I wrote recently about how the world needs more Lovers — people who say yes to life in all its forms and refuse what is not life-giving both at home and in the world.
This idea has caught my imagination and I’ve been playing with, gathering, and exploring what it means to orient towards this kind of life-affirming stance in all aspects of my world.
Erich Fromm in his book The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness writes, “Necrophilia grows as the development of biophilia is stunted.” In other words, the love of death takes over our consciousness when biophilia, the love of life, isn’t nurtured and developed. Fromm describes biophilia as, “the passionate love of life and of all that is alive; it is the wish to further growth, whether in a person, a plant, an idea, or a social group.”*
It’s this larger orientation toward love of life and all that is alive—with its almost prophetic call for more aliveness, more intimacy, more truth, and love—that I want to fold into the idea of being a Lover in the largest sense.
In imagining what being a Lover in this way looks and feels like, I have found these two voices below to be helpful touchstones.
These are articulated by David Schnarch in his book Passionate Marriage. He is writing about other-validated and self-validated intimacy (often equated with external locus of control and internal locus of control). Here is how he conveys the voice of each:
Other-validated intimacy “sounds” like this:
“I’ll tell you about myself, but only if you then tell me about yourself. If you don’t, then I won’t either. But I want to, so you have to. I’ll go first and then you’ll be obligated to disclose — it’s only fair. And if I go first, you have to make me feel secure. I need to be able to trust you.”*
Sound familiar? It does to me. I’ve used this voice — and it is rarely satisfying! Now experience this next voice, which I would equate with the the stance of the Lover.
Self-validated intimacy “sounds” like this:
“I don’t expect you to agree with me; you weren’t put on the face of this earth to validate and reinforce me. But I want you to love me – and you can’t really do that if you don’t know me. I don’t want your rejection – but I must face that possibility if I’m ever to feel accepted and secure with you. It’s time for me to show myself to you and confront my separateness and mortality. One day when we are no longer together on this earth, I want to know that you knew me.”*
Being a Lover is gutsy business. It’s not symmetrical or fair; it’s one person being vulnerable and self-disclosing without the guarantee of validation from their partner. For me, being a lover in the largest sense, a Lover-in-the-World, is connected with the voice that says, "I will risk to be known; I will risk for love."
There is a wild love warrior quality to this way of being, which takes courage but is also immensely nourishing. I was at a gathering recently and someone said, “Courage is fear that has said its prayers.” I love that.
To become a lover in the largest sense, we must do our inner work. I believe it’s useful for this training in taking on the voice and stance of the lover to begin at home, with our intimates. The more my partner Erik and I work with couples, the more I have a growing faith that if we learn to soothe our orphan-y parts, orient to love of life and growth, and risk to be truly known at home, the more we bring our full selves to our larger worlds. And no matter what the response from our cultural context, the more we will stand for what we believe is life-giving.
Erik and I seek to be of service to all those who are yearning to be better lovers at home and in the world.
Here’s to more and more self-validated intimacy and a wildly increasing love of life!
*Schnarch, David Morris. Passionate Marriage: Love, Sex, and Intimacy in Emotionally Committed Relationships. New York: W.W. Norton, 1997, 107.
*Fromm, Erich. The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1973, 406-407.