People Only Love One Way
I wish to put forward here a single contention: So-called “acts of love” are rarely driven by love itself. There are those who are attentive, kind, and caring to their partner, and there are those who are not. How love is expressed to you is not determined by how much you are loved or any intrinsic worth in and of yourself; rather, a person expresses love as they are wont to, no matter whom it is they fall in love with.
A loving person is, by and large, equally affectionate to anyone who they become involved with. Each of us has a manner of loving and no matter how deserving one subject of our affection may be over another, the giver of love is more determinant of how much an individual is loved than the subject is. The implication of this is that one is not loved as they are deserving of being loved; they are loved just as much as the one loving them is capable of.
There is an idea that we should receive love in a manner commensurate with who we are and how loved we are. However, a person who is a hard-worker and perfectionist works at both the thankless job and the most rewarding job with a similar level of care and diligence. This is a quality that arises from within the individual and their conception of themselves, not in any particularly inspiring quality in the task at hand. It is the same with love.
A person goes from one relationship to another and loves markedly different people with the same degree of intensity and fidelity. And one beautiful soul, though so worthy of being loved to the extreme, may encounter an individual who is poor in their capacity to love, and so they are treated with far less care than they deserve.
A person with no money, though they might be filled with a sublime feeling of affection, cannot provide more for the object of their adoration than their means can supply. Likewise, there are those who are impoverished in a deeper sense, who cannot muster a strength of feeling or the enthusiasm for effort, though the person before them is recognized by them as of the highest quality.
Look to the people in your life and you will see some who cannot contain their excitement, even for the small things — books, songs, movies, plants, animals, and so on. They love life and all it holds. There are others who seem to be hardly impressed with anything in existence. What moves them, moves them only superficially. They can say, “Yes, that is good or no, it is not,” but inwardly, they are as little affected by the one as the other. Similarly, a grand and noble soul can be presented to them, and they will be as little inspired by love for that person, as they are capable of being roused by love for anything else.
Love is determined by the giver’s capacity for love, not the deserts of the receiver. Wherever you have not been loved in accord with your worth, do not confuse this with a measure of that worth — there is no such thing as the power to compel love. Love is a wellspring in the heart waiting to be tapped into. There is no pump of sufficient strength to draw forth water from a dry well.
Truly, it seems that in all forms love and an act of love are two very different things. Our romantic partners and friends express their love to us as they are wont to, not as we are loved or deserve to be shown love. The manner in which we demonstrate love, and the intensity of feeling we are capable of mustering, has nothing to do with the value we place on the object. The amount of love we have to give is preset within us.
And while we can love people to a different extent, there is a limit that cannot be surpassed. We first fall in love with someone, and though in a few years, unbeknownst to us, we will meet another who will completely eclipse that first love, and leave us wondering how it was we ever loved the former partner to begin with, we won’t have reserved a drop of emotion in the first relationship, and so there is no deeper aquifer of feeling for us to tap into for that more deserving partner to come. Thus, we love the inferior match with a near-exact amount of fervor as we do our true match. We give everything we have each time we fall in love, and this leaves nothing new to give thereafter.
It could be contended as a counterpoint that you do indeed love one person more than the rest. But this requires another concession: Either we can love more intensely or we cannot. If we love our current partner to the highest possible degree, then should this bond ever break, there will be nothing more to give whomever we at last find ourselves with. However, if this is not the case, then we must have some reservoir of feeling and devotion left untapped that we have not opened for our current partner.
Hunger is a very convincing thing. Even the lowest quality food looks delectable to starving eyes. And love too is a hunger. Once our desire for someone has been satisfied, and we no longer have any want for them, it will be no difficulty to convince ourselves that we never really felt for them as we once did, just as even the most delicious meal is unappetizing once we have eaten our fill. It will be easy for us to say over and over that we now love our current partner with a truer trust and deeper appreciation than any other, but the truth is that come nightfall one must have been loved more than the rest or not. If each new partner is to be loved more than the last, than each of the preceding partners must have been deprived of some part of us. If our current partner has all of us, then let this relationship endure for the remainder of our life, for there is nothing more to give hereafter.
Martin Vidal is the author of The Ambition Handbook: A Guide for Ambitious Persons