"If you can not love yourself,
You can not love another.”
I meet many young college students who are head-over-heals in relationship. They call it ‘Love’. One of the most difficult things to deal with in such relationship, for most of them, is: the desperate clinging of the other partner.
“Why didn’t you call? Why didn’t you meet? Where did you go? What did you do? Who was there with you? Why can’t we go out? Why did you wear this? Why did you go there? Why? What? When? Who? Where? Whose?... Yes, all the possible ‘W’s’ in the world. Yes, in the world of our ‘Love Birds’.
What starts as some romantic sweet-nothings, now is marred with endless probing, judging, accusing, blaming, sulking, fighting and pain. Most of them are unprepared to deal with this volatile shift… They end up hurting each other; more importantly, they end up hurting themselves.
They begin to wonder: Where has all the sweetness gone? Why am I feeling so lonely now? Why is this suffocation? This fear? This pain?
Love is the hunger of our hearts. I said ‘Love’. When we do not receive enough love, we starve. When we do not give enough love, we become like misers – self-centered and hard. But, in romantic love, we share love only with the one we romanticize. It is very private, exclusive. And, unlike other forms of love, romantic love has a physical dimension to it… Intimacy is intimacy because we share our love and affection physically. For most youngsters, therefore, this is the tight spot. They are not prepared – with their full heart – to express themselves their love with all its intimacy. There is that desperation and there is that killing fear and guilt. For most youngsters, who come from simple middle-class families – driven by their social and religious values - this shall always remain so.
I may sound, here, a lot old-fashioned. But, I tell all youngsters, including my own nineteen-year-old son, this: “Honey, do not destroy yourself in the name of so-called ‘Love’. If you really want to experience Love, learn to Love yourself. “
What is that? Learning to Love myself? You mean I should learn to be selfish?
Far from it. Learning to Love myself is the greatest thing I can do for myself, for my own growth. My life, as Stephen Covey says, has many squares in it. My personal growth. My family. My social life. My hobbies. My religion. My education. My profession and work. My friends. My love life. My alone time. And so on. In other words, my life is not ‘one big square’. It is made up of many small squares. My Love life is one of these squares. God forbid, tomorrow, something goes wrong there, I still have other squares to keep me going . On the other hand, when all my focus and energy is invested in one box – when my life is ‘one big square’ called ‘my Love life’ – when that goes for a toss, goes with it my life too. Blank.
I tell the youngsters, “Honey, you do come first. Sit down, and think hard. Draw your life’s squares… See what will make you really fulfilled minus your love life.” I tell them, “Can you handle your life, if your Love life goes for a toss? What if your partner is of ‘clinging’ nature, all the time trampling on your space, making you feel suffocated? What if he or she is unable to handle him/herself when you try to assert your needs? What if he or she is obsessed with only you and nothing else in life? Will you give in to his/her emotional blackmails?”
Many a times, my questions to these youngsters leave them a bit disturbed. But, that is natural. They have invested emotions in this relationship… Like or don’t like, they have made their ‘choices’. Now, to re-think, re-workout… and, to back off, if needed – seem quite scary to them. But, then, I tell them: “Honey, whose life is it anyway? If you do not do it, now, be prepared to get into a deep hole. If you don’t do it, no one else can do it for you. Some surgeries can’t be postponed. Do it before it destroys everything else in your life.”
Love is really beautiful. But, why do I feel this loneliness, this pain, and this suffocation?
Love is empowering. But, why do I feel weak and helpless, now? Why do I feel I have no control on my own life?
Love is supposed to make me complete. But, why is that I feel this emptiness… This deep regret?
Have I gotten in touch with what I really wanted from my own life? My deep needs? My deep aspirations? My core Values? Have I discovered enough of my own world? Am I enough working on nurturing my own self-esteem? Is it that if I suffer from a low self-esteem, I can not truly love another…? If I cannot take care of my own self, how will I care for another?
Yes, if I do not love myself, how will be able to love another?
These are not just questions. They are answers, as well.
Love is like sand of the sea. White, gentle and beautiful. But, now that I try to hold it in my hand… the tighter I try to hold it, the more it slips out of my hand.
Khalil Gibaran said it so brilliantly in his little book ‘The Prophet’:
“Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
For, only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And, the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”
Love is beautiful, Honey. But, please remember, if it doesn’t make you grow as an ‘individual’… it will only destroy you as a couple.
Yes, I really love you.