher, in more ways than one.

    • melissa says:

      I am so grateful to have you in our weekly yoga class, Martha, watching how powerful the friendships you've made and sustain has been a beautiful example to me.
      Grateful for you!

  11. Love- Sangeeta says:

    Beautifully said Melissa. I can totally relate my personal life with the story of your Father in fact with many Indian couples. I am firm believer that the circumstances we go through in life together are there for us to learn. Each one of them help us evolve in one way or the other. It is quite a process to share the life with someone and patiently, for better or for worse, be still till you see that LOVE finally evolved or I think more appropriate to say that our perception evolved, LOVE was always and will always be so long we are connected to GOD, but in our perception, it just needs to be separated from the "Need".
    Thank you for sharing!<3

  12. […] If love was made of any material, it’d definitely have to be water because it runs through all things and […]

  13. Holly Dukes says:

    Beautifully written, Melissa!!! Your beautiful characterization of love resonates deeply within my soul, and has given me new insight into a word that seems to speak more of action than of feeling. It evolves; it endures; it adores; it empathizes; it lifts; it gives; it cares; it honors commitment. And most of all, it is unconditional!! This past year I have experienced love in a way that testifies of such characterization. It endeavors one to press onward even when the current of life's windstorm has undermined one's strength. Thank you for sharing such poignant portrayal of a word that transcends the distinction of gender, age and even political persuasion. YOU have portrayed such love!! You have much to offer a community and you will be sorely missed by the Katy community! May love accompany you and bless your family and the people of Kuala Lumpur!!! Your beautiful smile and soothing voice will ever be present as we continue to practice yoga. Best of luck to you in your new adventure!

    • Melissa says:

      Beautiful Holly, over 40 weeks ago you commented and I'm just now seeing it… that's almost a year ago… your life speaks love to me. I am blessed to know you- and you're never far from my thoughts.
      Much love to you ~

  14. […] can turn it around.” {In honor of my mother who has given me everything she could and to my beautiful step-mother now suffering from Alzheimer’s disease who never once tried to take my mother’s place, […]

  15. Marcela says:

    I read this post last year when I was at the brink of divorce and feeling utterly hopeless. My husband kept telling me that we were great "best friends" but he didn't "feel" what he once "felt" for me and he didn't understand why and it made him question everything. I started to agree with him thinking that maybe it was all a mistake. The second I read it I knew it was exactly what I needed and he needed. I printed it and shared it with my husband. (I had to print it…I knew that if I shared the link he wouldn't read it) I didn't say a word about it…I just handed it to him and at the bottom I wrote: I am inviting you to enter into this 'Third Phase of Love' with me. It will be difficult and scary but I know it will be worth it. Love, Your Wife. Well, to make a long story short, one year later we are not only still together, but more in LOVE than we were before. It's a new and different Love and everything I had to suffer to get to this point was worth it (and it was a lot) for him and myself and the "Us" that we are now. I feel so sad for so many people who never take that step into that third phase…who give up and start over because the only love they understand is "eros" love, the easy selfish love. I hope that if you find yourself in a crossroads like we did, you'll be brave.

  16. Melissa says:

    I am deeply moved by the transformation that took place in your marriage as a result of MLK, Jr's words~ This lesson on Love was and has been powerful for me. I have been brave and courageous but in other ways. I have an enduring love for my now ex-husband, but it is one that encompasses a kinship that we share with our sweet boys. I am grateful to my parents for the lessons along the way – and continue to be humbled by stories like yours. I wish you all the best in what life has to give you both. In joy, Melissa

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