Erich Fromm, in “The Art of Loving,” wrote, “Immature love says: ‘I love you because I need you.’ Mature love says: ‘I need you because I love you’.”
The first statement is based on dependency—I am dependent on you, I am under-developed as a person, I am young and I am just starting out in adulthood and I am glomming onto you, relying on you to support me emotionally and psychologically (maybe even financially), to validate me, to give me a sense of who I am, to make me feel special, loved, wanted, valuable, complete, to compliment me, to make me feel better, to make my life better, easier, more fun, and because you are doing that, and because I am getting all of that from you and this relationship right now, that is why I “love” you. (But should that change, I’ll look elsewhere and very likely go elsewhere, and stop loving you. Or, I will love you but I’ll no longer be in love with you; we will coexist coldly, passively, distantly, like strangers, like siblings.)
The second part of Fromm’s statement (“Mature love says: ‘I need you because I love you’.”) is based on uniqueness, essential-ness, essentiality—to me you are unlike anyone else in all the world, I have never met anyone like you, not even close to you, and because of your uniqueness and how well I get you and how well you in your uniqueness mesh with me in my uniqueness and what the you of you brings out in me and what my uniqueness brings out in you, and the synergy between us, I love you. I will never meet anyone like you or even nearly like you again. And I will cherish and honor and appreciate that uniqueness as best as I can, as often as I can, for as long as I live. I love you. And loving you in this way is something that I am so happy to be able to do. It is a vocation, a calling for me.
Infantile love follows the principle: “I love because I am loved.” Mature love follows the principle: “I am loved because I love.” Immature love says: “I love you because I need you.” Mature love says: “I need you because I love you.”
(Erich Fromm “The Art of Loving,” pg. 37)
Two distinctly different versions of love.
How do you love?
How do you want to be loved?
What sort of relationship do you aspire to and want to be a part of and help to create?
And this is not an either/or situation. Both aspects of love–or both love and need–can co-exist in the same relationship. The key is which one is the dominate and driving theme: neediness and dependency, which leads to a sense of entitlement and exploitativeness; or the other person’s uniqueness as well as one’s own, which leads to sharing, caring, something much more humane and tender and human (and mature).
A man and a woman who love each other have not experienced everything together in life unless, looking at each other, the questions have occurred to each: What would become of you without me? And what would become of me without you?
Something deep and sanctifying takes place when people who belong to each other share the thought that every day, each coming hour, may separate them.
In this awareness we always find that the initial anxiety gives way to deeper and very important questions: Have we given each other everything we could? Have we been everything we might have been to one another? Is there anything we would like to undo, something we wished had never happened or that we had not said?
We sense that perhaps we can better bear the parting if we have treated each other with such love.
What a different world this would be if we dared to look deeply at each other, if we kept in mind the prospect of being torn unexpectedly from each other. We each would become more sacred to one another because of death. So much of what we value, so much of what captivates us and engages us, so much of what we fight over and bicker about, is only of temporary worth. In an instant, in the very next hour, it may become utterly valueless.
(Albert Schweitzer, adapted from “Reverence for Life, ” pp. 67-76; see: https://realtruelove.wordpress.com/2012/02/13/albert-schweitzer-on-love-death-and-gratitude/)
What will you do, God, when I die?
I am your pitcher (I will shatter)
I am your drink (I will spoil)
I am your garment; I am your art, your craft.
Without me what reason have you?
Without me what house will remain
where intimate words await you?
Without me, you’ll have no sandals
your feet will wander bare,
and the cloak that I am
will drop from your shoulders.
Your gaze, which I welcome now
which warms my cheek
will one day arrive here,
look long, search hard
and at sunset lie spent
on an empty beach
in the lap of unfamiliar stones.
What will you do then, God? I am afraid.
(Rilke, “Book of Hours,” Book 1, No. 36)
“If You Knew” — Ellen Bass
What if you knew you’d be the last
to touch someone?
If you were taking tickets, for example,
at the theater, tearing them,
giving back the ragged stubs,
you might take care to touch that palm,
brush your fingertips
along the life line’s crease.
When a man pulls his wheeled suitcase
too slowly through the airport, when
the car in front of me doesn’t signal,
when the clerk at the pharmacy
won’t say Thank you, I don’t remember
they’re going to die.
A friend told me she’d been with her aunt.
They’d just had lunch and the waiter,
a young gay man with plum black eyes,
joked as he served the coffee, kissed
her aunt’s powdered cheek when they left.
Then they walked half a block and her aunt
dropped dead on the sidewalk.
How close does the dragon’s spume
have to come? How wide does the crack
in heaven have to split?
What would people look like
if we could see them as they are,
soaked in honey, stung and swollen,
reckless, pinned against time?