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Love & Ego

Oooh now, this feels like a big topic, or perhaps that's just a common size of ego. The thing is, most of us have a very human belief that if we care for and about someone, they will reciprocate - but what if they don't? We may withdraw our affection - but is this a loving thing to do, for us?

Note, that I'm not making definitive declarations either way on this one: just posing the question. The thing is, if the other party's response is obligatory only - if they only say they love because you say you love them, can this be love? Is it not, rather, an exchange of egoic power?

Conditional love:

On a recent podcast, I spoke of how it’s never a mistake to love – but it can be a huge ego-dent not to have your love returned. This means your love is conditional love only then, doesn't it? There's nothing wrong with that, but isn't it hard to force your own heart to a level of affection it doesn't have? Can it ever really work out? I feel it's our egos demanding reciprocity, rather than our hearts. There are many people I'm able to love without a second thought for whether they love me at all. It’s difficult to fathom a love that exists without requirement of any kind; this is the unconditional love immortalised in the writings of so many Romantic poets.

Unconditional Love:

I see this type of love more often between parents and children, than true lovers and I often think it a very pure – and so certainly a true – love. It’s not usually deemed as ‘romantic love’ though (for obvious reasons). Then I remember couples I’ve known, whose love for each other has endured terrible tests of their faith in their love.

A Regency Example?

To place this in a Regency context, let's consider Queen Charlotte, the wife of King George III whose madness caused his son to be made Regent (hence the entire era of which I write). Initial reports were that their marriage was a love match (and 15 kids might seem to bear this out - no, not all survived but their marriage was at least productive).

Now, setting aside the obvious necessary reasons the queen had to remain in her marriage to her king, did she love him enough that even through his illness, her affection held true? Contemporary reports from the period suggest so, though there's clearly some likelihood that these reports were doctored for posterity – but you do see this sort of steadfast, truest love, in couples where one has a deteriorating mind and the other does not.

True Love's Test of Ego:

I had a friend in a situation like this. She spoke to me often of her awareness that her husband could not love her back – through no fault of his own. He no longer recognised her by the end and her heart was hurt because of this.

I was witness to her ailing husband demanding she ‘get out’ and ‘leave me alone’. It sounded like rejection, when it truly could not be. It was illness, and her ego fought hard to make her feel it as rejection. To have her hurt as though he’d spurned her. She always shook her head and said “I never believe it. Even if he woke up well tomorrow and told me so himself, in his old voice with his old ways, I wouldn't hear it. I know his heart, you see. I know his heart.”

Our egos are protective, because this world is full of pain-actors. Those who seek to alleviate their own suffering by shoving it outward on to others are everywhere – but if we allow the ego to run our hearts, we miss out on a lot of love. I’m not (necessarily) talking about receiving it. I mean the giving of our love. The gift of it to another. Sure, it’s an ego-hit when it’s thrown back at you or (worse, in my opinion) ignored entirely – but the power of our love lies in our choices to bestow it (or not) on whom we wish. If we let the ego make these decisions, we diminish our own power. We diminish ourselves.

I don’t think we need to be afraid of loving ‘too much’ or ‘too well’. I, personally, believe there’s no such thing - because you know your heart:

You know your heart.

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