What is love?

“Love is union under the condition of preserving one’s integrity, one’s individuality. Love is an active power in man [sic]; a power which breaks through the walls which separate man from his fellow men, which unites him with others; love makes him overcome the sense of isolation and separateness, yet it permits him to be himself, to retain his integrity. In love the paradox occurs that two beings become one and yet remain two…Love is an activity, not a passive affect; it is a ‘standing in’; not a ‘falling for’. In the most general way, the active character of love can be described by stating that love is primarily giving not receiving…Giving fills those who love with joy”
From Erich Fromm: The Art of Loving (1956), pp 21-22).

“…in spite of the deep-seated craving for love, almost everything else is considered more important than love: success, gesture, money, power-almost all our energy is used for the learning of how to achieve these aims, and almost none to learn the art of loving.” (p. 5).

Mind you Fromm wrote this in the 1950s!

“the awareness of human separation [isolation], without reunion of love -is the source of shame. It is at the same time the source of guilt and anxiety.” (p. 9). To escape this sense of isolation [and anxiety] [people] desperately seek needs to fill the void. The void is superficially filled by an “orgiastic” experience….a sexual experience that brings immediate, but only short lasting relieve…and it is followed by shame and guilt, followed by a repetition of finding the relieve…and here we have what is known as obsessive compulsive behaviour. It is an escape….with no ending and no solace.

The confusion between self-love and selfishness: Self-love is rooted in the capacity to love, selfishness is an interest in oneself and does not include giving (paraphrased pages 55-56). “…the main condition for the achievement of love is the overcoming of one’s narcissism…”(p. 109).

Fromm writes that people are starved for love and do anything to obtain it, but they lack the knowledge what love is and rely upon false conceptions. “[It is not found in] films about happy and unhappy love stories, trashy songs about love…” The main problem is that people want to be loved and forget about the capacity to love….(p. 1).

The ability to love is “compounded of maturity, self-knowledge, and courage. Learning to love demands practice and concentration…it demands genuine insight and understanding”

Erotic Love

“Sexual desire can be present without love and for many this confusion easily leads to being misled…”

“Love [as in erotic/romantic love however], can inspire the wish for sexual union; in this case the physical relationship is lacking in “greediness, the wish to conquer or to be conquered, but it is blended with tenderness [i.e. love making versus sex]” (p. 51-52).

…Erotic love as in marriage is exclusive and an act of will and commitment (adapted from p. 52-53).

From Erich Fromm: The Art of Loving. Publisher: Harper and Row (1956).

9 thoughts on “POST 53: LOVE

  1. “Love” is a word…derived by humans to express that which resides within us? The human behaviors expressed as a result of this sensation that seemingly overwhelm some, yet inconveniences others is one of humanity’s great mysteries?

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  2. The Fromm quote describing the difference between sex and lovemaking is helpful. He said lovemaking is not about conquering nor being conquered. Animals clearly have sex. Most human sexual intercourse is just sex, I suspect. Lovemaking seems rare. I think I’ve made it there with TL. I hope so. I think it happens more easily as I gradually get older, gradually seeing sex as a luxury or an experience rather than a need or a competition.

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    1. You will like this quote ” …human sexual potential is rarely fully realised until middle age and beyond…” and “[in middle age and beyond]…time devoted to sexual intimacy, although not frequency, increased with quality…”
      (Kleinplatz, Menard, Paradis et al., 2009, quoted in Fleckenstein and Cox, 2015).
      It seems true that love making gets better with age as many hurdles are no longer an issue (hurdles such as being uncomfortable with one’s body, performance anxiety, interruptions of children, some stressors and a fear of pregnancy…).

      I do not recommend the Fleckenstein article as I bluntly critiqued it based on bad research, but the quotes used in the article from other researchers are great.

      Fleckenstein, R., & Cox, D. (2015). The association of an open relationship orientation with health and happiness in a sample of older US adults. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 30(1), 94-116.

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  3. Thanks for your love post Elizabeth, have been meaning to get back on blog and read it! I agree so much with all you have said. One sad thing for me is that people associate passion with true love and when passion wanes temporarily as it does in marriage, people are wiling to throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. While there can be love and passion together, love in the absence of passion is to me the truest kind of love. My H failed me when I was unable to harness the passion we had experienced, he went looking elsewhere for it…only to realize that it should never have been his priority and that if he had put his efforts into me and our marriage instead of into strangers, he would have been much happier. Now we are dealing with much larger damage as a result of his lies and cheating.

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