my life has been blessed continually with phenomenal women who define love – here’s a tribute to one of them. in my final year at varsity a mutual friend of ours who had noticed, over the course of two weeks, that i was not often with my partner of four years, suzan, asked, “what happened?” the woman to whom she referred is someone, no matter how my life evolves, will forever be a part of it. but one afternoon, in the blistering winter that can grip the city of jos, we both agreed we will be better off ‘having each in the other’s head’ rather than being in a physical relationship with each other. we found in moments leading up to that afternoon, and on that afternoon, what i have come to realize love should really be about – freedom and respect. freedom and respect that engender a consciousness of who you truly are as a spiritual being not a symmetry. for as eckhart tolle says, “the purpose of a relationship is not to make you happy (feel loved), but to make you conscious,” reiterating what suzan and i discovered many decades ago on that cold afternoon in jos. so, though this is a dedication to suzan, it is also about what i feel love should really be about.
i am a firm admirer of boldness, creativity and edge. that’s why i admire what gary chapman sets out to do in his book, the 5 love languages. let me get this out rather early, this is not a criticism of chapman’s book, it is not a review either (i only review one author – sarah doughty). my discussion of love here shouldn’t also be seen as knowing better than chapman or any other person to have professed on love, but my own take on love using his take on love language (not the book) as premise. my take on love shouldn’t also be taken as a recommendation, but a summation on what i have experienced of this phenomenon. it can be nothing more than that, just as i am sure it would be disrespectful of what our ancestors and parents felt and how they kept love alive to assume the 5 love languages (published in 1995) makes love a new phenomenon. that said, chapman boldly lists the following as the five love languages: words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, gifts, physical touch. i say boldly because as a christian, i believe he is one, he should be aware that god’s primary love language is none of the above. let’s break this down: i can hear jesus responding to words of affirmation saying, “these people honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. and in vain they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men,” (mark 7:6-7). arthur hugh clough wrote the latest decalogue as a mockery of the ten commandments, but i draw analogy to it here only in responding to chapman’s quality time, no mockery intended. clough writes, “thou shalt have one god only; who/would tax himself to worship two?” i guess what this means is all your prayers will work if you pray to the right god. but they will be in vain if you pray like the prophets of baal on mount carmel (1 kings 18:25-29), or if god forbid, god isn’t even listening (isaiah 59:1-2). the bible tells us there is one true god, and we will always have his undivided attention if we pray like elijah did – even a ten-seconds quality time with god will suffice. believe me, not all acts of service will get you reward. a flip through matthew 7:21-23 will bring you to this sobering realization. for jesus says, “not everyone who says to me, ‘lord, lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my father in heaven.” as a christian, chapman should also be aware there are gifts and sacrifices, “which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience,” (hebrews 9:9). physical touch – who was it that asked, “judas, are you betraying the son of man with a kiss?” (luke 22:48). enough said. so what is god’s love language?
god’s love language is obedience. as we say in drama, it is the ‘super-objective’ of the bible. the word obedience is the bible’s major motif. consider these: god instructs adam, “of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die,” (genesis 2:16-17). adam didn’t obey. read the underlined part of the quote above and you notice jesus didn’t mince words when it came to obedience. in fact, he was quite blunt about it: “if you love me, keep my commandments,” (john 14:15) he who has my commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves me” (john 14:21) for this is the love of god, that we keep his commandments. and his commandments are not burdensome” (1 john 5:3). now, this all good when it is god you are dealing with. but what are the commandments of a lover? should a lover even have commandments? remember, in obeying god’s commandments you gain happiness, does this mean to gain happiness in love you have to obey your lover’s commandments? two things: you will have to have a lover to be happy – so does it mean a single, non-christian person is doomed to a life of unhappiness and emptiness until they can find someone who will love them according to their love language or whose commandments they can obey? and, can we serve two gods? if you are not a christian there has to be a ‘god’ you serve – (i may be wrong here) surely it cannot be the special woman/man in your life.
i am a firm admirer of boldness, creativity and edge – but not when it constricts. for that reason i believe the five love languages might lead those who swear by it astray in suggesting, for a relationship to be considered good the two people involved must depend on each other to make each person feel loved, happy, special and wanted. in other words, as a man, it is my woman’s duty to meet my emotional needs – and me, hers. i don’t know if this is even possible amongst sheep. imagine, my function in a relationship is to make someone else happy – even when i am not feeling happy for any reason? or for me to expect the same of my woman. i can see a friend of mine (vyjay) itching to give me ‘grief’ on this, but even she will agree this is co-dependence at its best (or worst?). i have sat across from many women and men telling me their stories of abuse for a theatre project (scars’ project) that i facilitate for victims of sexual and gender-based violence and feel and hear the damage in their voices as they cry and verbalize their devastation at losing those they thought completed them.
let me ask you this, has your lover ever said to you “you complete me”? they have? well, were you (also) there when they told their stories of when they realized you couldn’t complete them? believe me, those who grow accustomed to a give-and-take love relationship get hurt when even the little they were receiving is taken away. the most constricting about this ‘innocuous’ statement is that it assumes the one being told is complete, and the person who says it is incomplete. what if the part you need to complete the other is the very thing you lack? let’s leave heavier emotional stuff alone and assume what the person thinks you have that completes him/her is the ability to make prompt decisions. and this person grows to depend on your decision making on his or her behalf. then one day, you can’t make that decision because it involves emotions. now, we all know making prompt decisions on rational matters is a different ball game from making prompt decisions regarding matters of emotions. what do you think the effect of your indecision will be? who does he/she turn to when you are the one that completes him/her?
i’ve to admit though that, if the two co-dependents do their jobs, this arrangement can work. but hey, we are talking human beings not programmed robotic devices. so, imagine your man/woman continues to love you according to your love language, and you are having a ‘slow boot-up’ – and we all know how a slow-booting computer can frustrate. on numerous occasions i have used the term “this damn thing is useless,” while referring to my work computer. i am not suggesting you use it elsewhere, but you get my point. soon enough you leave the slow-booting computer alone, after all, it is not giving anything back for the damage you do to your fingers stroking its keyboards. but here is the interesting part, a computer left alone keeps acquiring data in its withdrawn, sleep-mode state – that inbox keeps getting full, while the old program files are still in place, but as new data come in your virus/immune database is getting obsolete, and the threat of attack increasing … before you know it, the relationship between you and your once efficient computer is out of sync, and it’s the computer that always needs replacing – because it is (supposedly) made to be efficient.
have you ever said this about your computer, “why do i keep wasting money to fix this thing when i can’t even type a document on it?” “why do i bother deleting useful files only for this bloody thing to tell me it is out of space?” “why do i keep getting ‘your memory is getting full’ when i have taken out most of my valuable files?” “what is this ‘other’ file that is taking up all the memory of this useless thing?” that ‘other’ file is commitments your lover has – before you, while with you, and long after you’re gone. that ‘other’ file is your lover’s id, ego or superego – call it what you may. that ‘other’ file is your lover’s nature, his or her spirituality. that ‘other’ file is what makes your lover unique – from you.
let’s leave the computer alone for one moment so i can ask you this. have you ever asked this question, “why should i keep taking care of him/her, when he/she doesn’t give a ….?” you have? then you are a love-storekeeper or love-auditor or love score-keeper. though you are dealing with love you are like the store-keeper who, at the end of each day’s sales tallies what is sold (what you give) and what profits came in (what you received). though you are dealing with love, you are like the auditor who, at tax times, tracks what came in (what you received) and what should be paid for it (you’re expected to give back to ‘government’). though you are dealing with love, you are like the score-keeper who, after each turn, records each player’s score – in any game the one with the higher scores wins, well think of darts. in darts, you throw missiles until you have nothing left on the score-board. love that uses the five love languages is like a game of darts. my point? a “love languages” relationship, ends up in a score-keeping relationship. look, if you want to affirm your partner, by all means affirm your partner. if you want to shower your partner with gifts, by all means shower your partner with gifts. if you want to spend quality time with your partner, by all means spend quality time with your partner. if you want to touch your partner, by all means touch your partner. if you want to do an act of service, by all means do an act of service. but remember, as humans, we are mostly driven by insatiability, and if you think it’s your partner’s job to make you feel loved, happy, secure and special, there will come a time when it is insufficient – you don’t even have to do anything for this to happen, it is the nature of the beast. believe me when you reach this plateau, your exit route is score-keeping, and in some sad cases, undeserved resentment of a partner whose ‘being there’ is no longer sufficient for you.
take a look back at all the analogies in the preceding paragraphs and one thing you notice is ‘power relations’ – a bigger power always makes it a responsibility for you to pay or do your dues. the same is true of a score-keeping relationship – it always degenerates into a power struggle where you blame, criticize or threaten each other to get love the way you want to be loved. no matter how you cook this, it is just wrong. even if you are not a christian, the bible teaches us that “love does not seek its own … does not take into account a wrong suffered.” i am not recommending a love based on how the bible defines love – i have my own take on that outside the scope of this blog. my point here is, you cannot truly love something you are scared of losing. to love someone according to how they want to be loved, their love language, is running scared. i read recently in a book that men are natural hunters, so if a woman finds herself doing most of the chasing (texting, messaging, calling etc.) then it is an indication of her position in the man’s life – that she is not a priority. i recall asking myself, what if his love language is being chased by a woman? what if her love language is chasing after a man (act of service to mankind)? seriously, why is everything about power struggle? give-and-take? why do men have to be martians and women venusians? what happens if both your love language is gift-giving, what happens to quality time? will there still be a power struggle? you bet! whose fault will it be for not upholding the remaining four love languages they both don’t need?
so, what should love be about? here i go back to my discovery in my final year at varsity (love is about freedom and respect), and what i said to an ex recently, “you can only love truly when you’re free,” she looked at me and smiled. she texted me later “because of you i have very high expectations from men,” (i asked her permission to use this here). you interpret that as you may. put together then, love is like driving down a one-way street – traveling in one direction towards your goal, self-discovery, the realization of your true spirituality, because, until you find yourself, you cannot truly love. true love asks nothing. when you find yourself, you want nothing outside to fulfill you – so when you give you don’t expect nothing back. when you find yourself, you respect yourself. and this is important in love – love is driving down a one-way street where you don’t disrespect your goal by taking side-turns. true love needs nothing. if you don’t respect yourself, you will not respect anything else, and each of us is love. so respect yourself (love) and you get respect (love) not by demanding it, but because the other sees that you deserve respect. true love requires nothing in return. there is one key ingredient in the kind of freedom required in love – amnesia or a lack of memory. the things you remember are the things that curtail your freedom. a lot of people mistakingly hold on to memory instead of instinct. if something bad happens to you and you internalize it, deal with it, and forget it, it cannot hold you unfree, if you forget it, it doesn’t mean you won’t recognize it later. when it happens again your instinct will tell you how to not make it hurt you again. you can only hurt from it, if you have kept it with you (unresolved) as memory rather than instinct. the same is true of love, it has no memory, remembering how you loved before holds you bondage as a being that is created malleable. how many times have you found yourself communicating with a new lover using the same words you used when a failed relationship was happy? where do you think it would lead you? where are you leading this new one to? how would you not reuse the bad words (you have memorized) if you can use the good ones (you have memorized)? in love you need nothing to be who you are, love cannot exist where a need or a want exists. so, is unrequited love wrong? it is not wrong if the one giving less is (truly) unconscious of the lack of giving because love is not mutual. it is not a two-way street – if you give because you expect something back, then the love you give is conditional.
what was the point of the reference to god’s love language? whether spiritual or otherwise, love requires some kind of obedience. a discipline. an obedience, or a discipline that does not constrict – call it a strong belief, even in yourself, if you wish. but there has to be something that guides you and everything else branches out from this. in this way, obedience engenders (a/the) consciousness of who you are. at the start of all this i said the two vital ingredients of love in my opinion are freedom and respect – that engender a consciousness. a consciousness of what you may ask? two things: first, suzan and i came to the conclusion we didn’t need each other to make each other complete. that’s the first thing love makes you conscious of – that you need no one to be complete. second, finding our own individuality, suzan and i found our true natures as spiritual beings. love brings you to a consciousness of your spiritual nature – that’s the moment you realize you don’t need no one’s love because you’re love. call it selfish – i call it self-respect. thirty-one years later, each with bagfuls of children, and though physically miles apart, we communicate and text frequently, but most importantly, we’ve remained obedient to freedom and respect, obedient to our spiritual beings – obedient to love. here’s to you, partner! 10!