February – the “feverish” month is considered the month of love. But what is love? And why do we need it? And if we don’t have a loved one, whether because we are recently single due to death or divorce or our loved ones are far away, how can we overcome this? And if our loved ones are close by how can we increase our love?
Love can also be considered to be “attachment” or emotional closeness to or fondness for someone. Volumes of ink have been spilled over what love is. But possibly the best definition might be fondness or attachment to another living creature. (Yes, you can love your cat… or dog). But the best indicator of love is when the other person is absent. Grief over death brings this out in people – the loved one is gone forever.
So firstly, for those who have lost a love, how do you feel the love of someone who is missing? One may feel abandoned by the loved one and so a person feels grief. A person may spot lovers walking hand in hand everywhere and the person may feel the pain ever more keenly.
However, if the person looks around, and can emerge even momentarily from their profound sadness, they may find proofs of “love” everywhere: The neighbour who checks in on you to see how you are doing on your birthday, the little boy who smiles and waves at you while he goes riding by on his bicycle, the bank teller who makes you laugh (and maybe even flirts with you), your dog who wags her tail or your long-haired, fluffy shedding cat who just HAS to crawl onto your lap, when you are dressed in black.
Do not invalidate the depth and love they may feel for you by the loss of your presence by saying “yes, but they don’t count!” They DO count because the dynamic of the relationship you have with these people will be the same as with a real lover, only less intense and less intimate. So it all adds up.
Now, in this February month are you trying to increase feelings of love for your partner or increase feelings of love from your partner towards you? Then be BOLD. But how do you express that courage? To be vulnerable requires courage to expose your heart emotionally and to share with your partner your fears, anxieties, weaknesses with the risk of rejection.
Ironically, for most people, when a person exposes his/her innermost heart with all its frailties and vulnerabilities, failures and losses to others, those others usually feel emotionally closer to that person. They feel “love” towards them. Why? Because the part of them that is frail and vulnerable identifies with the other person’s frailties and weaknesses.
Take a moment throughout the day before Valentines, after Valentines, anytime at all, to really, truly think about what your partner’s day to day experience might be. Listen carefully to the words they say as these words give clues as to what their experience is. Step into their shoes. Ask yourself: “What is she experiencing? How is she feeling?” This will increase your empathy, love and compassion for your partner.
Be observant of when he comes home and when he talks about his day, what theme keeps coming up again and again? If he expresses irritation about work, what might be behind the irritation,… fear? Worries about work? If you can find the vulnerability, you can connect more directly to a person’s heart.
Do these things, observe what goes on for you and what you might be experiencing and in the immortal words of Aretha Franklin, you will be on the “Freeway of Love”.
*Anna McGarrigle, (1990), Heartbeats Accelerating, from the album Heartbeats Accelerating.