In 1984, Mick Jones, Foreigner’s guitarist, wrote the transatlantic hit, “I Want To Know What Love Is.”
It was 3 a.m. and he was suffering from insomnia.
As we all do in the wee hours of the morning while struggling to sleep, he was pondering about his tumultuous past. He’d been through a divorce and was about to marry someone else, and after it was written, he told her about the song.
She responded with a slightly offended tone, “What do you mean? Don’t you already know what love is?”
After she heard the song, she was ultimately moved by the lyrics as was the rest of the world to follow. Fast-forward to 2020 and we are bombarded with the toxicity of relationships with co-dependency running rampant through the streets.
Do we really know what love is? Can we really show each other?
Relationships, more often than not, are being used as scratching posts for all of our unfulfilled desires—or worse—a source of love that should be coming from within ourselves. Our culture has shamelessly idealised the idea of love.
Our relationships suffer and crumble because the foundations of our metaphorical houses are being built is on quicksand. Many of us have no clue what love is.
A conscious relationship might ask, “How can we grow together?” An unhealthy relationship might say, “You’re here to meet my needs.”
Toxicity is real, narcissists are real, gaslighting and ghosting are real, but many relationships are simply unhealthy. There is no sinister plot other than unresolved and festering issues or scripted patterns of past relationships, that we have on repeat.
So, what is love and how can we show each other?
1. A full expression of who we are
Love is not an environment that we hide in, it is an environment that we thrive in.
Love is accepting of us at our most authentic. Anything else is a falsehood. It’s true that we love with abandoned bliss when we are being our best selves, but love is full transparency.
It is kind and understanding when we are at our absolute worst, and holds space for us to feel safe in those moments. We are made of both dark and light, and love embraces both wholeheartedly.
It is not only a disservice to ourselves to be something we are not but it’s a disservice to the person we are with, who is robbed of their choice of whether they can accept and love that part of us.
2. A partner in healing, not a saviour
The love we receive from others will not save us.
Many of us are products of a series of unfortunate events, either by our own poor choices or the fact that life can certainly be unfair at times. Our healing is our responsibility.
The work that we need to do on ourselves, comes only from ourselves, rooted as firmly as tree roots in self-love and self-worth.
Love is beautiful and, yes, it will stand by us, encourage us, and give us the euphoria of being brave. But not if we smother it. Not if we lay all of our pain at its feet—the things that we have to sort through, to process, to learn from and to release.
Growing together is being held accountable for our own healing.
3. Conflict resolution and healthy communication
Love is not devoid of conflict and it is not devoid of challenges and obstacles.
Conflict is sure to arise as we express our individuality. It would be unrealistic to expect that conflicts will always be resolved gracefully, our partners will always be there for us, and that we will never get our feelings hurt.
Relationships require work, effort, and commitment with a great deal of maturity thrown in as well.
They require two people to communicate openly about how they feel, with their emotions on the table and come to agreements that help the relationship, not hinder it.
4. Interdependent, not codependent
Love is freedom. It gives space, trust, and time.
Co-dependency, the inability be alone or do things on our own, is a sickness that will only lead us to the greatest suffering.
We are not two halves of a whole, we are two wholes who come together.
We share space with each other while still sharing space with ourselves and what brings us happiness. Many of us jump head and heart first into codependent relationships and in drunken madness, label it love.
Love is absent in codependency, because the love for ourselves is absent.