What is love without strings? I’ve phrased the question ambiguously.
It could mean, “What is love, without strings?”
Is there any love in existence that has no strings on it? We all put strings on our love. We all have conditions, whether or not or how much to love someone else, not for the sake of the relationship, but for the sake of our image, our sensibilities, our feelings, or even for our own gain. Unconditional love, what the Christians call “agape,” what C. S. Lewis termed “affection,” what the Jews call “chesed,” what the Bhuddists call “mettā”… But it’s a myth, isn’t it? Because we all withhold our love.
We withhold our love to people when…
- … we think they don’t like us.
- … we believe they owe us.
- … they embarrass us.
- … they act differently than us (like a dork).
- … they look different than us.
- … we share few common interests with them.
- … we feel insecure.
- … they did or said something to hurt us.
- … we did or said something to hurt them.
- … they disagree with us (or we think they disagree with us).
“Maybe some people do that,” you might say. “But not me!”
Yes, you. And me. We all find ourselves in situations where we behave unlovingly toward someone because she makes us uncomfortable or seems strange or different in some way. Maybe she looks ugly. Or maybe she’s too good-looking to hang out with the likes of us, or maybe she’s too fat for us to hang out with the likes of her.
Or maybe he’s too shy, or “just not my type,” or he’s got “the ick,” or doesn’t know how to kiss or whatever, any of a number of reasons we give for sabotaging relationships. (And this is not a woman thing; we guys do it, too, probably even more than the girls do.) But if you want lifetime-love, then maybe you should look for someone who is willing and able to love for a lifetime (and figure out the kissing thing separately).
Maybe we can read the question, “What is ‘love without strings’?”
Love without strings is loving someone because she is in your life, respecting her as a human being and giving her any attention and appreciation due her, regardless of how you feel about her.
Love without strings is drawing out a shy acquaintance, rather than letting her sit in the corner alone, no matter how silly it makes you feel.
Love without strings is sticking with someone through the bad times as well as the good times, not because of what she gives you, but just because she’s you’re friend.
Love without strings is a mother raising her baby who poops in his diaper and pukes on her shoulder, then her toddler who destroys her house and endangers his own safety and makes her look like an incompetent mother, then her little boy who can’t remember his multiplication tables, then an adolescent who doesn’t even seem to know she exists.
Love without strings is working the relationship instead of letting it work on you.
Love without strings is eliminating “divorce” from your vocabulary.
Some philosophers say that unconditional love is a slap in the face to true love, because if we love everyone unconditionally, then no love we give to anyone has any more meaning than any love we give to anyone else. Is that true? I’ve promised to love my wife unconditionally, regardless of how our relationship feels at any given moment. I also love my children unconditionally, regardless of what mistakes they make. Does my love for my children negate my love for my wife? Of course not! Because two people define for themselves the love they have, and it’s not diminished by the other relationships in a person’s life.
Love without strings does not mean that you sacrifice yourself or your own wellbeing for someone else’s whims. It does not mean you sleep with every Tom, dick, and hairy, just because they asked you to. It does not mean you lose your sense of identity to everyone around you.
Rather, it means that you’ve discovered enough confidence in your own identity, so that you know yourself and your relationships to others, because only a person with proper self-esteem can love unconditionally. It means that you derive meaning from those around you and they from you, without fear, because perfect love casts out fear.
What is love without strings? It’s the only kind of love that can make that claim.