SPIRIT FREE: THE CAPACITY TO LOVE AND TO RECEIVE LOVE

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Charisse was beautiful: Thick strawberry blonde tresses framed her lovely face.  Green eyes danced above high cheekbones and a demur nose.  Everyone thought she was at least 10 years younger than her high school yearbook betrayed.  Though middle aged, she had to shop in the junior’s section of women’s stores because ‘petite’ women’s sizes were too big in the waist. 

            Amazingly, she was also intelligent, a successful businesswoman, and frugal.  She loved to laugh and tease.  She went to church every Sunday and had no bad habits.  Her only daughter was about to graduate from high school and they had a great relationship.

            Charisse had proven elusive with men.  She had dated quite a few in her 12 years of singleness but had never really fallen for any of them.  My mother would have said she “played hard-to-get” and was “quite a catch.”

            My roommate had introduced me to Charisse and we had an immediate chemistry.  After we dated for a few weeks, her daughter said she had never seen her mother so affectionate with a man.  In our times alone, she frequently said how different I was from most men she had dated and how she didn’t usually open up to men as she had with me. 

            So why did I find myself ending the relationship after a few months?

            We had the normal disagreements, but nothing serious.  We both didn’t like some preferences of the other, both that was expected.  She was even willing to take correction from me regarding a certain issue we discussed.

            Why was I saying that I didn’t see us together in the future?           

            Love is complex and elusive.  Blessed is the one who finds and enjoys it.  Rare is the couple who maintains it for a lifetime.  Though we pursue Love with all our hearts, Frustration is what we usually find while Fear and Loneliness tail us like bounty hunters.

            When we talk about love, most of us focus on factors of attraction that determine one’s willingness to receive a certain person’s love.  These include physical attraction, personality, financial and social standing, sense of humor, direction in life, etc.

            In time, though, we ask the deeper questions, those of the psychological and emotional needs:  Are we truly compatible?  Do we meet one another’s needs?  Do we still enjoy each other when we are together for long periods?  Will our love last a lifetime?

Talk about complex!  These questions delve much deeper into our human psyche and require closer introspection and greater thought.  The task seems overwhelming to most of us and we struggle with some way to analyze our love life.  Yet we sense the importance of this task, knowing our future happiness depends on it.  Many of us ponder and fret for hours.  For most of us, if we fail, it’s not for lack of effort. 

Yet isn’t there a way to understand love?  No one wants to take out the romance, to commit “paralysis by analysis,” or to become a geek in our love life.  All of us, though, want to be happy and to avoid misery.  Can we actually look at our love life and see where it is deficient? 

Let me share three dynamics of love that may give us a way to either find a key to improving our love life or save us from making a big mistake. 

             “Love” is what we do to meet the needs of another or what they do to meet our needs.  Some of us have a greater capability to give love than others.  More has been required of us in life and it taught us to be Givers more than Takers.  Thus we can be more loving.  

            Also, we have differing levels of need for love.  Some are very independent and don’t need much time and attention.  Others need much more.

Third, each of us has a certain capacity to receive love.  Some have a very high need for love but have a difficult time receiving love.  They are what we call “high maintenance.”  Others were loved well by parents, family, and friends and receive love easily. 

I could tell that Charisse was beginning to have feelings for me and could see us together in the future.  Yet inside I held back.  Something told me it wasn’t right.  But why?

In time it came to me that, while Charisse was giving me all the love in her heart, that wasn’t enough for me.  I began to look at our relationship with these three dynamics.  The result confirmed to me that I was making the right decision to end the relationship.

Charisse, in my opinion, had a low-to-medium capability to give love, a high need for love, and a medium capacity to receive love.    In turn, I have a high capability to give love, a high need for love, and a medium capacity to receive love. 

Thus we matched well in both our need for love and our capacity to receive love.  My ability to give love met her need for love.  However, I needed more love than she was capable of giving.  Her need to be loved took everything I could give her yet I didn’t have enough coming back from her to replenish me.  What she gave me was her best, but it wasn’t all that I needed.

The result was that she really enjoyed me and had a great time when we were together.  However I left those times feeling unfulfilled, like something was missing.  I enjoyed giving her my love and was encouraged that she could receive it.  Yet I felt my heart’s need was unmet.  It was like I had a good workout but was still hungry when I left the dinner table.

She sensed this, also, and could tell that I wasn’t having as much fun as she was.  I enjoyed giving her my love and doing so met a big need in my heart.  But my ‘batteries’ needed recharging also and we both knew that wasn’t happening.  To continue the relationship would have made us both unhappy.

 Have you had this experience in your love life?  Has another enjoyed you but you were unfulfilled?  Or have you really loved another, but they didn’t seem to get as much out of the relationship?  It can be that you simply were not as attracted to him as he was to you, or vice versa.  But if the attraction was there, what went wrong?

Perhaps what you have read above gives you insight into your present relationship.  Perhaps you are married or deeply committed yet you aren’t experiencing the pleasure you once enjoyed.  You want to improve the relationship but you don’t know how.

If you have a relationship that is now like this, what should you do? 

How do you bring this up to your partner without hurting her or making him angry?

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