What is a loving relationship?

During one of my therapy sessions, a few weeks ago, I told my therapist that I do not think that I really believe in true love anymore and after you feel love for a child the rest is just worthless. He, my therapist, so patiently told me “because you have never been in a loving relationship before” and started to explain Erich Fromm’s theory of Active Love, from his book The Art of Lovingwhich entails 4 activities:

  • Care– “One loves that for which one labors, and one labors for that which one loves”, which is basically putting in the effort and support for the person you care for.
  • Responsibility– To be responsible means to be “able and ready to respond, where responsibility could easily deteriorate into domination and possessiveness, were it not for respect”.
  • Respect– “Respect is not fear or awe but the absence of exploitation”, which includes valuing that person even with difference in opinions.
  • Knowledge– Which is knowing and accepting the person as they are; imperfections and all. Which is understanding that person and not judge them in any way. Fromm writes, “To respect a person is not possible without knowing him; care and responsibility would be blind if they were not motivated by concern.

He then added, but most importantly all that should be accompanied by IntimacyPassion and Commitment; Theory of Love Sternberg’s Triangular . He made sure I understood Intimacy correctly: Intimacy means to be comfortably able to be naked with your partner with your mind, body and emotions. Over the years, I have read all this before, but nothing sank in but now.

In order to say you truly love someone, you need to truly know of ALL of them and respect them and value them as they are… knowing all their flaws, trivial ones and undying ones and respecting and loving and accepting them.

It’s understanding and admiring their experiences and what made them who they are… what shaped their being… what made part of them rough and what made part of them frail…

It is appreciating them at their best, and accepting and loving them at their worst; Never judging their imperfections, their cravings, their manias, their fetishes, their insecurities…

It is feeling responsible towards them, not for them and knowing how to read them and being comfortable with them in silence, where such silence is not a void that needs to be filled…

It is being yourself, the naked self completely in the relationship, without tiptoeing or masking or fear of showing your weaknesses or strengths.

Perhaps I should have learnt what a loving relationship is before ever saying those three words to anyone romantically before, but where would I have learnt to recognize the signs of a healthy relationship. I was raised to with a mother, would never compliment me, who for which hugs and kisses were too much touchy feely and to a father who is so introverted that he has no idea how to express himself emotionally. They divorced when I was 14 and separated a while before that. Although, my parents remained on good terms for a long while after their divorce, I have not really experienced marriage or loving relationship dynamics, let alone heathy ones.

Here is something I have never told a sole: The first time I uttered any words of love to my husband, boyfriend at the time, I didn’t really mean it. We had just started dating and then it was only physical. But one evening as were hanging out with another couple, very close friends of ours, the guys dared me to kiss the other girl on the cheek and make it look hot… but the thing is, when I did, I got really turned on by it. It made me so damn shy and embarrassed. Me, thinking he might have noticed what was going on in my head, decided to diffuse the situation and distract him from the scene just before. I went and sat on his lap and kissed him and when that didn’t help these words came out of me “I think I am falling in love with you”. The second I said it, I realised the shit I just put myself into, but it was out there and I could not take it back… Well yes I fell for him later on, but it was said too early and I hated myself for it. Sometimes I think that I might have forced myself to love him, just because I said it.

As he was talking, I started recalling my marriage; my past relationships, even my relationship with my parents, none of whom I was ever able to be truly my naked self with, non of whom truly ever knew me, non of whom I was anything but insecure with; with walls and barriers and inhibitions. Have I never had a loving relationship? 

Then in my head I smiled… But I do have such a thing in my life, maybe not very conventional nor even ethical… but it is there… and it makes me happy.

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