The things we confuse with love


    MANY people enter into romantic relationships for the wrong reasons.

    It’s an age-old problem that has defied solution — like a primordial plague that’s incurable, relentless, and virtually indestructible. If we were to count the dead, damaged, and disfigured in its wake, surely the numbers would be staggering and incomprehensible.

    Unhappy break-ups happen all the time.

    Perhaps one of the saddest reasons why people think they’re in love is that they need to feel loved. It’s not an evil, selfish, malevolent reason. It’s a basic, innocent need that all of us are born with. We’re all born with a need to be loved.

    However, if this need to be loved isn’t met at home — if we’re largely ignored, criticized, humiliated, abused, treated like we’re inferior, substandard, and clearly NOT the favorite at home — then we might have this huge crater inside us that’s just yearning to be filled with anything that has the remotest resemblance to love.

    Hence, when someone shows us a little kindness, a little attention, a little appreciation — guess what?!! Fireworks in the sky. “I think I’m in love!!!”

    It’s like a newborn baby who’s so hungry it will suck on anything — a thumb, a cheek or chin, even the inside of your arm — because it desperately wants to breastfeed! Of course, we find it cute when a baby does this. We laugh and even tease the baby some more by giving it something else! The baby gets fooled and eagerly sucks on whatever it is we give him.

    Freeze that picture in your mind — now that is a powerful, graphic image of what we’re like when we’re starved for love. We’ll take anything that remotely resembles love or affection. It’s only when things start falling apart that we realize — it wasn’t love at all. It was just a need to be loved.

    You may ask — is that so wrong? Is that so horribly selfish, to want to be loved? Of course not. However, if our primary goal is just to be loved, then it becomes a losing proposition. It’ll probably drain the life out of a man if he’s expected to fill the crater, the vacuum, the void inside his wife or girlfriend! And vice-versa.

    That’s why some of us end up so drained. Some of us feel so empty, so used, so abused, after a failed relationship. A male friend once told me — “That girl just about sucked the life out of me. And I let her.” That was one of the saddest things I ever heard anyone say after a tragic break-up.

    So, I suppose, the big question to ask if you have any doubts at all, is this — Do I love this person because of what s/he does for me? Because of how good, how loved, how important s/he makes me feel? If the answer is Yes, then the next question is — So what happens when this person stops doing that, for some reason? Will you still love him/her? Of what use will s/he be to you then?

    I’ve heard people say that this is one of the wisest advice ever given — “Marry someone who loves you more.”

    Really? That’s supposed to be a good foundation for marriage — if I think I have the upper hand? If I think the other person will give me more than what I’m willing to give him? If he’ll sacrifice more for me? If I can twirl him around my little finger? If I can get away with murder? I’m sorry but I don’t think that’s love. I think it’s terribly selfish. A deceitful, lopsided deal.

    Sometimes we think we love someone because that person makes us feel secure and significant. Maybe you’re tired of uncouth, tactless, insensitive people asking you when you’re going to get married. Maybe you’re tired of going to parties and reunions and wherever by yourself. Maybe everyone (or almost everyone) in your group or batch is married — and you feel “left behind.” Maybe you’ve been dumped and you want to prove something. Maybe your boss and people at work keep asking, behind your back, if you’re gay. Maybe you feel you need a trophy husband/wife to raise your social and career status.

    A friend who was being courted by this gorgeous bachelor once told me — “I was about to say yes because I was so flattered that someone like him was actually going after me. Nakakakilig! Until I realized that if I entered this thing thinking that he’s doing me a favor — oh my, what a lousy start! So I said no.”

    Wise girl. Brave girl. If we need to latch on to someone to prove how valuable and important we are, then it’s definitely not a good basis for a relationship. Many people allow themselves to be abused and mistreated because they think it’s the price they have to pay for being with someone who’s a “prize catch.” The smaller we look to ourselves, the bigger the punishment we will take, just to hold on to someone who’s our main source of security and significance.

    And of course, you’ve probably heard it already — we often confuse love with lust. Studies show, for instance, that girls who have little or no interaction with their fathers are starved for their fathers’ hugs, affection, and attention. This leads to teenage pregnancies and pre-marital sex. The girls become very
    vulnerable to boys/men who give them the slightest attention or physical touch. Sometimes they fall for girls just like them. Or women who prey on them.

    We can also confuse love with infatuation. We can love the “idea of being in love.” That’s why there are men who quickly lose interest after they get the women they’re courting. It was just the thrill of the chase — the challenge — that kept their interest. Not the woman they thought they were in love with. So sad.

    We can also confuse love with a sense of belonging or acceptance — this is largely tied up to feeling secure when we’re with someone. We can actually fall in love with someone’s family or pedigree — especially if we don’t have both, or want to have more. After all, when you marry someone, you also marry his/her family…and family name!

    And lastly, we can confuse love with feeling secure and significant. This happens when we “fall in love” with someone who can give us a higher status in life — whether it be position, social class, finances, prestige, or accomplishments. That’s why when some people go bankrupt, lose their fame or position, fall from grace or favor, their spouses leave them.

    I’m sure there are many other things that people confuse with love. As a general rule, when we make it our mission to let a person fill a deep need in us, then we’re just using that person. When we “love” someone mainly for what s/he gives us, or stands for, or is a symbol of, then we are treating that person like an object — like a vending machine.

    Of course it’s healthy and wholesome to find love, security and significance in your spouse, your boyfriend/girlfriend — as long as you selflessly give to them as well, and are willing to sacrifice for whatever is best for them. Love, to be genuine, must always seek and sacrificially work for the highest good of the other.

    For human love to “work,” to be real, to be genuine and enduring — our first and primary Source of love, security and significance should always be God Himself. Because God is love. He’s the only source of love that’s infinite and perfect. We, on the other hand, are all flawed and selfish. We will all disappoint and be selfish to each other, believe it or not.

    The best way to love is this: If we love Him, first of all, then we will naturally love others, and ourselves, the Right way. The genuine way. The way God meant Love to be.


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