Valentine’s Day is approaching and it has me thinking about the nature of true love. My wife and I are in our seventh year of marriage and it has been so different than I thought it would be. Wonderfully so.
The key to experiencing a life of love is understanding the difference between experiencing the validation of love and sharing love together.
As an illustration of this, consider a story I read in a book recently: a young college woman cannot go home for Thanksgiving. So, one of her friends invites her to join her family. The family that is hosting does everything they can to make sure the student feels welcome. They make all the foods and decorate the house. They go around the table and ask what everyone is thankful for. They tell the student how glad they are that she has joined them. One thing they forget: they never ask the student what her family does on Thanksgiving; what are some of her favorite foods and traditions.
There is a difference between sharing Thanksgiving with someone and inviting them to your Thanksgiving. And the same is true for love. We often invite people into our ideas and expectations of a loving relationship. We want to feel a certain way; we want things to look a certain way. We are striving for the internal experience of love.
Sharing love is much more complicated, much more difficult, and much more rewarding. Sharing love is an exercise in synergy. It is not inviting another person into your life. It is creating a new life together.
And while that makes sense to people, it is still difficult to do. What often happens is that we use this idea of togetherness to manipulate someone into the expectations we have for our own experience of love.
And too many relationships end up becoming a wrestling match for who is going to get their way. Who is going to effectively use the other to achieve their desire for love. And when it is a competition, no one wins. It is synergize or split and so many of today’s relationships will end in division.
To be clear, this is not just about romance. Not just about marriage. Love is the synergy between any two people. Friends. Parent and child. Siblings. Work colleagues.
Sharing life is such a foreign paradigm it is difficult for people to even grasp what that might look like. I am not sure I really knew until I stumbled into a marriage with an amazing person who helped figure it out with me.
All the Shares
The best way to start sharing is to start sharing. There are lots of things we need to share in relationships. The first and most vital being a vision. Grab the person you love and share what your relationship is about, synergizing a consensus. Share your definitions of love. Share your idea of how the world works. Share your mental models for perseverance, the language you use.
I am not suggesting you have to agree. But you do have to hear one another. You have to share. How do you see the world? What do you want? I do think the one thing that needs to be agreed upon is a vision, but that can be collaborated; it is not a matter of winners and losers.
When we share life, we discover more together. Unity is not conformity, but it is a commitment to togetherness.