Let us now as promised try to go a little deeper into the mystery of love and the practical challenge of how to go about finding more of it. We will especially look at how our capacity to love is challenged in marriages. As I pointed out in my previous newsletter # 1 we are facing a huge dilemma here, since we enter into marriage with a greater need to be loved than capacity to initiate it. We simply seek into intimate relationships more in order to get something than to give something. But keep in mind that I am not slamming us people for being cynically self-centered and egoistic people out there to exploit each other. I am simply stating a fact about our existential condition: Just as we all enter into this world as vulnerable infants with nothing to give but a dire need to receive love, in the very same (but more subtle) way do we enter into committed intimate relationships with a dire hope and expectation to be loved. And THEN, when we feel loved, we will love back, with no difficulty. ”Of course I will love you, if you love me - you begin !”
This state of affairs now poses a mind-boggling dilemma, a nagging ”riddle” one could say, that I encouraged you to ponder:
If we are all running around looking for someone else to love us first, then who in the world is going to begin?
And I will give you my answer to this riddle today.
Well, somehow for most people the mutual give and take exchange got started in the ”falling in love” phase, when there is much happiness and bliss. Both feel they are getting, and therefore giving. But in reality there is nobody there initiating in a selfless way.
Since the dynamic of this love is not based on selfless giving, it is quite unstable. That is why these euphoric and blissful highs of ”being in love” never last. Due to the fact that we have a greater need for receiving love than capacity to give love, sooner or later - in all relationships - we will run into the constellation, where both parties experience a legitimate need to be loved by the other, and a right to request it, at the same time. Hence there is no one there to give anybody anything ! This is what I call the zero-point. Both stand empty handed facing each other, and frustration, disappointment and blame builds in the relationship. Here the altent conflict inbuilt in our condition shows up. Arguments, mistrust, suspicion, cynicism etc. takes over. And that approach for sure send love light-years away.
To avoid this we must learn to navigate in this 0-point without becoming un-loving. Why do we become so un-loving ? Because that is a way in which we can overshadow the pain we experience when we face this sudden loss of love. Instead we must embrace the pain and stay with it and ask the master of suffering and longing, Jesus Christ Crucified, to help us with this unfathomable task, which he knows all about from his own passion.
We must learn to accept that is is totally ok to not have any love to give in certain moments and phases of our life. However, when we experience a lack of love in our hearts, we can always find something else in there - and that is nothing but a need to BE loved!
So when you find yourself unable to love, then go and humbly ask for it, in a loving way, which means without demanding it. For example say this:
”I am so sorry I do not have anything to give you right now, but I need so much for you to hold me or tell me you love me…..but if you do not have anything to give this moment either, then I understand and accept.”
This humble way of laying yourself out there to the other in your most vulnerable state IS a true gesture of love in itself. So the liberating paradox that I want to share with you today is the fact, that even when you have no love to give, you can still give yourself with all your longing and needs. Because you will always have a need to be loved, that is a constant. Your heart is never ”empty” if you look deep enough. But you must dare be ”vulnerable.”
As I said, this open heart approach is a loving gesture in itself and will most often open the heart of the other person. And then - lo and behold - love will begin to flow again.
But you must be patient and not demanding - love can never be forced or manipulated. Love is a gift and can only be given freely.
The trick is to navigate through the inevitable zero-point. And I have said a lot about that elsewhere.
For now I will sum it all up in the following golden formula that you have probably never heard from anybody else before…
It is ok to not be able to love - when you cannot. But it is never ok to be un-loving.
God bless you and guide you in this venture !
Peter Damgaard-Hansen has a Ph.D. in Psychology from Denmark. He has practiced extensively in Denmark and Norway since 1973 and came to Northern Minnesota in 1988. By 1993 he moved to Central Minnesota and opened a private practice serving the Twin Cities area. He currently lives in Denmark.