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We all aspire to love, but we care more about being loved than about developing our capacity to love. As a result, it is not uncommon for love to lead to a sequence of throwaway loves that end as soon as they begin.
We immerse ourselves in love looking for our “soul mate”, in an attempt to complete what we lack and silence the deep loneliness and the feeling of separativity, so it is not strange that we end up instrumentalizing both that love and the loved one , distancing ourselves more and more from mature and developer love. The alternative? Understand love as Martin Buber, the philosopher of dialogue, based on his conception of “I and Thou.”
The man inhabits his love
When we establish a relationship with someone, we can give ourselves to that person in the same way that person gives himself to us. That means that we are both the object and subject of the relationship. Then we can make the mistake of identifying our feelings with love, giving this a possessive character that leads us to make a selfish use of our soulmate. We believe that as our feelings for our partner belong to us, it also belongs to us.
Buber alerts us to that misunderstanding by differentiating the feelings of love: “Feelings are ‘possessed’, but love happens. Feelings inhabit man, but man dwells in his love. It is not a metaphor, but the reality: Love does not adhere to the Me making of a You a ‘content’, an object, but it is between a Me and a You. Who does not know this, who does not know it with all his being, does not know love, although he attributes to love the feelings he experiences, feels, enjoys or expresses.”
Love is, therefore, an action between You and Me, it resides in each but in spite of it, it only manifests between the two. By turning love into a productive act between two people, we realize that we cannot “own it”, we can only give and receive, in a constant flow that creates the intersubjective space in which we end up living.
Love as a unique combination of reciprocal freedom and responsibility
“Love is the responsibility of a Me for a You: Herein lies the equality between those who love each other, equality that could not reside in a feeling, whatever it was, equality that goes from the smallest to the greatest”, Buber wrote.
This philosopher was convinced that mature love is only achieved through a unique combination of freedom and responsibility. Love would be a sharing, building a shared space in which two people assume a commitment and a responsibility for the other, but remain free. That means they are free to reaffirm or break that commitment every day. And it is that delicate balance between freedom and commitment that gives love its magic, knowing that the other person can leave and yet chooses us every day, just as we choose him again every day.
The transforming power of vulnerable love
For love to become a nutritious and developmental experience, it is necessary that both people give themselves completely, without reservation, seeing the other as an equal. “Only when the individual recognizes the other in all his otherness as he recognizes himself, as a man, and marches from this recognition to the encounter of the other, will he have broken his solitude in a rigorous and transforming encounter. It is clear that such an event can only occur as a shaking of the person as person”, says Buber.
That type of relationship between a Me and a You demands vulnerability, that there is a cracking of the hard shell that protects the selfish Self to let the other into that intimate space. That love demands that people get rid of their ego and show themselves as they are, assuming, however frightening it may be, that the other person can cause them terrible pain, but still bet on that relationship.
That kind of love is the one that breaks down barriers and allows us to grow. As Buber pointed out: “For those who live in love and contemplate in love, men free themselves from everything that links them to universal confusion; good and evil, wise and foolish, beautiful and ugly, all, one after another, become real in their eyes, they become so many You, that is, liberated, defined, unique beings; they see each one face to face. In a wonderful way, an exclusive presence occasionally arises. Then I can help, heal, educate, raise, release.”