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Nine Important Things You Should Know About Love

We have a responsibility to love—it must be protected to survive.

RANDI GUNTHER Clinical Psychologist & Marriage Counselor

When I have asked people over the years what love means to them, I’ve gotten many different answers. Some tell me that love makes them feel chosen and desirable. Others describe it as safety, protection, and comfort. Disillusioned people may refer to it as a seductive disappointment, meant to tease, promise, and then disappear. The saddest share that they don’t know if they’ve ever known love or ever will.


Very few people talk to me about their responsibility to the fragility of love, as a relationship that must be protected to survive and nurtured to thrive. They don’t think about what they must do on their end to keep love in their lives.


I do know how love behaves and what you must do to welcome and keep it in your lives. Perhaps what I can share with you might make it more likely that you will understand what it needs from you to motivate it to stick around.


Love:

1. Enhances All Emotions

When love shows up in your life, you may notice that it opens the floodgates to emotions you may have suppressed or forgotten to feel. Suddenly, you become aware of the potential pain of loss, dependencies that make you uncomfortable, a melting of defenses, a need to re-prioritize everything in your life. You are more sensitive, more responsive, and yes, emotionally naked. Fears from past failures or early traumas emerge, demanding your focus.


2. Waxes and Wanes

Love is not consistent or predictable. It can explode and then disappear in moments, sometimes without warning or a predictable future. It can be overwhelmingly present and then elusively quiet. Like a feral animal, it may at once be demanding of nurturing and attentiveness and then run into a place where you cannot find it. You must have faith in its desire to remain part of your life and not chase it when it is quiet—yet welcome it when it returns.


3. Is Stress Responsive

Stress overloads the emotional, intellectual, and physical capacity of a person’s ability to cope. It steals all resources, forcing a person to sharply focus on solving its demands. The joy of love that thrives in a timeless space often cannot take a back seat for long to anxiety, fear, reactivity, or inability to be at peace. What may be a predictable and easy response to the needs of another now fail under the weight of other demands.


4. Creates Oxytocin

When this chemical messenger floods the body, it produces feelings of trust, bonding, love of touch, romantic attachment, stress-reduction, and it lessens emotional and physical pain. It is a remarkable love potion. Yet, it can be diminished when not sought after or nourished. So often, a couple in need of one another’s comfort during hard times don’t realize that enhancing oxytocin can help them get through difficulties. Stopping to just breathe in each other’s arms or gently massaging each other’s bodies, can re-stimulate the very chemical they need to get through the distress.


5. Responds to Nostalgia and Dreams and Romantic Moments

Even when times are hard and romantic partners feel too far away from each other in the current moment, they can intentionally bring back moments when they were close and remind each other of who they have been at their best. This can be in the form of music, smells, memories, revisiting meaningful places, or remembering a special book or poem they once shared. Love can still exist from the past and keep its place in line until a better future resumes, but a couple must initiate those experiences and take the time to share them when they are facing challenges.


6. Is Fragile When Ignored

Love is a breathing entity. It does not wait for us to find it, and it disconnects when it is not sought. It cannot be taken for granted or expected to serve when convenient. It must, instead, be enshrined for the beauty it can bring and appreciated every moment it exists. Even when love is not currently yours, it is blossoming somewhere and needs to be honored just because it exists at all. Feeling the desire to love is more healing in its own way than receiving it. If that experience is denied within, it cannot find its way to emerge to the outside.


7. Is Hard to Heal When it Breaks

If love is not acknowledged, is thrown aside or not honored, it dies. But most often, just a little bit at a time, it is struggling to stay until it can no longer. When it diminishes, it is never easy to coax it back into existence, no matter what is done. Beware of “too little, too late.” So often people remember when love was crying out to ears and hearts that would or could not listen. Like a fire that dies for lack of fuel, lost love has no embers. Its existence is even more in jeopardy when it is then condemned forever.


8. Thrives on Humor, on Joy, and on Hope

Love is not always meant to be serious or heavy. Even in the hardest times, people can find happiness somewhere and renew their faith in a different future. Things that are joyful, silly, and lighthearted exist around us even when we can not produce them easily ourselves. We can borrow from experiences outside us that remind us that joy still exists and that we have not only known it, but will again. There may not be energy for the kind of laughter that heals, but there is always something going on close by that can make us smile, even if just for a moment. Love will awaken at the sight and sound of possibility, even if it has to wait a while to be experienced.


9. Is Very Susceptible to Outside Influences

Love cannot be contained within a bubble. Every experience, every person, every thought, every feeling, every demand, every action that comes from the outside affects its ability to stay or leave. Pressures from families, from religious teachings, from past or current loss, from earlier successes or failures, all affect love’s ability to flourish or to die. When challenges threaten its existence, it must be prioritized and nurtured, or it will disappear.

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