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Many people in intimate romantic relationships use the word love to describe their feelings for or connection with others. However, many people do this very often when love is not what they are describing, and when the word does not belong or apply. The reason why it does not apply is because what they are calling love is really some form of a selfish response or behavioral pattern that they are referring to as the emotional core or source of connection between them and their partner. This is my list of the top 5 things love is commonly mistaken for within relationships.
1. Infatuation: an intense interest in a person, and the perception and/or imaginary creation of who they are holistically.
Infatuation is based on the selfish, narrow view that we have of someone else for specific reasons. Infatuation takes place and is often magnified when we take aspects or impressions of a person that we are aware of and we fill in the blanks or connect the dots in our head to create an image or perception of them as a whole that is not based in reality or not completely realistic. This often happens outside of our awareness. Infatuation is also possible when someone chooses to focus only on facets of a person, usually, one that serves them in some way, whether actually or psychologically, while ignoring information or aspects that would contradict or diminish the inflated positive view of that person overall.
2. Attraction: chemistry, literally.
Now let me be clear when it comes to attraction, the chemistry involved deals with actual chemicals that manifest into emotions. I am not speaking of physical working chemistry between personalities or an active effort made by two individuals to work together on accommodating each other's needs and goals. The chemistry you feel from the attraction you have to someone else is literally the result of chemicals within your body working to push you towards the pursuit of another person. It’s nature's way of helping you hook up with others to ensure the species will live on and procreate. The problem is, those chemicals aren’t produced forever and ultimately fade, specifically after nature has done its job and you have connected with the person you are attracted to. Confusing attraction for love will ultimately lead to disappointment within relationships pertaining to love because it will cause individuals to constantly chase the strong feelings of attraction felt at the beginning of a relationship while confusing them for love. Strong feelings that will inevitably always fade I might add. Attraction is great, even necessary, but it is not the basis for which any meaningful, fulfilling relationship can stand alone on.
3. Obsession: narrow focused thinking and dwelling on limited or imagined aspects of another individual.
Like infatuation, obsession involves narrow-minded thinking and limited focus in respect to who another person is in their entirety. However, when infatuation crosses the line and starts to consume a person's focus, attention, and thoughts, obsession can be born. It is important to understand that the obsession here is not with the actual person, but with the thoughts or ideas that have been created and associated with that person. Either way, the goal and intention behind the obsessed person's behavior is once again to act in a selfish way that will satisfy or relieve the experience of overwhelming obsessive thoughts. When it comes to obsession in relationship to another person, it has much more to do with the obsessed individual's psychological state and mental mindset, than it does the object or focal point of the obsessed.
4. Attachment: conditioned pattern of behavior based on fear and reinforcement.
Attachment is a behavioral pattern that takes place when people are conditioned through reinforcement to understand their existence and routine or place in life only as it relates to another person being involved in every way. The underlying force that drives attachment is a person's irrational fear of not being able to survive on their own in some way. Personal safety and security are the driving forces behind attachment. Unhealthy attachment is often formed when one person relies on another as the source of their self worth or emotional well being. There is evidence that this driving force comes from the expectations you formed about people in relationships as a young child with your parents or caregivers. The primary expectations you have of your partner are derived from the answers to questions such as, "Can I trust them to stay with me?" Or, "Am I worthy of being loved?" How you answered these questions on an unconscious level is what will ultimately determine whether you develop a healthy secure attachment in your relationships, or not. Strong attachment does not equal love.
5. Dependency: relying on another person to meet specific needs, based on perceived inadequacy, insecurity, and fear.
Also based on fear and inadequacy, dependency takes place when an individual is in a relationship with another person because they are too afraid of being alone, and or too insecure to be able to handle life independently. Dependency often stems from or is created when an individual has an external locus of control. That is, they look outside of themselves for their source of happiness, safety, direction, information, etc. They become reliant on another. Many unhealthy relationships fall into a pattern of co-dependency masked as interdependence. Remember, what you do in a relationship shouldn’t be what the other person needs you to do to survive, and also shouldn’t be what you think will get your needs met in return. If you find that either of these is your motive behind caring for your partner, it may be time to re-examine the nature of your relationship.
What do these 5 things have in common?
They are all selfish. The primary motive behind each of them, whether conscious or unconscious, is to fulfill or meet a personal need.
So what then is real, genuine, authentic love you might be asking?
Love is the interest and investment in the other person's well-being, safety, security, and growth, without the expectation of anything in return. Love is putting the other person on your selfless priority list because them being happy, safe, and secure is what fulfills you most. Love is the opposite of the 5 things mentioned above because those 5 things are all selfish in nature and the opposite of putting someone else first. They are things that require the individual to put themselves first, front, and center when it comes to benefiting or receiving in the relationship. Although the 5 aspects mentioned above may surface within a healthy love based relationship at times, they are not the core of what connects two people.
Love is not selfish. And love is not an emotion or a feeling either. Love is an action, that is born out of the conscious decision and choice to commit to consistently put the other person's needs and fulfillment alongside, or ahead of your own. Love is most powerful when it is reciprocated by two people for the genuine reasons I mentioned above. This type of loving relationship is hard to find, and harder to maintain...but it is possible. And when two people are committed to each other and the growth and fulfillment of the relationship, that synergy is unmistakable and it dwarfs the attention or connection that is often felt from things we settle for or mistake as love.
Remember, the sole intention of genuine love is to give, so attempt to love fully with no reservations, but be intelligent. Your intention is to give love genuinely to someone you care about, but don’t put yourself in a situation or position to be exploited or taken advantage of by someone who doesn't have your best interest at heart. Recognize what you currently have, identify what you want, and then examine your own capacity for being able to love another person with no agenda. To do this, you must get to a place of confidence, security and unquestioned love for yourself first before you will be capable of truly loving someone else in this way. We cannot love, trust, respect, or communicate with others effectively until we can first do all of these things for ourselves.