Some people, especially my students, ask me how they would know if they are truly in love. My short and immediate answer would always be, “When you and your partner have become better persons.” In Filipino I ask them, “Mas nagiging mabuting tao ka ba sa relasyon mo ngayon?” I guess this is the true essence of love, at least for me. It makes the other person a better version of herself/himself. However, if the partner becomes worst, destructive, damaging, and disorganized because of the relationship, then I guess this is not love; it is mere infatuation. If you are in love, you are a-live (the word “live” when spelled backwards is “evil”). Opposite to love is death, i.e., death of your human potentials, death of your dreams and aspirations, death of your aliveness as a person. Thus, any kind of abuse in the relationship is regarded as death to the human spirit.
I know that the typical answer of people when asked about love is that love is giving, i.e., giving of oneself without any conditions. I agree with this but not totally because I believe that love is judicious giving! Judicious means that we need to judge or discern carefully whether our giving really results in the betterment of our beloved. Just merely giving to the caprices and whims of our beloved may be detrimental to her maturity or to her growth as a human person. Sometimes withholding our giving may be the best gift to her so she can further explore and expand her possibilities towards maturity, self-realization, and self-integration. A father, for example, who decides not to accompany her daughter to enroll in college (even if he has the time) has provided her daughter the life skill of managing her academic life. A girlfriend, for instance, who does not make a literary essay for her boyfriend in his English subject allows her boyfriend to develop his literary skills and organization. And an elder sister who does not do the assignments of her younger siblings (but instead teaches them how to do their school homework), imparts sense of independence and responsibility to her siblings.
Indeed, to love is “to care” for the wellbeing and development of our beloved. We need to support, uphold, and help our beloved in attaining their goals and aspirations in life. But “to care” does not mean to cement dependency. Because if it does, then the beloved would always plead and beg the partner at the slightest threat of abandonment or rejection by saying, “Please do not leave, I cannot leave without you.” Such very needy relationship is not love because it is founded on pity and misfortune. Love requires a strong self-esteem and self-love such that the person continues to thrive even in the absence of a person in her life. But she becomes even more fulfilled and more loving in the presence of her beloved. But even without someone special in her life, she continues to thrive and prosper in all her human dimensions.
So, I do hope that in your present relationships, as we are celebrating the love month of February, you are growing and developing as better persons. You are becoming more mature, more responsible, more emphatic, more loving, more caring, less anxious, more secure, and more sensitive, among others. If not, take stock and reflect on how you can make your relationship more fulfilling and more rewarding. Love begets more love.
So let us be in love everyday with ourselves and with others. Let love embrace and encompass our lives.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Doc Ron Motilla is a licensed psychologist, and at the same time a certified specialist in clinical psychology. He received his PhD in clinical psychology from the Ateneo de Manila University. He teaches psychology courses, both in the undergraduate and graduate levels, at Miriam College and is also currently the head of the Integrated Lifestyle and Wellness (ILAW) Center of the same school. Doc Ron Motilla is a founding member of the Psychological Empowerment to Resources and Aspirations (PERA), Inc and is also one of the most sought after motivational speakers in the field of psychology.
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