26 Dec “Use things, love people.” It is frightening how many individuals do just the opposite in the name of love. (LEO BUSCAGLIA)
Fully functioning persons recognize their need for others. They do not see this need for love and intimacy as demanding that they be less than they are, but rather as a means for reflecting their vast potentials and sharing them with others. They do not feel restricted by love or intimacy, but see them as a special opportunity for growth. They understand that they can never own another person and have no desire to be so possessed. They know that intimacy brings people together but that it is each person’s responsibility to maintain autonomy; that they must grow separately in order to continue to grow with others. Love and intimacy are challenged, not threatened by differences. Fully functioning persons know that when two separate individuals decide to form an intimate relationship, they are uniting two different worlds, and, as such, not only bring to each other only commonalities, but differences. It is the differences which will continue to stimulate them to growth. The depth of our love can usually be measured by the degree to which we are willing to share ourselves with others. We begin with separate I’s. We set up a shared space between the two I’s and call it us. It is this space where intimacy grows. The greater the shared experience the more the area of us.
Love and intimacy have many stages and therefore will be constantly changing. The intimacy of the first meeting will not be the intimacy of the honeymoon, but there will be many honeymoons; the honeymoon of the first one-bedroom apartment with its borrowed furniture; the honeymoon of the first child; the honeymoon of the down payment on a first home; the honeymoon of the first significant promotion; the honeymoon of growing with the family, watching the children form their own families; the honeymoon of growing old together. Each honeymoon will be new and will create further depths of intimacy. It is therefore imperative that the fully functioning person be constantly aware and open to change. The person in one’s arms today will not be the same person tomorrow, or even, for that matter, in the next hour. Love is not nurtured or enhanced by looking back, it is always lived in the now.
Mature intimacy and love are not based upon expectations. Since no one, riot even a saint, can know or meet all of our expectations, to expect from others is to court pain and disappointment. The only valid expectation in love lies in the hope that those we love will become themselves, as we do the same Love given out of a sense of duty or obligation, is the greatest insult and therefore not love at all.
Real love and intimacy grow best in spontaneity and offer an abundance of opportunities for experiences of joy, beauty and laughter. We have all known the wonder of sharing a peak experience with another, whether of laughter or pain. For a moment the shared experience has taken two and made them one. These moments of deep intimacy will continue to make love more refreshing, exciting and youthful.
Love and intimacy require some verbal expression. Too often we assume that the other person or persons knew what we are thinking or how we are feeling. We are often surprised when we discover that this is not true. It is the lover’s responsibility to reach out and touch the heart of the loved one — a word, a note, a flower, a simple poem, can bring the much needed message of assurance. One never tires of knowing love expressed.
Love and intimacy require compassion. Unless we are able to feel with the other, we are unable to love. This does not mean that we can completely empathize with another’s feelings and behaviors. It is painful to me when I hear someone say, “I know just how you feel!” One does not! One never can! At best, we are able to understand only what we have truly experienced, and each experience is always very personal. But when we have a knowledge of our own personal conflicts and feelings based upon general human experience we can begin to understand how others may feel. It is this point at which compassion begins.
Love and intimacy have no place for exploitation. There is an old statement, but still true, “Use things, love people.” It is frightening how many individuals do just the opposite in the name of love: parents who use their children, husbands who use their wives, educators who use their students, radicals who use their society. They use the lives of others to affirm their own being and worth. This is basically why love has become such a questionable and frightening concept. It is so often used to violate rather than stimulate. Exploitation, in a relationship, no matter how we rationalize it, can never be love!
PERSONHOOD: the art of being fully human