A friend of mine recently asked me, “How do I know when I’ve met the right woman?”
The same question can apply to a woman meeting the right man. So I started elaborating the question and asking myself…
Does a right man/woman exist?
Is there a right or wrong friend/colleague/partner?
Is there a right or wrong love?
When do I know it’s the right time to take the risk of loving?
Will this love make me happy again?
One thing is for sure, to love is risky. The greater the love, the greater the risk. This is corroborated when we experience that deep, aching love for our children when we become parents.
Let’s rewind a little before we continue.
When do we start loving? When do we learn to love?
We learn about love the moment we are conceived. The way that our mum and dad experience those first 9 months leaves an imprint on the love life of any child. Furthermore, whether we are a wanted child or not makes a huge difference in the way we start life and go on to approach love in adulthood.
In childhood and adolescence, our happiness and survival are in the hands of our parents or legal guardians. We long to be loved by them, we long to never be hurt by them, we long to be protected and taken care of. We long for them to make us happy and feel safe. Sooner or later, because even our parents are human beings, we will get hurt by the people we love and need most for our survival. It is also very uncommon to receive happiness and love without conditions or expectations of something in return from a parent, although we should be. Instead, we’re often expected to make our parents happy and give them back the love they need and/or are lacking to make them feel happy and whole.
The reality then is, that we develop a completely distorted picture and idea of what love is.
Why do parents not give us the love we long for but instead ask us to provide it for them? Even though we’re children, we’re expected to provide the love they need rather than the other way around. Why? Because they are human. They can be imperfect. Their love is imperfect, because it is human love, not Divine love.
Yes, during our journey together, our mums and dads might consciously or unconsciously abandon us, betray us, reject or neglect us. They might make unfair judgements about us that we perceive to be wrong but have no choice but to take on the burdens of. As children, we unfortunately don’t have a choice. And overtime as we experience being hurt for the first time, by the people who are supposed to love us the most, protect us the most, respect us the most and be there for us the most, we grow up to blindly apply what we’ve learnt about love and forget that we have a choice.
We go on to live life believing that to love is too risky. To be fair, it is. The greater the love, the greater the risk and love from another is not free of charge. Adult relationships require us to be ready to love and be loved.
As adults, we long to be loved completely by someone who will never disappoint or hurt us. Someone who won’t ask us to change in exchange for their love. So, we look for the ‘right’ man or the ‘right’ woman, and resist or reject the ‘wrong one’. But the question still remains, is there a right or wrong one?
As we grow up, we are quick to discover that no matter how well-intentioned, human beings are simply not able to love perfectly. Just like our parents or guardians, and just like ourselves, everyone loves humanly and certainly not like enlightened Gods or Goddesses. Are we all wrong then? Isn’t ‘wrong’ a subjective judgement anyway? And who are we to judge people as ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, be they a spouse, partner, friend or colleague?
Yes, to love people is risky. The greater the love, the greater the risk. It’s better we make a mental note of that in our minds and hearts, but don’t let it stop us from taking chances. The heartache we experience upon receiving a letter from someone, or talking with someone we’ve had a connection with for a while, can lead us to feel that it’s not worth the pain to give our hearts away only to have it broken again. Surely it’s better to deny ourselves the chance of simply exploring what could unfold next. And what better excuse to use but the uncertainty of it being the right man or woman? How can I make sure that I don’t end up abandoned, betrayed, rejected, judged, disrespected, or unjustly treated, again?
We can endure this pull-push game and inner conflict for many years and end up never resolving it. We reach retirement trying to decipher the same enigma that has accompanied us through our whole lives.
Or we can choose differently.
We can choose to risk opening our hearts again even after enduring so much hurt and disappointment. Even after almost dying because of love before. It’s a choice, and a free one.
We can never fully insulate our hearts from the pain of loving others and letting ourselves be loved. Nor should we. As humans, we’re all imperfect so it would be a disservice to expect ourselves and others to love and be loved perfectly.
And I believe that yes, we can however, let our heartache lead us to trust and let go of fear again. It’s possible when we no longer try to find the love we want and crave from people because we’ve finally found it in ourselves and/or in the mysterious Divine presence in our lives.
Yes, the greater the love, the greater the risk. Maybe the real question to pose ourselves then is…
Is this man or woman an opportunity for me to experience greater love and grow into the man or woman the Universe is guiding me to become?
header image by Nicolas Ladino Silva
The following blog posts go into more detail on some of the topics and themes touched on above:
Adult Love and Childish Love
Real Love: a Mature Adult in a Mature Relationship
Authentic Love vs. Inauthentic Love
The Purpose of Addictive Relationships
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