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True giving, as Erich Fromm points out, is other-oriented, and requires four elements.
The first is care, demonstrating active concern for the recipient's life and growth.
These may be the seeds of love, but they have yet to sprout.
On the wedding day, emotions run high, but true love should be at its lowest, because it will hopefully always be growing, as husband and wife give more and more to each other.
A woman I know once explained why she's been happily married for 25 years.
"A relationship has its ups and downs," she told me.
"Tell you what: I'll define it, and you raise your hands if you agree. When she called her parents to tell them the good news, they were elated.
Jill Murray (author of writes that if someone mistreats you while professing to love you, remember: "Love is a behavior." A relationship thrives when partners are committed to behaving lovingly through continual, unconditional giving ― not only saying, "I love you," but showing it.
And just as easily, it can spontaneously degenerate when the magic "just isn't there" anymore. Love is the attachment that results from deeply appreciating another's goodness. After all, most love stories don't feature a couple enraptured with each other's ethics. God created us to see ourselves as good (hence our need to either rationalize or regret our wrongdoings). Nice looks, an engaging personality, intelligence, and talent (all of which count for something) may attract you, but goodness is what moves you to love. Just focus on the good in another person (and everyone has some). I was once at an intimate concert in which the performer, a deeply spiritual person, gazed warmly at his audience and said, "I want you to know, I love you all." I smiled tolerantly and thought, "Sure." Looking back, though, I realize my cynicism was misplaced.
Erich Fromm, in his famous treatise "The Art of Loving," noted the sad consequence of this misconception: "There is hardly any activity, any enterprise, which is started with such tremendous hopes and expectations, and yet, which fails so regularly, as love." (That was back in 1956 ― chances are he'd be even more pessimistic today.) So what is love ― real, lasting love? What we value most in ourselves, we value most in others.
Many years ago, I met a woman whom I found very unpleasant.
So I decided to try out the "giving leads to love" theory. A few days later I offered to help her with a personal problem. This is why your parents (who've given you more than you'll ever know) undoubtedly love you more than you love them, and you, in turn, will love your own children more than they'll love you.