Dr. Deb’s Mental Health Vitamin: ‘What love ain’t’
Dr. Deb Wade
GCU Vice President, Counseling and Psychological Services
Driving down the road and mindlessly listening to the radio a few days ago, I heard a line in a song that caught my attention: “I may not know what love is, but I sure know what love ain’t (sic).”
This really piqued my interest and made my mind begin to wander. It is very true, as the line in the song intimates, that LOVE is hard to define, which opens the door for many interpretations.
As always, it is important to define love within the context of healthy love vs. unhealthy love. Let’s peek at the pitfalls as we identify what love IS, within the framework of what love “ain’t” …
- Love ain’t … Selfish. Real love places two people in a joined space where they create and share goals, dreams, fears, ambitions and ideas. When those whimsies are discounted, made fun of, ignored or negated but your partner’s needs and desires are considered important and significant, beware! Selfishness has entered the picture.
- Love ain’t … Consuming. If you find yourself using a lot of mental and emotional energy trying to decipher your partner’s wants, needs and thoughts AND trying too hard to anticipate and interpret your role in the relationship so that it is always pleasing to the partner, beware! You’ve possibly become consumed by your task.
- Love ain’t … Controlling. If you find yourself being told what to wear, who to hang out with, how to spend your time and your money, AND you find yourself working hard to meet all the “conditions” of the relationship, take heed! You’re most likely being controlled, not loved.
- Love ain’t … Jealous. This one is tricky because, initially, knowing that your partner is jealous can feed flattery. BUT, when you get accused of flirting or cheating, when your partner is threatened by your enjoyment of your friends or hobbies, when s/he gets upset if you text or hang out with your friends, take note! It is no longer feeling like flattery, it is feeling much like CONTROL … see above!
- Love ain’t … Isolative. When you find yourself being told to choose between him/her and your friends, insisting you spend all your time together, making you question your own judgment of your friends and family, and attempting to make you feel dependent on them for love, acceptance, money or worth…RUN! Love thrives within community, not in isolation.
- Love ain’t … Gamey. Mind games have NO ROOM in a healthy relationship. For example, ignoring you until s/he gets his/her way, using gifts and apologies to influence your decisions or to get back into your good graces, blaming you for their poor decisions and being a master passive-aggressor are gamey at their best and extremely manipulative at their worst. Flee!
- Love ain’t … Volatile. Threats, name-calling, swearing to your face and ANY aggressive physical contact must be taboo! In addition, blaming YOU for his/her anger is a passive-aggressive attempt at control, too! Unpredictable overreactions may make you feel as if you need to walk on eggshells around them or do things to keep them from lashing out, even to the point of evoking fear. This needs to be an absolute: When volatility enters the picture, opt out!
- Love ain’t … Belittling. Healthy relationships empower you, make you feel good about yourself and seem to increase your sense of wonder and serenity. BUT if in your relationship you are made to feel bad about yourself, you endure rude and degrading remarks about yourself or your family, you are made fun of (even if it’s “just a joke”) or condemned for your talent or skills, this is NEVER OK … find the exit!
You know, at times all relationships experience a bit of drama or conflict or unsettlement, but there should always be remedy, repair and reconciliation … and we should NEVER take hits below the belt!
Like the song says, “we sure know what love ain’t” … and we must abide by this knowledge. If you find yourself in a situation above … run, exit, sprint and drive quickly away! After all, you are the child of the King; be sure that you are treated as such!