Post Valentine’s Day Thoughts: Were the Beatles right that “All you need is Love”?
In 1967 the Beatles released the well known song - “all you need is love”. Written by John Lennon, the refrain became both very well known and quite popular. “All you need is love, love is all you need, love is all you need…”
Is it really that simple, though: All you need is love? Maybe, but it depends how you define love. While love can be a powerful and intoxicating emotion, anyone in a long term relationship knows that love is a verb and requires acts of the will. When the Beatles say all you need is love, the word love is a noun. And too often we remain passive, hoping to find or feel love, often leading to people saying they have “fallen out of love” as if it is out of their control.
Love is a verb involving a number of actions:
- Love works on being empathic. It means working towards trying to enter and understand the subjective world of your partner or child. It means working and learning to listen carefully to make sure you understand what they are saying and feeling.
- Love provides accurate “mirroring” - meaning it works at trying to understand and provide accurate feedback, mirroring and affirmation. The need to be seen, known and understood may be one of the most powerful human needs.
- Love involves acceptance. It acknowledges the reality that the only person you can ever change is yourself, and accepts your partner for who they are as opposed to who you might hope they would be. Love means working to bring out the best in your partner.
- Love in the midst of highly narcissistic times means sometimes putting the other person’s needs first and attempting to build them up.
- Love also means being clear about your own needs lest they go underground leading to deep resentment. Love involves honest negotiation.
- Love is forgiving! As opposed to building a “bitterness bank”, which keeps a ledger of all the slights and hurts, love is actively forgiving, understanding that we will inevitably hurt each other.
- Love requires the ability to both be fully yourself, while accepting the other. That of course is incredibly complicated.
- Love does not avoid conflict! As the late family therapist David Schnarch put it, marriage can be a crucible for growth. Avoiding honest conflict leads to a polite, passionless marriage.
All of this is of course easier said than done, and can’t be reduced to simple bullet points or any self help book. O’Henry’s famous short story illustrates the complexity of love. As a couple attempts to practice sacrificial love, the husband sells his watch in order to buy an elaborate comb for his lover’s hair - who of course has ironically cut off her hair to sell in order to buy a chain for the watch that he has sold.
Start to think about love a little differently this year. Think about love as a verb, move beyond flowers and roses, and work on specific action steps and honest discussion to be more actively loving.