One thing I’m actually enjoying about getting older is how my
perceptions, thought processes and priorities are changing. One
of the places I’m finding this to be most significant is in the area of
love and relationships.
Recently I became aware that there are basically two kinds of love people
display, or practice, in relationships. One that enriches and strengthens
relationships, and one that tears them down. Sadly, the vast majority of
people practice the latter, whether they realize it or not.
Let’s say you really have a love of cupcakes. I use cupcakes in this analogy
because that’s the example that was used when this revelation came to me
through a children’s tv show. But we all have a favorite food like that. One
that you can never have enough of. One that you could eat almost every day.
The mere mention of this food alone triggers reactions and emotions in you.
You see it, you taste it, you imagine yourself enjoying it. Your mouth
waters. It really is a form of love. In fact scientists say some foods like chocolate
trigger the same chemical in your body that is released when you fall in love with someone.
But the thing is, this love that you feel is based purely on what you get
from this food (or car, or house, or any other inanimate object). My love of
cupcakes is based purely on what I want to do.
I don’t want to care for and cherish the cupcake. I want to eat it.
And the love I feel for cupcakes comes solely from the satisfaction
I get from having received what I wanted from it when I eat it.
It is then, only because the cupcake gives me the tastes, smell,
sugar high, etc. that I want, that I love cupcakes.
That works great for food, cars, clothes, etc. But human relationships
require a different kind of love. Many people say “I love you” to their
significant other. But often the love they are feeling and expressing is
Most of us love humans in the same way we love cupcakes,
pizza or our favorite car. That is to say the love we feel for
another person is based purely on what that person can do for them.
There was a pizza parlor near my home called Mr. Jim’s. I love pizza, and I
really loved MR. Jim’s pizza. But Mr. Jim’s started to slip on their pizza
game. They soon closed down. But I didn’t stop loving pizza. I just had to
find somewhere else to get it. Now I love Pizza Hut. Why? Why didn’t I go
find another Mr. Jim’s? Simple. I just love good pizza. I could care less
who’s giving it to me or what they have to go through to provide it. And if
I’m not getting everything I want on the pizza from one pizzeria I’ll go
My love for pizza then is very much conditional on the pizza having and
being everything I want. I have a list of what I think makes a great pizza.
All of those things must be in place, or I don’t love the pizza and I’ll
just go somewhere where the pizzeria is including everything on their pizza
that I demand. But that’s the way inanimate love works. It’s one-sided.
Conditional. We only feel it when we’re getting the right stimulation.
But human love, Godly love, the kind of love we need to make relationships
work as God intended, must be deeper than that.. All of us have a basic
need. That need, I believe is to be loved unconditionally. But many of us seek
to feed this need by focusing instead on our “wants”. We feel that if all
our wants are met we will be happy. We will be loved by and have love
for the person who encompasses all of our wants.
So, as I do with pizza, we make our laundry list of ingredients we feel will
comprise the perfect mate, and we set out to find it. Often we do, too. At
least it seems so at first. But later as things begin to change (cheaper ingredients,
fewer toppings, a different icing, no sprinkles) we find that we don’t feel
the way we used to about that person. So even before we start the phyical
act of looking for a better version of our ideal “cupcake”, we begin the
process in our hearts, in our minds. Most of what we feel for our
significant others then, is often cupcake love that we thought was something
But there is another kind of love that many of use hear about but few of us
have ever really felt, whether expressed or received. That is unconditional
love. Unconditional love is not based on what we want, or what the other
person must do to make us happy.
To love someone unconditionally is to love them just because they are.
When love is unconditional you love that person as they are and for who they are.
The joy, euphoria, happiness you feel when expressing this kind of love comes
not from that person’s ability to meet your every “want” at all times.
It comes instead from the joy you get from meeting theirs.
Wow. Looks good on paper doesn’t it? But it’s hard, man. It is. Because you
see, to love someone that way you have to completely ignore your own
desires…your “ingredient list” as it were. When you love someone that way,
your every thought and priority, the very focus of your daily tasks is to
make that person happy. Not out of obligation but because to do so makes YOU
That is a very scary way to love though, isn’t it? Most of us won’t allow
ourselves to love a person that way, because we’re afraid we might not get
what WE want if we make it all about the other person. If I love this person
unconditionally and make their happiness my priority, what about mine?
But often (admittedly not every time) something pretty amazing happens when
a person is being loved unconditionally. When a person begins to feel like
you love them honestly, completely and regardless of any mental or physical
changes…that you love them because to do so makes you happy…often that
creates a desire in that person to love you the same way.
So that person’s priorities begin to shift. They become so grateful and blessed to have
someone loving them this way, that what used to be important starts to fade.
That person eventually finds themself desiring only to return that kind of
love to you. Consequently you end up getting all of your desires and wants
Most of us don’t really start to get this until later in life because we’re
simply not mature enough before then. It takes a few failed relationships to
really begin to teach us that most of what we thought we needed didn’t make
a bit of difference in the end.
It is also true that we often find ourselves in relationships where our
maturity level isn’t matched by the other person. Which explains
how sometimes you can indeed love this way and still not have it reciprocated.
But even though it’s a very risky way to approach relationships;
one that leaves you vulnerable and open to hurt and disappointment;
you have much higher odds of achieving a strong, loving lasting relationship
by approaching your search with this mindset.
Cupcake love, on the other hand, almost never produces such a relationship.
Cupcake love is external. Conditional. It needs the other person to be
perfect and unchanging. To consistently meet a list of “wants” that have
often been formulated from misconceptions of what we all really “need” to be
happy and flourish as human beings made in God’s image. Naturally, this is
an unrealistic expectation.
Things do change, people do change. If you loved me because I was fine as
hell, what happens when I get fat? if you loved my straight, perfect teeth,
what happens when I’m 60 and they start to fall out? If you fell in love
with my sweet conversations and frequent complements, what happens 10 years
into the relationship when the comfort and familiarity of years together
starts to fade those things?
It depends on which kind of love you have. If it’s unconditional love,
nothing changes. You continue to love me and we joke about our spreading
waistlines together as we both embark on a weight loss plan. You prepare
chopped beef instead of steak and we talk shop about which denture creams
work the best. And you tell me you love me, and that you appreciate
me….because you do, not because I said it first.
If it’s cupcake love, you start to lose your desire for me because my body
is changing. You stop kissing me because my teeth are falling out. And you
start seeking sweet nothings from other sources. Because with cupcake love,
you only love the cupcake when it’s perfect and giving you everything YOU
want. The minute it isn’t you start shopping for a cupcake that does.