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The 4 Elements of True Love

true love

According to Thich Nhat Hanh, there are four elements of true love: loving kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity. Now I've never believed that things as unwieldy and ineffable as love can be broken down like this, but I've got to admit that I find these elements interesting and convincing. I'm curious to hear what you think...

1. Loving Kindness

Per Thich Nhat Hanh, "The essence of loving kindness is being able to offer happiness. You can be the sunshine for another person. You can't offer happiness until you have it for yourself... Learn how to practice mindfulness in such a way that you can create moments of happiness and joy for your own nourishment. Then you have something to offer the other person." I buy this. I'm not sure whether we are able to offer happiness or be in a happy, healthy relationship if we are not first happy ourselves.

2. Compassion

Per Thich Nhat Hanh,"Compassion is the capacity to understand the suffering in oneself and in the other person. If you understand your own suffering, you can help him to understand his suffering." I agree that compassion is tremendously important when it comes to love. Understanding our own suffering and the suffering of the person we love (or are working to love) is, I believe, essential.

3. Joy

Per Thich Nhat Hanh,"When you know how to generate joy, it nourishes you and nourishes the other person. Your presence is an offering, like fresh air, or spring flowers, or the bright blue sky." Yes. Misery begets misery. Joy begets joy. When we are able to create joy in our own moments, that joy will serve to sustain the relationship, the affection. Without joy - or moments of it - can love survive?

4. Equanimity 

Per Thich Nhat Hanh,"We can also call [equanimity] inclusiveness or nondiscrimination. In a deep relationship, there's no longer a boundary between you and the other person. You are her and she is you. Your suffering is her suffering. Your understanding of your own suffering helps your loved one to suffer less. Suffering and happiness are no longer individual matters. What happens to your loves one happens to you. What happens to you happens to your loved one."

This is the one I snag on. I'm not sure I agree that all boundaries disappear in a deep relationship. I think boundaries become thinner, more ephemeral, sure, and I also think that we need to adopt the lens of "we" rather than "me" at times, but I actually find it vital for us to cling to individuality even in the context of romantic or true love. I believe that suffering and happiness can be, at least to a point, individual and collective matters.

And I'm left wondering about the label true love? What does this mean? Ideal love? Real love? Perfect love? What makes one love true and another less true?

So much to think about on this fine Wednesday.

Thoughts? Do you agree that these four elements are necessary in love? What happens if we have some, but not all of these elements? Do you snag on the Equanimity element like I do?

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