To love and be loved

‘There is only one happiness in this world – to love and be loved’ – George Sand

Being loved and accepted is the most basic of all human needs. However, the two are not synonymous, and having the one does not guarantee the other.

What does love depend on, then? Well, of course there are the people who are biologically programmed to love us, like our parents, grandparents, siblings… Here love is forged out of a sense of closeness, of familiarity. Then there is the love expressed in the security of a relationship – in the case of a platonic relationship, things like similarities and common interests play a role in the strength of the bond. In romantic relationships, things like physical attraction and chemistry come together to create the feeling of love. While the ingredients may differ, the end product is the same – the feelings of security that come as a result of relationships are what make them so desirable.

Is all love equal?

One type of love cannot make up for the absence of another, try as we might to make it so. Human beings were not made to be alone; we flourish when in community with others: we all need a friend in whom we can confide, but this relationship cannot replace the needs met in a romantic relationship, in the same way that romantic relationships cannot take the place of comfortable, familial ones. We need each in order to function effectively. 

Unconditional positive regard is what differentiates between love alone, and love coupled with acceptance, as it implies love and acceptance no matter what. People who are secure in their relationships know that they are free to make mistakes, to grow and learn, and they are safe in the knowledge that they are enough, adequate, for their beloved one, in spite of their flaws.

In fact, without acceptance, what is love, really? A series of warm, affectionate feelings? Without unconditional positive regard, is love not simply conditional? Food for thought…