As the mother of a 9 year old girl, I hear about who is friends with whom and who is mean to whom on a daily basis. I decided to take one of these conversations seriously. I asked my daughter what would happen if her best friend, “Sally” decided to be friends with another girl, “Hannah”. How would this affect her? She thought about it and with the saddest face replied, “then she wouldn’t be friends with me anymore”.
It starts so early in life. We learn that there is a certain amount of love/friendship in the world or in this case, in Hannah’s heart. If Hannah gives a lot of it to Sally, then there isn’t enough left for someone else. In this context, perhaps it sounds childish. But trust me when I say that the same thinking and conditioning prevents us from being happy in our relationships as adults. We learn early on to measure love and we continue evaluating this un-measurable commodity throughout our lives. The belief in scarcity might show up differently, yet it still has power over our satisfaction in our relationships. What sabotages so many romantic relationships or marriages is this belief that one person gave more than the other. From the observer’s perspective as a coach, it is interesting to note that someone is always keeping track of the score. In that sense it is a game. Unfortunately, it is a game that no one wins or at least no one feels like they won.
Let’s examine this a little further. Let’s imagine a scenario of a romantic relationship between me and “Peter”. I like Peter. He likes me too. It is time to take the relationship to the next step. Do I declare my love for Peter? Do I wait for him to tell me about his feelings first? What if I say I love him and he doesn’t respond the way I want him to? On and on this maze weaves itself and me into a corner I won’t be able to get out of. Why do I ask myself these questions? Because I am afraid that Peter may not love me. Because I am afraid that I love Peter more than he loves me. There is always this measuring and evaluating of love that goes on. It starts as children, perhaps in sibling rivalry (mommy loves my brother more than she loves me) and it continues into adulthood.
What if we didn’t believe in a finite amount of love? If I thought that I have access to an unlimited source of love for me to have when I want it and for me to offer freely to the world, how then would I behave in a relationship? If there was never the fear of loss, of giving away something precious that you might run out of, how would you show up?
Unfortunately, in a relationship, there are at least two people involved. So, even if you believed that love is not measurable, and acted in that way, your partner may not. He or she might blame you, judge you, question you, etc. That means that if you are lucky enough to have met someone who believes that he/she contains an infinite amount of love, but if you do not believe it, you will sabotage your relationship and throw it out no matter what he/she says or does.
I don’t believe that there is a scarcity of love in life. I do believe however, that our belief in scarcity creates a fear of love and being loved. We forget that it is not the love that we receive, but the love that we give that brings us joy. If we are always measuring how much we gave and how much we received, we can become good scorekeepers and terrible lovers. My wish for us all is to recognize love, know that it is free, know that it will never run out, and then feel it so strongly, that we show up in every moment of every day, from that secure footing.