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I Love You; You're Free to Leave
BY: T. Franklin Murphy | July 1, 2014 (modified December 31, 2022)
Loving someone includes respect; respect of their space, privacy, and freedom. Loving also honors desires to leave.
Love songs, poems and stories focus on attraction, ignoring the beauties (and struggles) of complex bonds. Lost in the emotion of Cinderella fairy tales, we lose contact with reality. We give priority to attraction and lose the wonder and security of intimacy. We confuse love with crude biological drives.
Love isn’t attraction. Attraction doesn’t require work; love does. Attraction just happens; we are naturally attracted to some people and repelled by others. Unfortunately, some attractions pull us towards the wrong people; People hazardous to our well-being. Instead of accepting faulty attraction, we stay put, agonized that our partner fails to provide security. We convince ourselves that we can change them, molding character traits to give us what we need without abandoning what we want.
Sociopaths and narcissist experience attraction. They, however, employ deceptive means to lure victims into their isolated lives, giving nothing and taking all. The socially ill know little about love; their hearts are limited in capacity. The certifiable ill are not the only ones that confuse love and attraction. Many people, desiring to live a happy normal life, get caught in the web of confusion. Our culture loves the fairy tales of fake love.
Love and attraction are not mutually exclusive; nor are they opposites. The silliness, euphoria, and overwhelming emotions that grace love in music and movies may compliment the lengthy process of creating love. Sometimes the object of our attraction may rebuff our advances. In these cases, the greatest act of love is to respectfully recognize their right to choose, deny the fulfillment of our desire, and gracefully move on. By recognizing an individual’s rights to direct their life, we show respect and love. This clear characteristic is a basic building block for intimacy.
"Letting go of someone you truly love is one of the most difficult things in the world. Unfortunately, sometimes…it’s necessary." ~Matt Valentine | Goalcast
Romantic desires inspire respectful connections but also may stir anxiety and obsession. The natural and burning attractions lie beneath both healthy and unhealthy actions, stirring kindness in one person and fear and anger in another. Stable partners, familiar with emotions, can soothe the wild ride of attraction, lessening the bumps and valleys of euphoric highs and anxiety ridden lows that dot the attachment process. Healthy attachments springing from the initial attraction, when properly developed, lead to sustainable joy, enhancing security and expanded personal resources to face life’s challenges.
Healthy relationships improve life.
Love is the mortar binding two people together. But love comes in degrees. We proclaim, “He loves me,” or “she doesn’t love me.” While proclamations of love spark sentimentalities, the proclamations oversimplify the complexities of healthy connection. Love extends beyond simply professing, “I love you.” Love describes behaviors--loving behaviors. All relationships have a mix of loving and non-loving behaviors—selfishness and sacrifice. Strong relationships involve more compassionate, caring and kind behaviors than unhealthy self-driven relationships.
The anxiety, obsessions, and anger triggered during attraction must be quelled in healthy ways. These emotions destroy closeness when given the freedom to dictate behavior. Relationships, instead of shared intimacy, become battle grounds for control. Interaction instead of elevating the soul, constantly measured for power, beating the others self-esteem down to ensure personal control of direction.
"Letting go and moving on from a relationship often entails a large amount of uncertainty. Even if your relationship had reached its conclusion or one or both of you were very unhappy, there was still an amount of certainty there that was comforting." ~Tony Robbins
The battle for control exhibits the same characteristic that previously was unwilling to let an uninterested person refuse our advances. It shows a large focus on self and a diminishing vision of the other. Love doesn’t live here.
The drive for security is a righteous goal, but often the means to obtain security is flawed. Compassion, caring and kindness engenders security—creating closeness. Forced security through suspicious and jealous intrusions demands constant attention, never comforted without obvious and continuous proof, paradoxically all this effort never rewards with the security sought.
"Love is a contract, a heart contract. When we declare our love, it is like a promise, and we become loyal to it, and to them - even if it's not mutual anymore." ~Diana Lang | Huff Post
A selfishly driven pursuit of a relationship (to fulfill selfish desires) ignores the other person’s individuality, seeing the other as an object to own, not a relationship to be cherished. Love is not found here. Love respects freedom, treating others with dignity.
Freedom implies the right of others to pursue or abandon continued contact. Rejection is painful; it hurts self-esteem. Allowing a (potential) partner to leave is a difficult concept to understand through the self-serving lenses; in the world of the narcissist, other’s feelings, desires, and dreams don’t exist. Therefore, the only emotions involved, during courtship, is the feelings of the narcissist. The object of his or her obsession resisting, or even rejecting, becomes an obstacle to overcome instead of an independent choice to be respected. This is not love. This is not intimacy. But this ugliness sometimes wins the prize but for them the selfish pursuit continues to poison the relationship, making lives miserable.
Where is personal accountability? You act like a mutton head and browbeat a partner into staying by constantly demeaning their worth and limiting their options. This isn’t love.
Free to Grow; Free to Leave
Love encourages a partner’s growth—even when that growth leads to greater independence. We have dreams that we chase. Sometimes a partner’s (or prospective partner’s) dreams differ; not all futures mix. These conflicting hopes can only be discovered through open communication. In the light of awareness, conflicting dreams can be addressed and sometimes resolved. But if difference sparks insecurity, fear and anger, the doors to intimacy shut. Love—surprisingly —not only creates intimacy but also may invite separation.
True love doesn’t demand conformity to our rules and our dreams; but allows, and even actively supports personal growth, respecting a partner’s individual hopes and desires. True love exposes our vulnerability to the chosen path the one we love.
Many discourage growth to protect the relationship. We might not consciously oppose but subtle reactions discourage a partner’s pursuit of new opportunities. A notable example of fear is when partners alienate each other from family, friends and outside connections; usually not a conscious diabolical plan but a subtle reaction to fear. Love doesn’t guarantee a partner will not leave. Subtly destructive behaviors slip into our protective arsenal; manipulations replace respect, anger replaces requests, and fear replaces security.
A critical manipulation that limits freedom early in relationships is restricting information—lying or purposely withholding. We don’t need to bring five-years of tax returns and a criminal rap sheet to the first coffee date. But some information exchange is essential. A date, even a first date is entitled to know of relationship entanglements. When we begin moving forward into a relationship, both involved parties have a right to know the intents of the other.
If other relationships, children, or pesky family members will intrude, these complications must be revealed. Each date, email, and phone call further the investment. Before surrendering our hearts, we should be given sufficient information to make an intelligent choice.
Long Distance Lovers and Deception
Adding to the complicated field of romance is the modern reach of the internet. Relationships no longer restricted by geography must combat new threats. Pursuers often restrict information, presenting a very sanitized self. This is a common theme of long-distant relationships; distance is amicable to secrets. Vast information can be concealed—other relationship entanglements, appearance, addictions, and finances.
A criminal stealing time from the unscrupulous lonely hearts on the net, concealing pertinent information. The thief intrudes on lives, makes promises, and withholds true intentions. They want the excitement of love without the drudgery of commitment, benefiting from the relationship, while dragging the hapless through the unknown. This isn’t love. Love isn’t built on foundations of deceit.
The deceitful internet lover manipulates the opportunity of their objects rational choice by sanitized the given information. These relationships are limited, intimacy remains beyond reach, stretching false hopes over months, years and even decades. The stability of these hollow relationships rest on the continuation of a lie. The victim is not respected enough to give them the proper information for them to make an informed decision. This is pure manipulation. When truth is concealed, even when the deceived gives love in return, the deceiver can only partially receive the gift. The manipulator receives knowing the relationship is built on a lie; the love is tainted.
Some Love is Better than No Love
Many deceitful relationships operate from the unconscious belief that some love is better than no love. Maybe this is true. Sometimes both parties benefit from a limited relationship. But true intimacy seldom forms from the destructive ashes of deceit. The protection of self through partial revelations keeps insecurity alive; infused with drama and fear the relationship never completely satisfies, constantly leaning on hopes of an unforeseen future.
The secrets accumulate, lies protect lies, and the house of cards readies itself for a dramatic ending. Even a commitment to come clean, with a late revelation of truth, destroys, revealing only enough to string the victim along for another month. Often when the deception is courageously revealed, the false images that dreams were built on have taken a toll; the revelations may be too late to heal what was wounded, inviting the very rejection the lies were designed to prevent.
Openness doesn’t guarantee intimacy, but loving behavior demands openness. Along with openness, we respect a perspective partner’s freedom to choose if we are what they want in their lives; we may not be. Deception may prolong the relationship in a limited capacity, giving some of what we want.
If we want the security of trust, we must offer ourselves in vulnerability, exposing the softness of our heart, but offering the gift of respect. If our true self is continually rejected, we may have some deeper soul searching to do, examining social handicaps that scare off those we pursue. Sometimes to attract a better person, we first must become a better person, working to develop a kinder, gentler soul.
Love will prevent a partner from leaving but I can promise that manipulation will prevent intimacy from arriving. “I love you, this is me; you are free to leave.”
Other Flourishing Life Society articles of interest on this topic:
Other Flourishing Life Society articles of interest on this topic: