Defining Love: True Love is a commitment to nurturing personal growth

At a recent workshop I was talking about ‘other-sabotage’. This is when a partner does things like starting to buy chocolates and taking their ‘loved one’ out to their favourite restaurant as their weight starts to fall. This lead me to talk about my working definition of love. As a relationship therapist one needs a clear way of understanding love, or else relationships (and life) get very confusing. When people finish a sentence about an abusive parent or partner with ‘… but I know he/she loved me in their own way’ they end up very confused as they hang onto a dream that maybe one day…   True love is not hard to recognise when you apply this definition that I modified from Scott Peck:

True love is a commitment to nurturing personal growth – in both you and the other.

Love is not a feeling – it is a commitment. When we are putting our irritable (and irritating) tired, grumpy child to bed without responding to their annoying behaviour, the dominant feeling is not a loving feeling – but the action is loving. If we see love as a feeling, all long-term relationships must become loveless eventually, for longer periods, as the ‘novelty’ wears off – but not so when you see it as a commitment to nurturing personal growth.  And then, to nurture another’s personal growth requires deep empathy for where they are at and what they need at that point in their life to grow into better people.

If  you only nuture the growth of others and not your own, you clearly don’t love yourself. This will limit how much you can love others by limiting how much they can love you. You will sabotage the relationship once someone loves you more than you do. Equally, our children need to see us take time to meet our own needs, otherwise they will grow up thinking they are only ‘good’ if they are looking after others.

If someone is sabotaging your weight loss, or stopping you from educating yourself, or getting therapy, or maintaining your friendships – it’s not love you’re looking at, it’s the opposite …