There’s a difference between experiencing love for someone and making love a product that you direct at that person.  Loving someone should be a nurturing, nourishing thing because it is a feeling within you that is complete.  It’s like a complete sentence in and of itself.  The love you feel for your child, for your spouse, for your sibling doesn’t need an activity added to it.  It just is.  Yes, it’s even better to be able to express it and sometimes we are just filled up with so much of it that it overflows. Like how we can be compelled to kiss an infant’s head or make those silly baby sounds.  Or why we cry happy tears.  The love overflows.  Expressing our love isn’t the love itself. It’s an action in addition to love. It’s communication, it’s action, it’s connection fueled by that love, but it is not the love itself.

Some people confuse these things, making love into a product. They feel love for a person or persons or group, etc., but instead of letting it fill them up and be enough, they make it into a product, into something to be done. As if love and loving were transactions and in the loving they were handing out a product in trade for getting something back. Whether that be self-esteem or connection or approval or what have you, they are looking for a return on the love they provide.  It’s not necessarily a calculated passive/aggressive thing.  It’s just a misunderstanding of how love actually works in a healthy way.  When you love someone, it makes you happy to make them happy.  The love is enough, the actions you take to express it is enough and their happiness because of your actions is icing on the cake.  Nowhere in that is the expectation of a return on equity or fair trade or balanced scales.  The loving, when it is truly love, is enough.  It’s somewhat like the ongoing religious argument between grace and good works.  One side says God’s grace will get you into heaven no matter what you’ve done and the other says that good works is what makes your soul prepared to be in heaven if you get there.  To my mind they are neither one enough on their own, but work together, two pieces that make a greater whole.

Now, loving someone and letting that be enough has nothing to do with loving their actions when they are behaving badly.  In fact, if you love someone and that love is enough, then you are able to separate out the person from the behaviors, set good boundaries, and take appropriate actions as necessary to help them and yourself even if that means walking away.  If love is being used as a product to get a return, then their bad behavior can spiral the situation out of control, feel like a personal attack, and cause all kinds of unnecessary secondary problems. Love, in the best case scenario, should be a win/win, but at the minimum, it should be a win in and of itself.