My cousin is now 17 and he had a girlfriend 2 years ago. They were still in high school then (most students of their age have boyfriends and girlfriend). They spent their time on wholesome fun like watching movies, hanging out with other friends or strolling at the malls. They were happy getting along until they broke up mid last year. Now in college, he has a new girlfriend, though they have broken up recently because of some misunderstanding. In one of our serious talks about his relationship, I asked him a pertinent question: How do you Love your partner? After hearing that question, he looked startled and clueless. He did not know what to say.
Coming from his perspective, I understand what he felt that moment. We almost always share the same enigma. How do we really Love? I think this question is not just for teenagers like him. All our lives we know the word Love, but we still cannot figure out how it works. When I was a teenager, I myself did not know how to Love. What I knew was the romantic clichés I watched on TV shows and movies. I thought Love should be something emotionally intense. I thought it should be expressed through songs and poems, through chocolates and roses, through fashion styles and talents. I thought it should be something peppered with sentiments, rivalries, jealousies and attractions; otherwise, it cannot be Love. I had trouble with these thoughts on Love because I hated them, even though I wanted to know what was more to Love.
The problem starts with this: Love is so abstract that it is too difficult to explain, let alone express. We have subjected Love to many interpretations simply because our diversity in thinking and doing colors our understanding and expression of Love. We have different upbringing within different families, of different traditions in different contexts and situations. It means that how I Love is different from how you Love. As always, we misunderstood each other’s intentions and actions. Add to that the power of media that depicts and distorts Love. This makes it difficult to find a formula or a standard procedure on expressing Love. To force one is to make Love an absurd thing.
In fact, this is what we do. We are trying to fit Love in our own absurdity. Since things can be explained in logical manner, with cause and effect, we try to create some formula of Love. We treat it like a machine that can be operated in a step-by-step manner. How often do we read and hear well-meaning advices of families, friends and other people on tips and techniques on Love? They somehow address relationship issues, and while they provide some sort of relief and idea, they often bring more confusion to those who struggle in realizing Love.
How to Love is no more a question. We will always know how.
How should we Love someone? Should we tell someone that we Love them? Should we give them lavish gifts? Should we spend more time with them? Should we do something for them? Should we touch and hug and kiss them more? All these have been articulated well in Gary Chapman’s book The Five Languages of Love. They are all valid approaches on how Love is done and shared to someone. There are many people who have fulfilled relationships just learning and applying these languages. Long before I stumbled upon the idea, I have found that I was expressing Love in one or two of these languages. I am grateful for the clarity and practicality of Chapman’s insights.
Nonetheless, there is something missing. How many people have you heard of doing these things to their loved ones and they still suffer in their relationships? How many parents have provided their children what they need and still there is rift between them? How many lovers have given gifts to each other, said sweet nothings and immortal vows, and still their relationships are void of meaning and intimacy? How many of them have tried to spend time with each other – dining out, dating together, having conversations – only to end up hurting – or worse, betraying each other? Because what is missing is not the language, but how we understand the meaning of those languages.
It is easy to do something on the outside, but without understanding Love in the inside, every external action is futile. “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not Love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. (I Corinthians 13:1). Because Love has a lot to do with what is inside of us as much as what is outside. A balanced awareness of the two is, I believe, the most crucial beginning on how to Love. Look at a mother who conceives and gives birth to a baby. In her womb, Love was planted. Inside her lies her power to Love. Likewise, we can only express Love if we learn how to be and become Love. How do we Love lies in our action to know our deeper selves, in the discovery of our potentials that reside in the depths of our beings. If we begin this way, we cannot help but express our deepest Love for our loved ones and others. How to Love is no more a question. We will always know how.