People love to be in love. Yet “love” is a big word. It is the biggest word in the language. Any language.
What is love, really? Conversations with God has a lot to say on this subject. Among other things, it says that love is a decision, not a reaction. That may be one of the most important things anyone could ever say on the subject. True love is never the result of how another person looks, behaves or interacts with us. It is a choice to be loving no matter how that other looks, behaves or interacts with us.
This does not mean that true love requires us to stay in a relationship that is abusive. Do not confuse the words “love” and “relationship.” We are not proving that we love someone by staying in a relationship. Indeed, there are instances when we may be proving we love them by leaving. So it is not true that love demands that we accept abuse from the one that we love.
If a person is abusive to us, it is abusive to that person to allow their abuse to continue. For if we allow their abuse to continue, what do we teach them? Yet if we make it clear that the abuse in unacceptable, what then have they learned?
Of course, it is true that no one can ever really “get out” of a relationship. We are always in relationship with each other, and the only thing that changes is the form the relationship takes. You cannot end a relationship, you can only change it. So do not think in terms of ending your relationship, think in terms of changing it. You may wish to change its form, or you may wish to hold onto the form, but change its characteristics within that form.
Choosing to love someone — truly love them — is a very high act. It is the mark of a Master. Loving someone as a “reaction” is a somewhat less elevated experience. It is the mark of a student. The danger of loving someone as a reaction is that the one we love may change. In fact, it is a certainty that they will. They may gain weight, or lose it. They may alter their personality. They may change their ideas about something important to us. And if we are in love with what others bring to us in relationship, we could be headed for enormous disappointment.
So we come to the second big truth about all this: Love is not about what the other brings to you, it is about what you bring to the other. Indeed, the purpose of all love relationships is to provide us with an opportunity to decide and to declare, to be and to express, to become and to fulfill…Who We Really Are.
This is perhaps another way of restating the first truth, because Who We Really Are is a choice, not a response. It is a decision, not a reaction — although it is true that most people think it is the other way around.
When I talk to young people about love, I tell them that there are two questions having to do with life and relationship that everyone would benefit from asking:
1. Where am I going?
2. Who is going with me?
It is important to ask these in the right order. Many people switch them around — and suffer for it the rest of their lives. First they ask, who is going with me in my life? Then they ask, where am I going? Often, the choice of destination is conditioned and compromised by the choice of companion. This can make for a very rough journey.
At a recent five-day retreat (we present four such retreats a year for those who want to explore more fully the meaning and the message of Conversations with God) one participant — a young woman in her 20s — asked sadly, “What does it feel like to be in love?” I told her I could not answer for anyone else, but I know what it feels like to me. It feels like there is only one of us in the room.
When I am with my beloved other, Nancy, it feels as if there is no place where “I” end and “she” begins. When I look into Nancy’s eyes, it is like looking into my own. When I sense that Nancy is sad, it is as if the sadness pierces my own heart. When she smiles, the heart of me smiles with her — as her. I wish I could feel this way about everyone. That is what I am working toward. I am feeling it with more and more people every day. Nancy has taught me a lot about how to do that.
A Course in Miracles says, “No special relationships.” In other words, no one person should be more special to us than another. That is how God experiences love. There is no condition, and no one is more special than another.
It is difficult for most people to understand that. How can God love us all equally, the “good” and the “bad” alike? It is because God does not see any of us as “good” or “bad.” We are all perfect in God’s eyes, no matter how we are behaving. Human beings have a long way to go before they can claim that. Most of us place condition after condition on our love, and we are very fast to withdraw it when those conditions are not met.
So the third great truth about love is that it knows no conditions. There is no such thing as “I love you IF…” in God’s world.
The fourth great truth about love is that it knows no limitations. Love is freedom, experienced. Total and absolute freedom. And so one who loves another never seeks to restrict or limit that other in any way. This is a tough one for many people. For many, love translates, roughly, into “ownership.” Not that this is ever expressed, of course. It is simply felt. It is a felt sense of “you’re mine.” Of course, in true love nothing could be further from the truth. And in true love, such ideas or thoughts are never part of the paradigm. No one owns anyone, and no one acts as if they do.
This has major implications, as one might imagine. So now I am going to list the fifth, and perhaps the most “controversial,” truth about love that I know.
Love never says no. Not to persons of equal maturity and intelligence. (We are not talking about children here. Let’s limit this discussion to adults.)
No matter what the request of the beloved, love says yes. This does not mean that personal opinions are not expressed, nor personal preferences announced. But, in the end, a request from the beloved is never denied.
Again, that is difficult for many people to grapple with. Yet this is the way that God loves. I am fond of saying in my lectures and retreats that God has only one word in His vocabulary. God always says yes. No matter what you want, no matter what you choose, She never says no.
This idea can be reduced to two-words: God allows.
Because Conversations with God teaches that the words “God” and “love” are interchangeable, you could then say, “love allows.”
In the end, that is what love does. Love allows. It never restricts, it never limits, it never stops, it only allows. In true love relationships, you get to have what you want. That is the commitment Nancy and I have made to each other. We will never restrict each other, we will never limit each other, we will never stop each other from living their dreams, their highest visions, their grandest truth.
The marriage statements that Nancy and I shared four years ago are printed in Conversations with God-Book 3, and in a separate little book, The Wedding Vows from Conversations with God. I have received many letters, e-mails, phone calls and comments on those statements. I believe the statements came to us right from God. That is why Nancy and I have shared them with the whole world.
The sixth truth about love is that it always renews itself. It never runs out.
As a regular ritual in our marriage, Nancy and I exchange our wedding rings frequently. As we place the ring back on each other’s finger we say, “I choose you again this day.” We try to share this ritual every day. There have even been days when we were apart, and we shared it over the telephone. It is very important to us.
Try it. Make every day your wedding day, in your house — and in your heart. Even if you are not married.
Because you are, you know.
To everyone. We are all One.