Love As Separation

We see love as a coming together.  A uniting.  And that, of course, is true.  As an end result.

But what is the nature of love?  (Don’t worry, I’m not really expecting an answer – yet…)

I’m pretty sure that love isn’t what most of the notions about it flying around in the world describe.  In particular, I’m certain that the idea of love as a process whereby we are completed by somebody else is not only wrong, it’s quite dangerous.

The feeling that we have when we are ‘met’ by someone.  When we are actually seen for who we really are and loved by the person who sees us, is a very potent feeling and one that can delude us into thinking that it is this process that calls us into being in some way. That isn’t true.

We are whole and discrete units unto ourselves.  Nobody outside of us – not our lovers or friends or children or even our parents (and to be honest they might come closest) can fill the gaps or substitute for the parts of ourselves we need to grow in order to be whole. This belief that somewhere there is someone – or indeed something (money, drugs, sex, success) – that can effect our ‘completion’ puts this necessary step out of our own control.

It isn’t only that this approach to love isn’t a nice, modern or independent idea, it’s more that it can’t work.  This approach is more likely to result in an unhealthy hybrid outcome – an entity made from borrowed and mismatched pieces rather than a beautiful and healthy relationship that can function as a powerhouse and engine of change and good and growth for all those involved.

So the first step towards love is separateness.  I have to see my separateness and become who I am and find ways to fill my own lacks and you have to do exactly the same and then we can come together.  Once we are sure we are separate we don’t suffer from jealousy or domination or the need to be in control.

When we are children the situation is complex vis a vis our togetherness and our separateness and just as we are growing physically we are also growing in this way.  We start off being attached, literally, to another person and our journey through childhood is a journey of separation and detachment as well as a myriad other things.

But once we are adults – regardless of the childhood that has created us – we are separate. When we are adults, if a person we love leaves we will be sad, we may even be distraught but we won’t be broken – because we can’t be.  They weren’t completing us – no matter what it felt like.  At best, they were papering over the cracks and that might not be great but when your heart is broken and you’ve been abandoned, one way or another, there is comfort in knowing that whatever else has happened no part of you has been taken away.

Because you have all the parts of yourself.  Even if you can’t always see them.

The job of completion is yours and mine alone.

There’s no denying that it’s a much nicer place when we help each other to do that – and maybe that is love.  Or part of love.  Or a type of love.

Here are a few interesting recent blog posts on various aspects of love that might help us all in our ongoing struggle to find out exactly what this elusive, seductive essence might be.

On Compassion and Control Freaks

Expectations and Vulnerability

I Hate To Tell You this Mom, but… 

Differentiation, Love and Living with Integrity

The Houla Massacre

This last post may seem an unlikely reference given the context, but I think this post graphically describes the lack of love.  It isn’t just that we don’t have chocolates and flowers if we don’t have love – the consequences are much more serious than that.  And sometimes we need to see clearly what something isn’t before we can understand what it is.

There are many, many more posts on this subject that I have read but can’t remember right now –  if you wrote one, or know of one, please don’t hesitate to link (self-referring is positively encouraged!).


  1. Yup, it has taken me years and so much heart ache to realise this, but finally, I feel as though I am almost there, almost complete by myself…
    I could do with the companionship of a good man on my journey though. 🙂

    1. It’s a hard journey to be fair because it feels as if someone else can do that job. However, given the length and difficulty of the road it is nice to have companionship – in Ireland we say that walking with someone ‘shortens the road’ – I think it means what you’re saying! 🙂

  2. Boredom: I think boredom is the number one enemy of humans…Not appreciating enough the state of being, and confusing it witht he state of having. I think most people are doing the things they do out of boredom, boredom emanating from the stillness of time space routine. It is why I find the self-awareness techniques so imoprtant in denying boredom its claim on our well being.
    Very nice article: I always enjoy comming over for some…reciprocity 🙂

    Never get bored, never a boring moment!

    1. I have to admit that I have the boredom threshold of a giddy kid myself -so agree! And thanks very much for the compliment!

  3. I agree so totally with this post that I immediately commented and shared on both Digg and my Facebook timeline. True love cannot be exercised in the absence of self-discovery and aiding the beloved in self-discovery!

    1. Thanks granbee and love that description – True love cannot be exercised in the absence of self-discovery and aiding the beloved in self-discovery – very poetic (unsurprisingly!)

  4. “It seemed to be to be the finest outward expression of true individualism: each man respected himself; this inner respect, his awareness of himself as a unique person, required him to extend to every other human being everywhere and of any economic situation a dignified courtesy which recognized tacitly the unique worth of both his fellow human and himself.” Richard Heinlein (from Tramp Royale) recalling his experience with many people he met on a trip (with his wife) to South America.

    1. What a marvellous quote – it really says it beautifully. It’s a real balancing act this self and other stuff, isn’t it? However I totally agree with this and think that it’s a great description of how real confidence is made – we mistake confidence for bragging and ego but the really confident person is so sure who he or she is that they are happy to allow others to be themselves as well. Thanks, William.

  5. Great post! This line stood out to me: “the idea of love as a process whereby we are completed by somebody else is not only wrong, it’s quite dangerous.” Very true! It took me a long time to understand we are not made complete and whole by an imperfect person or temporary thing.

    1. Thanks, Danielle. It takes us all quite a long time to work that out, I think! Partly because we live in societies that encourage us to invest in our egos instead of our selves – and the ego does ‘need’ that outside approval. Thanks for your comment.

  6. Love changes over time. The feelings I have for my husband are quite different to those I had 30 years ago when we first met. We grew up together and it was hard sometimes.

    The feelings for my children have also changed – from doing everything for them as babies, I have had to learn to do nothing – or not much – as they have grown up, if I want them to be decent men.

    Love is a funny thing. What it is not is constant.

    1. Everything good changes. I would say exactly the same about my feelings towards my husband and children. The love-connection with children is particularly interesting because it is a roller-coaster from fierce every-waking-minute preoccupation to stepping away, just as you describe.

      I think change is the nature of life and parts of change are often hard. We are sold a very cheap imitation of real love though – which is a pity because it does have great transformative potential.

      Thanks, Tilly.

  7. I have an entire group on Marriage and Relationships, how we must remain ourselves to be complete first. This is a wonderful post and I am going to read your selections (as soon as I get back from my walk!).

    1. Thanks so much – I totally agree – glad you enjoyed it and sure you’ll enjoy the other posts as well! (Hope the walk was good!)

  8. I love how you synthesize ideas and share them with us. Thank you!

    Loving others not for what they can do for us, but for who they are is probably the easiest way to love. I think. Our own disappointments around what we think others should do for us, often prevent us from seeing what they actually do bring to the world.

    1. Thanks and you’re welcome! I love (!) the idea of loving others for who they are and not what they can do for us – maybe that is the description of how we love our children? It’s a wonderful model – thanks to you!

  9. CR, this is such a great post.. And so true.. We each of think ‘Love’ is to be found ‘Outside’ of ourselves, and we need only connect within ourselves and see ourselves as Not seperate from anything… For we then can find Love in everything.. And Human Love I have found always has rules and conditions… We substitute Human love thinking it is what we are seeking.. While we do connect and Love our partners,, we still within that partnership in most cases put our manmade vows and rules inplace.. True Love is Unconditional.. and This post has come as yet another ‘Sign’ within my own journey CR.. to show me clearly that my path is set.. Love and Hugs to you my friend, and thank you so very much for your support.. DW xx

    1. Sue – so glad you liked it and honoured to be even part of a ‘sign’ in someone’s journey!
      And thanks for love and support right back to you! x

  10. I usually admire from offer in our little online world, but because this very well might be the exact conversation I was having today with a dear friend in the real world, I thought I would come from my cocoon and commend you for your writings – noting, especially, that this post hits a chord with me.

    The idea of love as separation has appeal to me, as it always has.

    Indeed, “there’s no denying that it’s a much nicer place when we help each other to do that – and maybe that is love. Or part of love. Or a type of love.” … but love should not be a conjoining of lives to such a finite degree that you begin to lose who yourself was as a person. In fact, that is where things go wrong and many relationships fail. The modern love is deceiving. It posits that 1 unit can be made from 2 separate bodies. And perhaps this is true in very minuscule degrees. However, as I see it, as I know love, it begins with two people who know their selves quite well. Who are comfortable in the position they find themselves in their lives. Who happen to meet — and decide that their love is the type of love where days and lives could be shared. But this shouldn’t necessarily mean an intertwining so deep that you don’t know when one’s rear end ends and the other begins. Love, instead, to me, should be shared through two INDEPENDENT lives. I do not want to make my life one with you, as we are different people. But there are times when I do want to share my life with someone… however, it’s very far and few between that we find another being on this earth who feels the same. Share my life. Do not change my life.

    I’m rambling at this point, and I will blame it on ambien… but I had to through in my two cents even if it doesn’t make sense at this point 🙂 Thought I would finally say … hello. So, hello… 🙂



    1. Hello Lynda – it’s a pleasure to meet you at last! 🙂 I (obviously!) totally agree with what you are saying. I think everybody knows this instinctively but we can be scared to think we are ‘alone’. The truth is we are alone. And we’re not alone. Both at the same time. Your description is great – thanks so much for calling in to say hello!

  11. So much to think about here (as always). I just posted a post that was inspired by you, and now as I try to collect my thoughts which are sort of going off in several directions, I think I will be writing another one. One of the commenters on my post asked me what my writing process was, I think my answer should be reading Creating Reciprocity.
    Also, I think Sarvodaya’s link (The Houla Massacre) is perfect for this post – ultimately love is what will drive us to put an end to these senseless tragedies.

    1. I’m glad you liked it and beyond honoured that you would speak so kindly. On the subject of love I think you might like this talk by Michael Hardt –

      I posted it before (can’t help but self-refer sometimes embarrassing as it is!)

      Thanks again – you are the most encouraging person I know (seriously) and I read that last post – and loved it – but didn’t have proper chance to comment. I look forward to the next one – as always. x

  12. So . . . you moved! I’m glad I came looking for you (because I genuinely was missing your posts and I was worried about you as well). How is it that Bronx Boy knew exactly where you were and I didn’t? 🙂

    1. I’m glad you came looking for me too! I moved and did it all wrong (typical) but it just shows how great you are that you not only came looking for me but that you bothered to be worried about me! I deeply appreciate that. x

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