“The demands which the difficult work of love makes upon our development are more than life-size, and as beginners we are not up to them”. This is a quote from the famous German writer, Rainer Maria Rilke from the beginning of the 1900’s. It can seem that he wrote so long ago and we could question if his perspective applies all these years later. The relevance of his words shows how our human nature responds to messages throughout time. His words reflect back our humanness and the problems that plague us no matter in what era have a certain similarity. We are all in desire of desire—or many of us.
Rilke goes on to say the following. “But if we nevertheless hold out and take this love upon us as burden and apprenticeship, instead of losing ourselves in all the light and frivolous play, behind which people have hidden from the most earnest earnestness of their existence—then a little progress and an alleviation will perhaps be perceptible.” In other words, love does not mean becoming one but becoming more. The nature of love is such that it fosters growth not being lost. It is a force and a need that we respond to at the beginning of life and if given enough and in the right manner we thrive. Love is a dynamic, an increase of consciousness and not a blind merger.
Too often people come to therapy upset that the partner and they differ. What do they have in common and where are the same interests. Isn’t the question really one of how to we grow from being with each other? How do we touch each other’s lives? How do we impact the one we love? How do we learn and pass on the information we know? And, how do we give and receive love in ways that will stretch us beyond our safe borders?
The complex nature of love requires conscious consideration of self and other. It merits and brings heightened awareness, a new regard for conscious existence and honoring the being rather than the doing. Love makes our individuality come forward—at least if it is the kind of love that challenges and is more than one person melding into the other. Often people have problems when they think they are to be like the partner. Who sets up this scenario? Do they both agree to it and why? Should they get out, make the relationship more viable and therefore more intriguing? This will bring out a type of discernment and interaction that makes love not the kind in the quick fix columns but the kind that is hewn from two conscious people who struggle to make themselves known and in the process better at love and loving. As Rilke acknowledges it is not easy “but they are difficult things with which we have been charged; almost everything serious is difficult, and everything is serious”.