“For one human being to love another, that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation,” Rainer Maria Rilke.
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it” Jelaluddin Rumi.
New York Times writer David Brooks wrote an Op.Ed. Article titled, “Three Views of Marriage. (Feb. 23, 2016).
These are the three lenses that Brooks refers to:
- The psychological lens emphasizes people change little over a lifetime. Especially after age 30, people may get more conscientious and agreeable, but improvements are modest.
- In the romantic view, the heart is transformed by love at any age.
- In the moral view, spiritual transformation — over a lifetime, not just over two passionate years — is the whole point. People have tremendous power to go against their natures and uplift their spouses by showing a willingness to change and supporting their journey from an old crippled self to a new, more beautiful self.
The three lenses operate at different levels: personality, emotions, the level of virtues, and vices. The first two lenses are ubiquitous in our culture — in bookstores, songs, and movies. But the moral lens, with its view of marriage as a binding ethical project, is less standard. Maybe that’s one reason the quality of the average marriage is declining.
The decline in marriage quality is reflected in the rate of divorce in the United States for new marriages is 50%. However, the rate of divorce has decreased in recent decades. It remains incredibly high. The marital vow that “we will stay married in sickness and in health until death do us part” has not been accurate for a long time.
Erich Fromm helps readers to understand that loving another person is an art. I recommend his book, “The Art of Loving,” written in 1956.
“The Art of Loving” explores the concept of love in all its forms, arguing that it is an art that requires knowledge and effort. The book delves into many types of love, such as brotherly love, motherly love, erotic love, self-love, and love of God. He dissects their underlying psychological meanings.
Fromm’s premise is grounded in the belief that love is a profound interpersonal skill that individuals can develop through practice rather than being in a purely emotional state. He asserts that love isn’t some fleeting passion or sentimentality but a robust force that can transform and empower. According to Fromm, love is the “active concern for the life and the growth of that which we love.” And what we love is another person. Loving another person means loving one’s spouse, family, friends, and oneself.
The notion of erotic love, the bonding between two individuals into one, also gets attention in Fromm’s explorations. The erotic form of love is unique. It is where most people find the most profound expression of love. However, he contends that this form of love is often mistaken for infatuation or being ‘in love,’ which is usually transient and subject to fluctuations.
Fromm also provides a comprehensive standpoint on motherly and fatherly love. He proposes that motherly love involves unconditionally affirming the child’s life and needs. In comparison, fatherly love is a conditional form of love tied to the child’s obedience and goodwill.
The book also explores the concept of love towards God. He presents the paradox of individuals seeking a single, supreme object of love but often incapable of experiencing love in daily interpersonal relationships. He suggests that the essence of love for God is love for humanity, and humans cannot genuinely love God if they do not genuinely love their fellow beings.
Fromm is critical of contemporary societal frameworks. He challenges capitalist societies where love is often objectified and commercialized, correlating love with some transaction. People spend a lot of money on marriage ceremonies in palatial settings. Family and friends compete over how much they will go to purchase wedding gifts. Added to this is the expectation that the bride and groom will travel to a romantic destination for their honeymoon.
Throughout the book, he emphasizes that love is an art. He argues that just as mastering any art requires consistent practice, understanding, and patience, loving also requires self-awareness, understanding of one’s partner, and commitment to nurturing the relationship.
Love, commitment, and purpose are all integral elements of a fulfilling life, and they can intersect in many significant ways. Intimacy plays a critical role in our emotional well-being and happiness. It creates bonds, fosters empathy, and promotes understanding and acceptance. Love can manifest in our life’s purpose: we often strive lovingly toward the people, values, or causes we care deeply about.
Commitment is the promise or dedication to someone, our work, our ideals, or ourselves. It reflects persistence and loyalty despite challenges or drawbacks. It can cross paths with love and purpose because we are more likely to uphold commitments towards things we genuinely love or believe in, and these commitments often form a significant part of our lives.
The purpose in life refers to the direction we give based on what we find meaningful. It makes us feel motivated, fulfilled, and connected to the world. A sense of purpose can stem from our deep love and commitment to something or someone. Alternatively, it can fuel passion and responsibility because when we find our goal, we develop love and dedication because of its fulfillment.
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