I've been reading Love And Responsibility by Pope John Paul II. It's an amazing book! He walks through, step by step, the fundamentals of human behavior in relationships, breaks down the various types of love that exist, and how explains how love develops. For example, he says "Love is always a sort of interpersonal synthesis and synchronization of attraction, desire, and goodwill."
JP II explains that love progresses from sympathy, to friendship, to betrothed love, to reciprocal love. He defines sympathy as "experiencing together." Next, friendship occurs, which requires shared experiences in order to grow. After friendship, betrothed love occurs, where each member of the relationship begins to make sacrifices to please the other. Finally, it progresses to reciprocal love, where "the acts of surrender reciprocate each other...they combine to produce a perfect whole, an act of mutual self-surrender." Reciprocal love is true love.
Here's where it gets even better. He comments on the battle between the sexual instinct and reciprocal love. "The sexual instinct wants above all to take over, to make use of another person, whereas love wants to give, to create a good, to bring happiness." That's why love should be based on friendship, as well as physical attraction; both are needed to balance each other out. He mentions that, since true love desires the unlimited good of another, it's a divine aspect of love because "to desire unlimited good for another person is really to desire God for that person: He alone is the objective fullness of the good, and only His goodness can fill every man to overflowing." Beautiful!
Part of the reason that I find this so fascinating is because I've seen it in my own life. I also like the idea that man has a higher nature, that we're called to strive towards, that is actually attainable. True love affirms the value of a person, and shows that a person "possesses spiritual perfectibility" and is more than "merely a 'body' magnificently endowed with life." Looking at love this way gives so much more meaning to life and is incredibly powerful. It explains why we spend our lives searching for another person to love us so passionately, and how it draws us out of our animalistic nature. I'm amazed and humbled that I've been on the receiving end of this love.
One of my goals is to move to reciprocal love with Jesus. That's my focus for this Lent. I encourage you to think about it too. And read Love And Responsibility! It will change your life for the better.