The topic of love is one that permeates nearly everything that we do. Beginning as children, we are taught to believe in the stereotypical fairy tale of prince charming sweeping the princess off her feet and whisking her away into their happily ever after.
This carries into our adult lives through the influence of books, Hollywood, our favorite television shows and expectations from society. How many of us considered our first boyfriend while simultaneously debating whether we were ready to do the dating thing, or feeling anxiety or fear about what all it would entail?
Throughout all this, we create our own definition of the word love. This could be formed solely through the depiction of love in the movies, defining it as some beautiful romantic journey full of grand gestures and elaborate expressions of affection for one another. For others, this definition may be built on their experiences at home. Childhood experiences shape our idea of what love truly is, what we should expect and what we should strive to obtain.
Peg Streep, author of the book ‘Daughter Detox: Recovering from an Unloving Mother and Reclaiming Your Life’ has set out to address this phenomenon. Best known for her work on the impact of the mother-daughter relationship on our lives, in an article for Psychology Today she explains that “research shows that children who grow up with a secure style of attachment – whose emotional needs were met in childhood, who felt loved and supported and grew to have confidence in their thoughts and feelings – are more likely to dodge the someday-my-prince-will-sweep-me-off-my-feet vision our culture encourages and find a relationship that is both durable and nurturing. I have written this with women in mind, but much of it applies to men as well.”
If the definition of love is truly subjective and individual, how, then, will we know if the ‘love’ that we are seeking is real, healthy and beneficial to our overall happiness and well-being? The key is to begin by accepting that there is more than one type of love in existence, and identifying where our expectations fit into that spectrum.
While love is a large, complicated spectrum of thoughts, feelings, and emotions, it can, in most cases, be boiled down to two broad groups: finite love and infinite love. The concept is based on James P. Carse’s book ‘Finite and Infinite Games.’ He looks at human reality and explains that it can be viewed as two different ‘games,’ the finite and the infinite. A finite game is played with one goal in mind – the purpose of winning. Players of this game are unconcerned with the potential costs, or the people that are swept up in their efforts along the way, the only care about winning. On the other hand, Carse states that there is only one infinite game and that is the game of life.
Applying that same way of thinking to love allows us to put our relationships, views, and beliefs into perspective. If someone is engaged in finite love, they are focused on what the relationship can do for them. Content to stay in their comfort zone, they are looking for life to be easy and also rewarding, and view love as a means of achieving both. Lovers in this category are often controlling, jealous, possessive, needy and overly dependent.
Infinite love, however, resides at the other end of the spectrum. Infinite love is about growth, understanding, admiration, pleasure, and independence. When you love one another in a way that can be described as infinite love, your focus is on the mutual happiness. You seek to support, encourage and respect the object of your affection as opposed to using them as a player in your quest for personal gain. Together, you expand your comfort zones, helping one another to grow and evolve into the best versions of yourselves. Most importantly, infinite love is unconditional.
Allow yourself to step back and assess your life in an unbiased way. Are you settling for finite love only to wonder why you end up hurt and disappointed or have you set your sights on the sacred infinite love?
Featured image via Fine Art America