I have been working on consciously redefining my definition of love. Over the past few years, it has become increasingly clear that what I thought of as love is maybe more like attachment. Is maybe something beyond what is healthy. The toxic, abusive, codependent tendencies of modern media have brought more irritation than delight. I’ve been divorcing myself from the concepts that don’t add to my evolution as a person. Where I once frequently fell in love, a slave to my emotions, I now find myself building love, consciously and precisely. What changed in me? Why does it feel different?
The same chemicals are firing within me: dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin… but I don’t feel the insane intoxicating high I once felt when I was a junkie for love, sex, human connection. There was a point in time that I felt temporarily completed by another person or maybe just temporarily distracted from the incompleteness inside me. From the endless abyss. The void that swirled like a vortex and pulled every shred of my consciousness like a black hole. I loved that darkness, just as much as I claimed to love my lovers. I didn’t realize it at the time, but there is romance in pain. Romance, darlings, was my problem.
The term “romance” didn’t enter the lexicon until the late 14th Century to describe romantic stories about knights and rescue. It etched itself as a genre and we adopted it to mean sexual love and partnership. No wonder we’re so fucked up about love. Romance has nothing to do with love and everything to do with drama, narrative and grand gestures that at the end of the day are honestly meaningless, empty, vapid unless backed up by action. I don’t know about you, but at this point, I’d rather have someone show up when I need a hand to hold rather than a psycho outside my door blasting love songs.
In reality, most of these grand, romantic, idealized depictions of love we consume through media from film and tv to most toxically advertising are not depictions of love, but of attachment and in worse cases codependency. We don’t fall in love. We fall into attachment. That’s the unconscious rollercoaster. Love—real love—has to be consciously built.
If we remain on the unconscious rollercoaster, we maintain a sense of ownership over people. Because there’s something simultaneously dangerous and safe about it. There’s also something so sexy about that power play. If we relate it to the world of kinks, there is something erotic about taking ownership of someone or having someone taking ownership over you. It’s weirdly romantic. Or maybe it’s not weird at all. That’s how a genre of art was born that maybe had nothing to do with creating healthy relationships with longevity.
To create true lasting love, we need balance. We need to responsibility for ourselves, our lives, our emotions, our actions. We need to take care of each other without feeling owed anything. Love is not transactional. As my Buddhist friends would say, we need to realize that the source of happiness isn’t the person for whom we feel affection, but rather ourselves. We are limitless beings of love. It’s fucking hard to get to that realization, but it’s possible. (This carries us into the emphasis we put on sexual partners over friendships and how we are able to fully love in many ways, but that also takes us down the polyamory route which is a topic for another day.)
I have found that the deeper I get with my own practice, the more I explore the maze of my mind, the more freely I am able to love. I can love without fear because I know that the love comes from me. That a lack of reciprocation is nothing to be afraid of because I am the one cultivating and building and creating the feeling and I only want to build with people who are as enthusiastic about this construction project. I’m still figuring it out. There are still ways in which I feel attached. But I’m less scared to leap into the unknown within my heart, which makes my wellspring of love that much deeper, that much more expansive, that much more infinite.