Love is one of the most important, widely recognized, and yet largely misunderstood emotions we experience. As humans, our brains are naturally wired to make connections with others and, for both biological and cultural reasons, many of us believe we need it to survive (no matter the cost). In all its complexity, love can be categorized into two major types: healthy and unhealthy.
There are relationships that provide the type of love that allows us room to grow, offers acceptance and promotes self-love. Consequently, there are also relationships that deny us of these non-negotiables and stifle our growth as individuals. Love is important. Love is essential to us both emotionally and physically which, roughly translated, means we should not compromise on the type of love we deserve.
While most of us recognize the vitality of this emotion, many of us struggle to discern when the love we have for and with another person is adding to our lives or simply draining us of self-esteem. With that, I’d like to address the characteristics of each type in hopes of clearing the air on what a true, healthy relationship should look like.
Healthy love can be a lasting connection or a fleeting state of being that both require hard work, selflessness, and openness to emotions. Relationships that are built on healthy love allow for individuality, invite growth, and strive to bring out their partner’s best qualities. These types of relationships are characterized by acceptance.
Partners are called partners for a reason; there should be a balance of power that does not try to change or control the other. When love is healthy there is trust, there is support, and there is equality. Affection and closeness should be welcomed (literally and figuratively) with open arms. Understanding that everyone is entitled to their mistakes, when a relationship is healthy both partners can accept responsibility for their behavior, give and receive forgiveness, and offer “benefit of the doubt” type of thinking.
Unhealthy love can be categorized by feeling consumed by the relationship, unable to separate the individual from the pair. People who experience this type of love are extremely afraid to let go or stray from the relationship in any way. In opposition to healthy love, partners in this type of relationship experience little personal or individual growth and fear risk or change. Unhealthy love allows for an unbalance of power and the need to control or be controlled. People who give or receive unhealthy love tend to refute commitment. They can be afraid of intimacy and frequently play “mind games” to displace or gain power. Ultimately, unhealthy love is when the relationship forces us to look to others to determine our self-worth.
Love is simple. Love is also wildly complicated. It is the most confusing and rewarding emotion we have and therefore should be treated with care. Some say love is blind, while others swear by the fact that it is all-seeing. I can’t say that I agree wholeheartedly with either. What I do know is this; you (yes, you) are deserving of the most pure, healthy, and authentic love there is.