loveI believe that love is the most transcendent and precious gift we can offer someone else, and that loving another is the most beautiful thing we can do as human beings. It illuminates the very best of what we are and can be, and when it binds us in its embrace it tends to makes fools of us all. It is impervious to our entreaties, unable to be reasoned with, and impossible to defend ourselves against. It is the only thing, truly, that can break our hearts. The shadow of its every possible permutation is closer to the Platonic perfection of a true state of being than anything else we experience, which is why it overwhelms and silences us. It is, together with fear, one of the two great and elemental emotional anchors that tether us to the world. Without it, we are shadows.

To be human beings, we must strive to love with all of ourselves and with all our imperfections and insecurities, and we must be courageous and steadfast, persistent and loyal. We must also have faith in immeasurable quantities, because to love is the scariest and most dangerous thing we can do. It opens all our doors and unlocks all our defences, and this is a requirement. I believe therefore that it is the hardest and most demanding of human endeavours, and that there will be conflicts and tears because we are facing not only the imperfections of the relationship or the strain of the undertaking, but the worst and most fearful in ourselves.

We must accept the cost of that, and also the very real risks it takes to devote and commit our lives to another, because we are constantly challenged to face those things in ourselves which we dare not. That our partner knows us too well is terrifying, but we must strive to speak about ourselves honestly, and share openly the fears and doubts that trouble us. After each conflict, if it is not a fatal one, we must be able to forgive and return to each other with a deeper intimacy and renewed dedication, willing to work on those things that undermine and sabotage us, and determined to nurture those things which bind us together in the best of ways.

That is the true nature, and this is the price, of love. It is boundlessly willful and capricious, but the best of it is as immutable and constant as the stars. To reach for them, we must give more of ourselves and work harder than at anything in our lives. We must love faithfully and without reservation, for if we do not we are dishonouring the other, and ourselves. To love well we must accept them completely, and receive the worst in them with no less gratitude and good will than the best. We must know how to forgive, wholeheartedly, for when we ourselves have been wronged we must endeavour to see that the other is in no less pain. We must be fearless and courageous in acknowledging not only our own failings, but in accepting those of our partner with forgiveness and sensitivity, and we must embrace those imperfections without prejudice.

These are surely the wages of a healthy, adult, long term, committed relationship. The definition of it is impossible, as surely as is the fact that each relationship is unique and unrepeatable, and made special by the very differences between us. These differences give a relationship character and depth, and the frisson of a real interaction of ideas and thoughts and opinions. This should be treasured and celebrated. We are but two ordinary people, two distinctly individual human beings, trying to do the hardest thing in the world in the most difficult of circumstances. We are trying to love another with the best of ourselves, despite our imperfections and not because of them. These challenges are the things that bind us to each other, and are worth fighting for. With love and trust and good will we can learn to celebrate those differences, recognising in each other the very best qualities that we each possess and the very best things that we are both capable of. By doing so we invite a greater depth and richness into the living of our own life.

To love requires three simple qualities; humility, honesty, and courage. At those times when we are very much in love and passionate about each other, then at these times are we truly blessed with the grace of love itself. We can be better than what we could have been by ourselves, and to recognise this fact requires humility because it demands that we confront those challenging issues in ourselves which stand in the way of our own personal growth and our happiness. Our partner can be the mirror that holds up to ourselves the image of what we are, and the potential of what we can be and want to be. We must never turn away, which requires courage, and we must be honest, even when we do not like what we see in ourselves. When we have been disrespectful or inconsiderate, when we are selfish or demanding or fearful, then we have brought the only shame upon ourselves that is truly demeaning. We must do no less than honour the fact that our companion is there in front of us, loving us to the best of their ability, and encouraging us to face those dark things in ourselves that undermine us. Then we must strive, in quiet moments of introspection and analysis, to admit those things to ourselves openly and willingly, and to resolve them and share what we have learned about ourselves with the other.

I believe in love and trust it even despite the pain that it brings. I believe that it is one of the things that defines us as mature adults, and that we must be adult to do so. I believe that the heart breaks because that is how it opens, but I also believe that we have to allow it to happen, and that it is an important part of growing up. I believe in it still, and accept that its sweet agony is a sign that we are truly alive and sharing our lives with another, and that we are not alone.

© andrew wheeler

This post is an extract from Blue. Read other entries in this category, or visit the blog.