Learning the Art of Love

Elisa A. Escalante/ LCSW/ 3-28-2023

Unconditional love is for kids. Grownups need conditions. If you surrender all your love without conditions, it means you don’t have love for yourself.’ -EaE

He felt like my favorite coffee right next to a warm fireplace that never went out. If that makes any sense at all…. just pure comfort and ease.‘ -EaE

Why is love an art more than it is a science? Perhaps because it is just as much about actions as it is about feelings… perhaps maybe even more about action than anything else. I am NOT a Marital therapist. I never have been and I never will be. Anyone that knows me, knows that. I refuse to listen to married couples bicker all day about ‘who’s right’ and ‘who’s wrong’. I grew up in a world of witnessing unhealthy relationships. Only to become one of those people that would go through my own unhealthy relationships. I have seen and/ or directly experienced domestic violence, verbal abuse, emotional neglect, malnourishment, substance abuse, suicidal threats, abandonment and more. I feared love. In actuality, I feared the only love that I ever saw: unhealthy/ toxic love. I always feared marriage. ‘It’s a trap!” My father, oddly enough, taught me to be the type of woman he never wanted: independant. Someone that does not need to rely on another person, someone that does not allow their fate be determined by anyone else. Being taught that love is ‘unhealthy’, and being taught to ‘fear it’, led to me self sabotaging every situationship/ relationship, right from the start. Ruining it before it even get’s started. Pushing away love is what the abandoned/ neglected do. It’s the ultimate test of ‘who is actually going to stay?’ Especially when times get hard.

I learned too much ‘the Hard way’

Sometimes I wonder, could I have appreciated the healthy love that I have right now, had I not endured so much toxic love? I don’t know that I could have. I believe in social conditioning, I believe in the nurture factor. I am a social worker after all. I have seen many of my friends that have grown up in stable families go on to have long marriages with kids. And I have seen myself and my friends and clients with ‘not so stable upbringings’ go onto have tremendous difficulty with relationships. We are modeled ‘the art of love’. Some people love in the ‘crazy and twisted way’ they learn how to love. For some people, love is angry and desperate. For other’s, love is steady and calm. It took roughly 32 years for me to understand that I do NOT want Toxic love anymore. With relationships and friendships. I was finally done. And when that switch flipped, I truly mean that it flipped. Something in my brain changed forever in an instant. When I made the definitive decision that there are worse things in the world ‘than being abandoned and being alone’ … that’s when everything truly changed. It meant that I could have non negotiables. It meant that I could finally decide that enough is enough. It meant I could say “No you are not for me” or “I am clearly not for you’ and then…. BYE. It was quite empowering, and then it made room for me to take my time… and become selective about who I choose to let in my space.

If you don’t know yourself, you are not ready for commitment

Here is something so blantantly obvious and yet I did not know until I knew. If you don’t know who you are, how can you know what type of person is good for you? You can’t! If you are not in tune with your love language, your wants, your needs, your attractions, your personality traits etc etc, you cannot pick a partner that is compatible for you… again, because you do not know you. Most kids, teens, and young adults do not know themselves. And some even less than others if they grew up in controlling environments. I must add that going straight from HS to the military did not help; the military gives you your identity. They don’t nurture/ foster your sense of individuality.

I’ve recently created a couple of lists that my followers have found helpful while journeying toward finding love and/ or sustaining their loving relationships. So whether or not you are dating casually or in a commited relationship, here’s some things to consider:

Things you cannot know right away when dating someone new:

  • whether or not they are loyal
  • whether or not they are truly kind
  • whether or not they have good intentions
  • whether or not they are consistent
  • whether or not they are compatible with you
  • whether or not they are honest
  • whether or not they have true work ethic

These are qualities / characteristics that must be proven over time. Talk is cheap as they say. Daily, consistent actions will be the best proof of charactor. I made this because a friend of mine had recently met someone, and within two weeks said they liked them because ‘they were kind, loyal, generous and honest’. I cautioned this friend with a question of “How can you possibly know all of this yet?” You can’t. Because to know that someone is kind, you must see how they interact with you and others over time, especially when they are not in ‘a great mood’. For one to prove they are loyal, they must stay loyal over time especially when given the opportunity to be unloyal. For one to prove they are honest, they must consistently tell the truth and ‘not lie’ over time. In general, all that we really now when we meet someone new is:

  • whether or not we are attracted to them on a physical level
  • whether or not their personality traits excite us, or bore us
  • whether or not we like how they present themselves/ talk
  • whether or not we approve of the type of job/ money they make and/ or the resources that they have aquired.

Now, for the relationships. After working with many individuals and hearing many grievances about their significant others: Here is what is often lacking in relationships that can build resentment over time: TAG!

  • Teamwork- working as a team, because after all, you’re in a relationship. This is a daily practice that get’s neglected often. Between the jobs, chores, errands, kids etc etc, are you balancing it all out together? Do you have an agreeable plan that works for all parties involved? If this verbal contracted needs to be renegotiated, can it be done in a safe and nonjudgemental way?
  • Accountability- When someone makes a mistake, can they admit it? And then, can they correct it? The situation can either get met with defensiveness, (ego) or conflict resolution (emotional maturity). This does not just include our actions, it also includes our emotional reactions.
  • Gratitude- Do you praise your partner? Do they praise you back? Do you and they remember to give each other credit where credit is due? Or did one or all parties forget? Are you or they only focusing on what you or they bring to the table and forgetting everything else? Gratitude often comes in the form of words of affirmation or small acts of service over time.

Notice that no where on this list do I put communication. I don’t know about everyone else, but growing up I was pretty damn tired of hearing everyone preach communication. Communication! Communicate! All relationships need is communication. That’s not only inaccurate, but quite laughable for someone like me who was with people that were anywhere on the spectrum of being ‘selfish’ to being a full blow narcissist. Guess what? There’s some people that you can communicate with until you are blue in the face and passed out. And they will not LISTEN or do anything to make you happy. If you lack ‘TAG’, then you do NOT have a relationship, you have a zombieship. It’s lopsided, and it will either lead to a miserably ever after story, or it will end badly.

Love is only enough if BOTH or ALL people love each other

There will be no perfect relationship. That is true. But do not take the concept of ‘there is no such thing as a perfect relationship’ and confuse it with “I should just put up with anything for the sake of love’. Healthy love only exists when two or more parties are all in it for love. Meaning their motive is TO LOVE and continue LOVING through actions. Relationships exist for many reason’s, and there are many relationships that are ‘not about love at all’. Some are for financial gain, some are for status, some are for desperation, some are for identity and purpose. Some are for the sake of having a maid. (Been there done that) If we want to know that we will be loved by someone, the single most important question I believe we need to ask ourselves is “Does this person intend on loving me?” NOT “How much money do they make?” NOT “Will they look good in pictures standing next to me?” NOT “Oh my god my friends are all getting married and maybe it’s my time now?” Do you love them, and do they intend on loving you back? And this answer only comes with repeated loving actions over time. No matter what, love is also, and always will be a gamble too. GOOD LUCK to ALL (Except my Ex)

Published by functionallymentall

Social Worker, Writer, USAF Veteran

One thought on “Learning the Art of Love

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