I have them all the time, really, with many people. They are why I consider myself extremely wealthy, and a success, even though by most material measures I am neither of those things.
The conversation involved a fair bit of growth, a baring of souls, honesty and vulnerability and caring. Somewhere in it I came up with a three word definition of love I quite like:
Love: Feeling Vulnerable Safely
Towards the end of it, I was asked a question I've been asked before, quite a few times, the question that forms the title of this blog. The fact I have been asked this question many times by many different people should suggest the answer: IT CAN.
All too often, it isn't, though, and few things in the realm of interpersonal relationships make me more sad.
I am not special. Or rather, I am, but I am no more or less special than others. I'm looked at quite frequently with this species of awe that makes me supremely uncomfortable, when all I am doing is loving people.
There are too many people in this world who have never been loved.
What gets called "love" in this world is more properly called control. It's: you do thus-and-such, and I will reward you with this, that and the other. That's not love, that's a business transaction. It's loaded with conditions; when those conditions go unmet, you get disappointment, disillusion, and heartache.
Many of us try to change other people, even as they're trying to change us, and quite understandably, there is resistance not just to change, but to the demand to change.
I'm convinced this has its roots in religion, in our gods whose acceptance and love usually comes loaded down with conditions, even though it's claimed to be infinite. So hypocritical. I've talked at length about this before and won't repeat myself. I will note, however, that most of us can't help but imitate what we see as 'divine' love...why wouldn't we? If it's good enough for God, it's gotta be good enough for us.
Only thing is, it's not good enough for us.
Eva has been credited, many times, with changing me for the better. I am much, much more socially confident now than I was when she and I met. My nervous tics have subsided considerably, something that might alarm those who still see them on occasion. I'm less awkward, both in public and private, and my thoughts are both more ordered and SO much less rigid.
Eva did not do any of this directly, and she disavows the credit, telling people I am the one who changed. But she is responsible for all of it: she gave me a safe space to be myself. She accepted me as I was, flaws and all. She still does. She allows me to change at my own glacial pace, to become the "next greatest version of the grandest vision ever I had about who I am", as Neale Donald Walsch puts it.
She loves me.
I have done the same thing for her. Different context, of course: she's always been, if not socially confident, much more able to fake that. No, her issues had more to do with her feeling this need to be perfect...anything less was unacceptable. Also, her family expressed love through actions, not words, and so when I met her, Eva found my verbal and tactile affection, not to mention my need for same, hard to fathom and respond to. That has changed over time. Not because of anything I did directly. I just give her a safe space to be herself.
I love her.
How do you nurture that kind of unconditional love? You communicate. Ideally, you communicate without barriers, letting yourself be vulnerable...safely. In that way, you learn about yourselves, you learn about each other, and you learn that your truths will be cherished.
It amazes me, appalls me, that so many people don't do this very much, that I am seen as some kind of extra-special human being because I do. I'll grant that there may exist happy relationships in which love is recognized and deeply felt by all parties involved without much verbal reinforcement, but in my experience, (a) many couples are not happy and (b) the ones that aren't happy tend to be utterly unable to express their unhappiness without attacking each other. They're either at each other's throats, or they bury their resentments until the resentments explode and then they're at each other's throats.
In order to break this cycle -- and I suspect many people can't -- you have to be willing to be vulnerable and you have to be able to refrain from exploiting vulnerability in others.
Being vulnerable safely is what love is for me. I experience this with many people, and I think it's safe to say they experience it with me. To me, it is both incredibly special and simultaneously pretty basic. Ordinary and extraordinary. My wish for each of you my readers is that you can live this love for yourselves.