I was reading a discussion in a forum recently and the topic was “Can you love too much?” There were a couple of comments from people who expressed how they had relationships where they did love too much and it broke their hearts. They had given so much of themselves and received very little. The result was they had closed up and tried to keep themselves from loving.
My first thought after reading was that perhaps the giving didn’t come from a place of true and unconditional love. I myself have been guilty of giving in order to get a place in good standing with another person. I specifically remember doing this with my mother-in-law when we first met. I wanted her to like me so that she would encourage Mark to marry me. For a lot of years I kept an inward scorecard where I’d tally up all the “super-wifey” things I did and if Mark ever complained I’d go through the list reminding him how lucky he was to have me. I love him and have always loved him but that was not the way that I expressed it. In those moments more than anything I was expressing my insecurity.
I think that “loving too much” is a brilliant way to live, but it must be unconditional love. I have set the intention to love this way. A perfect example of this kind of love is what you experience as a parent to a newborn. The baby cries in the middle of the night, you get out of bed and feed them. Months (or years) later when the child is sleeping through the night you barely remember the hours of sleep that you lost on their behalf. You would never expect your child to pay you back for this love, you give it without conditions.
To receive you must give. Too often we have a picture in our mind of the kind of love we’d like to experience. We think of the ways a person could change or the things they could do for us to prove their love. When they don’t meet our expectations we decide we have loved them too much. We have given so much of ourselves and have received nothing. In reality we have probably experienced the exact equivalent of what we’ve given through some other source. Maybe our best friend surprised us with a special spa day or our parents came for an unexpected birthday visit. But since the love didn’t come from the person whom our love was bestowed upon, we feel unloved, broken-hearted, and worthless.
The best way to experience true love is to give up your expectations of how it will come back to you. Look for the moments when you heart sings and embrace them. Love because it feels amazing to love. It really all does come from inside of you, the minute that you close up because someone has let you down is the minute you close off the flow of love that you can experience.
So yes, I believe you can and should love too much. If we all loved too much and without conditions the world would be a beautiful place.
So today marks the official time of year that I start getting anxious. When I was younger I loved Christmas time and especially loved buying and giving gifts. I would be thrilled to watch people open the gifts I’d purchased on Christmas morning. I think back to that time and observe I was either better at picking out presents or was just oblivious to whether or not people actually liked them. Whichever it was, giving brought me lots of joy.
Somewhere a long the way though I have realized that I don’t really know what to get the people in my life. The first Christmas Mark and I were dating I had so much fun buying his gifts. I got several things I just knew he’d love. Only problem was…he didn’t. He’s not a very good actor either, so he failed at convincing me and from then on buying gifts for my husband has been nearly impossible. His only true wish list is made up of items that are way too expensive and specific for me to try to buy (guitars and music equipment). So I end up getting him gifts like rubics cubes and DVD’s he never watches.
My parents are equally as tough. For the first 20 years of my life I bought my father golf balls and then one day I figured out as much as he loves golf, he just doesn’t play it that much. For at least 5 years I have gotten stuck on Home Depot gift certificates. Giving that gift always leaves me with an empty feeling though. I wish there was something I could get him that was personal and appreciated. But I got nothing… And Mom, well she’s very particular. Some years I do OK, but those are the years when either she or my sisters tell me specifically what to get. If I try to come up with something on my own, I miss the mark. I like to get her something she’ll use, like K-Cups for her Keurig machine, but I’ve sensed her disappointment on receiving something that is practical and not sentimental. Then there is my mother-in-law who has extremely expensive taste and loves jewelry. We have had great success in giving gifts to her, but only when we spend way more than my frugal side can handle. Our last gift to her was a plane ticket here to see the girls. As FABULOUS of a gift that was I could still tell she longed for an actual present.
My nieces are pretty easy. I generally give them gift certificates and don’t feel bad about it. I remember as a kid LOVING to get certificates and money so I could buy whatever I wanted. I feel sure they have the same reaction.
What I have acknowledged the last few years is that what I love most about Christmas is giving. Unfortunately I have made this realization because I’ve found myself feeling disappointed when Christmas comes and goes. I am not disappointed at what I did or didn’t receive, but that I wasn’t able to make others as happy with gift-giving as it seems I once did. So today, on Black Friday, the pressure is turned on. WHAT AM I GOING TO GET EVERYONE FOR CHRISTMAS?!?!?
My friend Kelly was so very thoughtful to go on Amazon and order me two books while she is in Australia. One of the books is one that we had talked about months ago. At that time I was reading a book called “Soulmates: Honoring the Mysteries of Love and Relationships” by Thomas Moore and was telling Kelly about it. She suggested that I borrow a book that she had on the topic that had been very helpful to her. Well, it turns out the copy she owned was misplaced, so last Friday a copy of “Secrets of Attraction: The Universal Laws of Love, Sex, and Romance” by Sandra Anne Taylor arrived in my mailbox. I was so excited and put everything else aside to read it. I devoured the book, starting it on Friday night and finishing it on Sunday. And I have to say that it opened my eyes to some things and helped me see how I can make positive change in my relationships (primarily my marriage) and life.
One thing the author describes is the role we play in romantic relationships, or rather what place we are coming from when we enter them. She says that people come from either inferiority, superiority, or equality. Obviously it is important to come from equality, but as I read her descriptions I had to face the fact that I have always come from inferiority. I was (and probably still am) one of those people that are willing to give and give and give in order to receive love and security. In college I loved to dance and sing karaoke, but when I dated guys who didn’t enjoy those things, I stopped doing them. When Mark and I got together and he wasn’t that interested in my poetry, I stopped writing (thus the 10 year break from writing). There was even a time in our marriage where I was the breadwinner, the cook, the housekeeper, the dog caregiver, and the car maintainer. I did all of this by choice, so that I would be a good wife and Mark could achieve his goals, thus appreciating my value in his life.
What I have realized and the book talks about is that giving and giving, without ever taking time to care for yourself and nourish your own passions is draining and ultimately strains the relationship. As I have found my way back to old passions (writing) and found new ones, Mark and I have had to reassess our relationship. I’ve realized that my growth is just as important as his and that hopefully we will continue to grow together.
One question that Taylor says you should ask yourself about your relationships is whether or not they honor you. And if the answer isn’t yes, it may affect more than just your love life….