Love is dedication - not an emotion

We cannot steer nor control whom we fall in love with. Mostly, love enters or hits us with surprise. Nor have we a say in whether our love is responded to or not. Yet, when in a relationship, we do have choices: to follow our love, express it, feed and cherish it - or not. Falling in love is quite another chapter than staying in love.
If love was an emotion, we could do little about it and were dependent on its whims. But as love is something else, there are ways to let it flourish!

How does love express itself? How do we notice love in our lives? Love, as we have seen, in its core is a longing - and this zest for connection translates into full attention for our partner. Attention is the key to love’s magic circle. Love generates attention and attention fuels love. Giving and receiving attention establishes intense connection - and connection is what love yearns for and feeds on.

The ups and downs of love relationships show the relevance of attention.

  • When you fall in love, the rest of the world vanishes: all your focus is on your beloved and you take him or her in with all your senses, day and night. Just sitting together and watching each other, paying and receiving attention, can be utterly fulfilling.
  • When jealousy plays a role, it is specifically triggered by the fear to lose your partner's attention and dedication.
  • And a long lasting relationship grows weary, when the partner loses interest, does not pay attention, is not inclined anymore to express his/her love by various attentions…

That love is made up of attention is good news. You cannot control your emotions, but you definitely are in charge of your attention. It is by its intensity that you are able to fuel or starve your love. Staying in love is a matter of choice, focus and awareness. Love is expressed in dedication.

This dedication, however, is not based on willpower; it arises naturally out of a longing. It is not a matter of narrowing down your sight field, but of a paradoxical devotion: it is focused and all-inclusive, committed and free at the same time. Faithfulness does not require effort and renunciation, it is the result of staying connected to the basic longing.
Staying connected, however, can be a challenge. A deepening connection inevitably elicits fear as it activates past painful experiences. When I feel loved, memories and fears of being abandoned might show up. When being touched in a loving way, the hurt of having missed it so long or having experienced touch without love can permeate my current experience. In order to avoid this uncomfortable or painful feelings, I might be inclined to disconnect from my partner and shift my attention. A tragedy: if I understood this dynamic, my love could inspire me to stay connected and feel both the past pain and the current blessing and experience healing. I can choose where to put my attention, I can choose between temporary relief and definite redemption.

But what to do if you really do not feel like dedicating yourself to your partner? The answer is simple: feel and share it - or leave. Do not breed on it or act it out.
You can only be present to your partner when your heart is free to feel whatever is moving. Giving full attention requires that you do not repress or neglect anything within yourself, including disinterest, irritation, fear or disappointment with respect to your partner. Share it in order to explore it, not to blame your partner. When you do so, there are two possible outcomes.

  • This openness deepens and strengthens your connection. You both acknowledge the distance, can connect to your longing and set out to address the obstacles to your love together, knowing that real love inevitably causes fear and a fight-, flight- or freeze-modus. No rose without a thorn. Moreover, sharing openly all what moves makes love real, and this lack of censorship is the basis for real intimacy. How could you ever be close to each other when hiding something - to your partner or to yourself?
  • Full open attention, though, may help you to discover - more clearly and quickly than anything else - that the basic longing to connect has faded away or is definitely blocked: maybe in you, maybe in your partner, maybe in both of you. Which gives you a choice.
Attention is a magic panacea - and an infallible touchstone.

The crucial point is not the quantity of attention, it is its quality. Short moments of full attention can work wonder, hours of distracted and flat attention will subtly elicit grief, anger or withdrawal. This leads to the question what loving attention is like. We know already: It is not a sweet emotional state. Loving attention is hungry to take in both sweet and bitter, to feel it all and connect to it - like a child wants to taste all in order to connect to the world.

Love is heading for truth; it does not exclude anything, but embraces it all: the reality of your partner as well as everything that moves inside yourself. Nor does it settle into notions and ideas of who your partner is or what love should be like. Love does not avoid, love does not label, love explores as it divines the infinity of your partner and the relationship. Loving attention is living in a rejuvenating question.

Love is not a definite emotion, it is being in motion. When we embark on this adventure, let us stay fully present and enjoy it when we embrace life as it is, in our parter and in ourselves - till we feel that love and life are synonyms.

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