I've come to the realization that I've been wrong about love my whole life. I used to think that love was about doing things for others, caring for them, making sacrifices, creating happiness, being kind, etc. These are all beautiful aspects of a loving relationship, but they all sort of miss the point. What really grows love is not what we do but how we receive. When I think about my closest friendships, I find that what stands out is how much a friend can see of me and how I'm accepted. Do I have to hide myself, or can I show who I am without fear or shame? Can I talk about what's difficult in my life, or share my hopes and dreams, and not feel rejected or ridiculed? That to me is the mark of a true loving friendship.
Romantic relationships are no different - the receiving is still greater than the giving. It doesn't matter so much what my husband does for me as how I receive it. If I don't receive who he is and what he is offering me with joy and acceptance, then I'm not actually loving him. On the other hand, if I am hurting or struggling, I don't need help or fixing so much as to be heard and acknowledged. The help and the acts of love are important, but they aren't enough by themselves. The greatest thing we can do for each other is bearing witness, whether in joy or in sorrow. This deep need for connection is what makes us human, and connection doesn't exist without receiving.
So much of our hurt feelings arise from missing this crucial point, whether in relationships with our parents or friends or partners. How much more could we be if we knew how to love well? I love this quote from the movie Cloud Atlas: "To be is to be perceived. And so to know thyself is only possible through the eyes of the other." On a spiritual level, love is an act of creation, and what we are creating is each other.