A woman leaves behind her family and friends, everything she has ever known… to be with the one she loves.
A man jumps in front of an assassin’s bullet to save his lover, putting his life on the line for her.
These are some of the myths we are fed about how love works.
Though most of us know that love can be expressed in many different ways, our society fetishizes love based on sacrifice. This is poisonous.
True, there are times when sacrifice will be needed for a loved one. But those times should be few and far between. Mutual happiness, not mutual sacrifice, is the foundation for real, infinite love.
Sometimes we speak of true love as being unconditional. Great sacrifices made in the name of love are thought to be the strongest indicators of unconditional love, because they ring true to the emotion that “nothing will stop me….”
But the “sacrifice model of love,” in reality, actually puts conditions on love. It becomes anything but unconditional.
Sacrificial love, by design, means that somebody must lose. Something must be “sacrificed” in order for the love to be true.
If this is how you believe real love should be, it becomes very conditional. The love given and received in a relationship is then measured above all in terms of “how much did the other person sacrifice for me?” We begin to expect the one we love to “put us first,” putting pressure on the loved one. Very conditional indeed. You might as well have a scoreboard to keep score of who has sacrificed more if you keep going down this road.
Some anniversary cards that folks can buy to give to married couples say things like “congratulations on 10 years of making it look easy!” As if a marriage always has to feel hard and burdensome! I sure don’t favor a hard relationship that I have to “make look easy.” I’d rather not be in the relationship at all, don’t you think?
Relationships require attention, but the notion that “relationships are work,” certainly does not have to apply. It really shouldn’t apply to your most intimate relationships. But people’s acceptance of this “relationships are work” dictum ultimately boils down to a sense of going against what you want in order to love somebody, rather than organically feeling like you just love the other person, without having to try.
Part of that organic, natural feeling that you get when the love is good has to do with the sense you have inside that you are loved just the way you are. You don’t need to sacrifice anything, give up anything, fight against your will, nothing like that–because you are simply loved for who you are—unconditionally.
If we are going to love, that is how we must love each other: unconditionally. This means not seeing love as a function of sacrifice. More importantly, it means that both people in the relationship have to take an unconditional approach–only then will the trust develop so that you begin to just love organically without having to think in terms of tactics and scorekeeping.
This doesn’t mean sacrifice never happens. But sacrifice is not the norm.
Part of the reason that sacrifice is so valued is obviously that it communicates a deep feeling of selflessness and thus love when the person truly has their whole heart into it. But you see, to that person who has just sacrificed something out of such a deep love, in his/her heart, [s]he has not even made a sacrifice. 🙂
If Jackie loves Chris and Jackie doesn’t like cold weather but moves to Canada with Chris because Chris wants to, Jackie could feel one of two ways:
- As though [s]he had snubbed herself to try to love Chris, or
- As though it doesn’t matter how cold or warm the temperature is, because [s]he gets far more pleasure out of being with Chris than whatever [s]he might be missing by living in cold weather.
The first thought pattern is a conditional, sacrificial thought pattern. It is a prime breeding ground for resentment down the road. The second thought pattern, however, is natural and flowing. Sure, warm temperatures are preferable to Jackie, but there’s no second thought about the fact that being with Chris trumps all that. There’s no trying to do… that’s just how it is… and thus, it doesn’t even appear as a sacrifice!
However, there’s no way to force yourself to feel one way or another. If something doesn’t feel right, it isn’t. Neither is there a way to make someone else feel differently, no matter how much you think there is.
Remember also that love can exist in so many other forms, even if you are not in a sexual relationship with a person. And even then, it can be conditional. Sometimes, family-based love can be excruciatingly conditional. And sometimes, there is a member of the family who is completely unconditional with their love, and you remember that they are the one that you most love being around.
If you desire unconditional love, you will greatly increase your chances of finding it by being unconditional yourself about the love that you give. When you see somebody loving you without judging your or putting conditions on that love, you are more likely to feel the same way. The reverse also applies. 🙂
To be continued…