Defining Love – Part V: Conditionally Yours

Please feel free to read Parts I through IV of this series previously posted.

Now that we have discussed Philos (mental) love and Eros (physical) love, it is time to move on to Agape (spiritual) love. This is the type of love we are referring to when we speak of unconditional love. If Philos was give and take and Eros was all take, then Agape is all give. It is selfless love.  This word is often used in religion to denote the type of love God (whichever God you believe in) has for you as His creation. And in that context, we can see that it is truly unconditional love. Regardless of our words, actions, or accepted beliefs, God continues to love us fully and selflessly. And this type of love can exist for anyone, with no requirement of having some degree of Philos or Eros love as a prerequisite. In fact this type of love is transcendent to the point that this love can exist for people we have never even met. If we agree that it is unconditional, than no conditions are required for it to exist or continue.

For my readers who are parents, this will be instantly recognized as the love you have for your children. We do not set requirements for our children in order for them to have our love. Our love for them exists even when the behavior or actions are not acceptable to us or others. And we primarily choose our actions, thoughts, and words based on what is best for them with no regard to our own wants, needs, or desires. It could just as easily be argued that this is the love we have for family. But I have often heard people say “I hate the way my sibling behaves, but I love them because they are family”. As discussed before, this is a type of love referred to as Sturge love. It is a modicum of acceptance or tolerance we afford family members. Our genealogical ties have, through our entire period of evolution, been vital to us and our survival. However, if your siblings, parents, or relatives can behave in a completely selfish manner, and you still feel the innate desire to truly love them with no underlying motives, conditions, and in a wholly selfless way, than you are the bigger person. However, you are the exception rather than the rule.

So this is the love which would cause us to act in a manner that is the most beneficial for someone else, with no thought or concern given to how our actions may impact our own lives. And in that sense, it is unique, praise-worthy, and amazing. Those readers who are veterans of combat action will want to see this as the love that would have moved them to make the greatest sacrifice of giving their own lives to save other comrades in arms or innocent victims, either known or unknown to them personally. But these types of heroic acts are driven by a sense of duty and camaraderie, not by love. And thankfully so, as I am here today because others gave themselves that I may live. But, in combat, I would have gladly done the same for any of them, whether I loved them or not. Not as a hero, but through my sense of duty and devotion to those who shared the call to serve or those we were protecting.

So as deep, steadfast, and selfless as Agape love is, we look for this to be the love we have with our partners or spouses. That one person we take into our lives to share everything with. It is the ideal, that our partners be connected with us mentally, physically, and spiritually. It is the trifecta of love. But alas, this is rarely the type of love we can give to others, with the exception of our offspring. That is because our love for others is often beset with a whole range of conditions. Don’t agree? Hope so, maybe that will drive you to leave a comment. But I would argue, that regardless of how much you love your partner, should they cheat on you with another person, you may not decide to stick around and love them selflessly. If they abuse you mentally or physically, do you love them in a way that has you stay in the relationship simply because it is best for them? I hope not. And don’t make the mistake of thinking that people who return to or won’t leave an abusive partner have grasped Agape love. That behavior is not driven by love for the abuser, but by a lack of love for themselves. Can your partner do anything, no matter how hurtful or unloving, and you will happily stay because you love them selflessly? Almost seems absurd and unhealthy when you think about it. But that is the deep love we want in our partnering relationships. But we will not find it there. We consistently monitor our actions and behavior with a moment of reflection on how it may impact our relationship with our partners.  That is why we choose to do the things that are loving and supportive of our partners, because if we do not we risk losing them. And conversely, they would be risking losing us.

We set all manner of conditions on our partners or spouses. And rightfully so. We offer committed and faithful love to our spouse because we share a depth of Philos and Eros love that is exceptional. But we set conditions, because we still love ourselves more than we love them. Still not buying it? Okay, try this. Your partner of many years comes to you and says they are attracted to someone else and you are a bit dismayed, as you still love this person as deeply as you ever have.  And that, although they are physically attracted to them, there has been no physical expression of love between them. They have gotten to know each other through conversation and time spent together. They have found a love for this other person that is stronger than the love they have for you and want to pursue the happiness their lives will have by being partnered to the other person. Do you love this person enough to not feel betrayed, hurt, or angry? Do you love them enough to simply quell your own emotions and support their desires? Can you easily step aside and facilitate their leaving because you purely just want them to be happy? Remember, this is the person that you would have gladly laid down your own life for, but you wouldn’t do without them in your life if it makes them happier? If you can, then you are either a miraculous example of Agape love for a partner or your self-esteem has reached an all-time low.

If unconditionally love is not something we can find in our relationship with our partners, then why are we looking for it there? If it is not something we can give to them, then how can we expect it to be given in return? But more importantly, what kind of love can we expect to give and get in our relationships?

Stayed tuned for: Defining Love – Part VI – The Yin and Yang of Love

© 2012  Commonsensibly Speaking ~ Brad Osborne

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