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The way I grew up, love looked like this…
You met someone, developed feelings.
As the feelings grew stronger, you got into a relationship together. (Those feelings may or may not turn into love.) If they turned into love, the relationship got more serious.
Maybe you end up together, maybe you don’t. But that’s the way love had to look in my head.
As I grew up and had my paradigm split open, I saw there were different ways to love people.
Not all of them fit into a normal “relationship box” as I thought they should.
The first time I experienced this was when I was 23 years old. I had an electric connection with a co-worker. It was if we had known each other our entire lives.
He got me. We got each other. He taught me things about myself I carry with me to this day. I never thought much about that friendship as it was developing. I just knew our connection was deep and I looked forward to seeing him every day.
Then one day out of nowhere it was if somebody knocked the wind out of me. I realized I had fallen in love with him. I didn’t know how or when it had happened, but I saw it and felt it with so much clarity and intensity that my heart ached. It was so strong it suffocated me.
This was not a person I could be in a relationship with. He was married to someone else. But we acknowledged we both loved each other and in the time we were in each other’s lives, we gave that love to each other in small ways without ever being in a relationship.
It still remains one of the most profound loves of my life.
I attended a women’s circle this weekend with a powerful, deeply intuitive and grounded group of women. We talked a lot about relationships that night. I shared how I was still learning to receive love from people that I had no intention of getting into a traditional relationship with.
I was struggling with it—often pushing them away because I know I can’t give them what they want.
One woman challenged me, asked me if I could look at the container differently.
Was it possible that I could give my love to others and receive it without it having to look a certain way?
I was uncertain.
Isn’t the goal to find someone we can fully commit ourselves to—mind, body and spirit? I may not want to get married again, but I want someone who wants me—all of me. I want someone who wants to be with just me, and nobody else.
Is that really too much to ask?
I realize I hold my love for others tightly to my chest. I’m afraid to give it or reveal it. What if I don’t get it back?
One of my spiritual teachers said to me recently,“You will know what true love is when you can give it to someone, without expecting anything back.”
I called bullsh*t on this at the time. It seemed impossible that I could ever give my heart to someone who can’t give theirs back to me. That’s not how it works.
Except it is how it works.
This same woman made me see things differently. We talked about a current situation. She explained that people love differently.
She asked, “Can you try to accept the love your friend has for you, however he can give it? Embrace it and allow yourself to receive it. And you in turn, give yours back to him, knowing you may never be in a relationship with him. Let it be Ok to just love each other in whatever way you can. Stop putting so many rules on it.”
I resisted. I don’t want to just give my love to someone. What if I get hurt? My love is precious and must be earned.
But then I realized I was already giving it. I couldn’t help but not. And I fell into a place of accepting that this is what my heart feels and the most loving thing I can do is to give it to him simply because it’s there.
There are men who have done this for me. There are men in my life now who love me. They ask for nothing back. They are brazen enough to tell me that they love me with no shame, no expectations, no withholding of their true feelings.
I respect that.
Can you do the same for someone else in your life?
Can you put aside your ego and your expectations and just say, “I hold a space inside myself that loves you.”
The timing may not be right. The circumstances may not be right. The two of you may not even be right together.
But we are allowed to feel love for anybody. That is the beauty of free will and our connectedness with each other. We can love whoever we want. We can receive another person’s love without needing to give it in equal amounts back.
The next time somebody says to me, “Let me love you,” I will not pull away and reject it so quickly.
It does not have to fit into a box. It does not have to make sense. It does not have to be perfect timing or make promises of a future together.
It just has to be authentic. Real love is just that. Authentic. We give it because it feels authentic to us. And we can receive it because somebody simply wants to give it.
Today I choose to give my love to people I feel it for. Not because it fits into a box. Or because I may end up in a relationship with them down the line.
But because it simply feels right to express what is authentically in my heart.
Bonus: This is a new kind of relationship that’s truly sustainable, passionate and fun:
Author: Dina Strada
Editor: Khara-Jade Warren
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