Self Help Now: A community blog

Dr. Jacqueline B. Sallade offers ideas for maintaining your mental health.

The Many Shades of Love

Written by Dr. Jacqueline B. Sallade, Community blogger | Feb 14, 2014 8:16 PM

We're so used to the basic loves of romance, commitment, trust, and deep abiding friendship, and those are, indeed, the components of good, truly long-term relationships, including marriage. However, what about tough love, in which there's judgement or even a modicum of rejection, based on wishing well for the other? What about love-hate, which I prefer to think of as love-hurt, in which a pair has damaged their connection enough to engage in distancing and even aggression towards one another out of mutual pain but knows that they're joined emotionally, no matter what?  What about sacrificial love, in which a partner or parent chooses to withdraw and let someone else take over in the relationship in the belief that their loved one will be better off?

My point is that love, like life, isn't black or white but has many shades of gray. Just because I care about someone and can empathize doesn't mean I approve or am willing to buy into that person's abuses (to self or other) or excuses. Just because I love doesn't mean that my needs don't count, too, even when they conflict with the other's. Would I wish to help that person, however unwittingly, do something which hurts me? No, out of love, I won't allow it. There are times to make sacrifices and degrees of acceptability and times to hold one's own and insist on the growth or adaptation of the loved other.

 It's not always clear exactly what is the right path in love. There are some questions to ask.  What would I wish for myself or my child in the long run?  How will the future of our lives or our relationship be affected? Is love  a giving of self or a sharing of lives between independent and equal partners?   Or both? Is it ever justified to hurt people we loved, even indirectly through hurting others? How important is forgiveness to love? What's tolerable in love?

I could go on but the idea is that love can be a long, winding path with unexpected twists and turns, dilemmas and incongruities. It's not always just hearts and roses. But that doesn't mean it's not real. In fact, it may be more so.

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