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What is it like to have real love?

Jul 24, 2019


What are you doing when you love someone and it’s just not working?

Hi, everyone! I’m Dr. Liz and I am talking to you today about love and about what love means and about the new definition of love that I’m going to start using in my life.

So I want to start by bringing an old quote from bell hooks. bell hooks is an amazing feminist scholar, a womanist scholar who does amazing writing about anti-oppression work and also a lot of different facets of life. And so, this is from her book, All About Love, “When we are loving, we openly and honestly express care, affection, responsibility, respect, commitment, and trust. To begin by always thinking of love as an action rather than a feeling is one way in which anyone using the word in this manner automatically assumes accountability and responsibility. We are often taught that we have no control over our feelings. Yet, most of us accept that we choose our actions that intention and will inform what we do. We also accept that our actions have consequences.”

I recently read this quote in an article from The Rumpus, from their advice column, Mixed Feelings. And when I read it, it hit me really hard. When I look back at the relationships in my life that had caused me some of the most pain and I apply this definition of love to them, I realized that what we had in that relationship was not love, not as a verb. What we had was love as a noun, that love is a passive experience. Love is a thing that you feel. Love is something that informs your intentions but that doesn’t necessarily come out in your actions, in your impact.

I think one of the greatest disservices we do to folks in this country is teach them about love as a passive experience rather than something that entails a lot of work, something that creates accountability and responsibility. I think about one of my most recent relationships with someone who I thought I loved really deeply and who I tried to show up for in loving ways as an action verb and who struggled to show up like that for me. And when I think about this definition of love, I have to consider whether what we had fits that definition. I think I was really committed to this person. I think I really wanted them to love me. I think that they really wanted to show love to me but I think that in the end, real love wasn’t there. This person didn’t show up for me. They didn’t find a way to perform love as an action verb for me.

When love includes having to, refrain the definition again, “openly and honestly express care, affection, responsibility, respect, commitment, and trust,” I think I did some of those in this relationship but I think I also didn’t necessarily hold my partner responsible in the ways that I should have for the ways that they were hurting me. I think I tried to shrink myself down to a palatable enough size package so that their inability to follow through wouldn’t hurt me anymore rather than standing up for what I needed and standing firm in that knowledge. I think that this person cared about me a lot and I think they just weren’t in a place where they could show up with commitment, they could show up with respect, they could show up with responsibility. I think that we had was a lot of affection and a lot of desire and I think that we both wanted to show love to each other but I don’t think we were able to.

I really appreciate this framing because it reminds us that love isn’t just a thing that you get to feel and then consider your job to be done. Loving someone is not the end. Loving someone is the start. Realizing that you feel that emotion for them is the start of how you show up for them to express that love, to show that love, to be accountable to that love. Love is the start of a journey. Love is the start of a process. Love is what informs that decisions we choose to make about how we can show up for that person. You don’t get to just feel it in your heart and then stop and be done. Love is something we have to work at. Love is something we have to display and challenge ourselves to rise to.

And so for me, I’m taking this as a step to focus on as I move forward in my relationships. I want to work on love as a verb rather than love as a noun. I want to figure out how I can show love in ways that are kind, not just nice. I want to figure out how I can show love to myself by standing up for what’s important to me and by standing firm in what I know that I want and need rather than shrinking myself to be some ideal of what a perfect poly person should be.

I wonder if all of you feel this challenge too. Leave me in the comments questions or thoughts you have. Let’s get the discussion started about what it means to have love as a verb.

And for those of you who love my videos, who love this content, please consider clicking on over to Patreon and becoming one of my patrons. I want to find ways to support all of you in education and growth and learning and to help support folks who can’t afford my one-on-one services get the help that they need.

Patreon is going to be a way for me to help keep up the quality of this education, keep up the quality of my work so that all of us can benefit from it. So click on over. Link is on the show notes. And tell me about how you are going to use love as an action verb. Bye, everyone.

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