“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal.” C.S.Lewis The Four Loves.

February is the month attributed to love – romantic love.

The truth is that love comes in many different forms and it evolves, matures and changes over time.

Research has long suggested that the ability to form stable relationships comes from our early years where a responsible caregiver looked after all our needs. Love is our survival mechanism that promotes long term relationship, feelings of safety and security. This is our first love – the love that we share with our family members and it is this first social environment of family that provides us with our first social mirror.

As we become older we make close friends and it is these intimate non- sexual relationships that open our world to different types of intimacy and connection. This is where we learn about love that is conditional and this is where we begin to understand that not all relationships can treat us well. It is these friendships that give us more feedback about ourselves and where we begin to form our beliefs about ourselves and how we relate to others.

As we mature we begin to learn about flirtatious, lustful, sexual “love” – the beginning of a different type of intimate connection.This love is the stuff of romantic novels, the subject of all our songs and the very fodder for days like Valentine’s Day. Most of us always remember our first love and the passion that we felt and the absolute devastation that came with its end. This is the love that we fantasise and obsess about, this is the love that we pine about, this is the love that, if we don’t have it, makes us examine the blocks that separate us from it.

Then comes the love that matures over time. The love that gives us a connection, a shared vision, where we learn commitment, compromise, where we show empathy and understanding. This is the love that evolves as we grow and change, the love that navigates difference and conflict, the love that travels with us through major life challenges, the love that we constantly work at maintaining – it is not easy! It is usually in this stage where a new love is experienced – that of a parent and child – one of the most demanding yet rewarding loves.

We see evidence of love in the wider social environment. There is a love of community, love of humanity, love of animals and a love of nature – a love of the greater good. Many contribute to this love through volunteering, professional positions and philanthropy.

As we progress through these different loves we retain messages about ourselves that may not necessarily be true.Through our different stages of love we might learn that we are not good enough, not pretty enough, not smart enough and the list goes on. Aristotle was the first to discover that you cannot possibly care for others if you do not care for yourself. The most important love is the love and respect that we have for ourselves – after all how can we expect another to connect with us if we can’t connect with ourselves. If you know yourself and respect yourself, you can be yourself in your relationships – don’t fall into the trap of being who others want us to be – it never sustains.

So this Valentine’s Day, don’t wait for a gift and don’t beat yourself up if you do not have the “Valentine’s day ” type of love. Use it as a day to be grateful for all the different types of love you have in your life and do something for yourself – after all, you deserve it!

Charmaine Roth

Charmaine Roth is a qualified,active and engaged Counsellor / Psychotherapist practicing in Sydney's Eastern Suburbs. My goal with clients is not only to get rid of
pain,it is to create positive, richer and deeper relationships with oneself, others and the environ-ment. For more information go to www.charmaineroth.com.au. Skype Sessions available.

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