Love: It’s a Four Letter Word

On the blog, by Denise Mills.

“Part of man’s frustration is that he has become accustomed to expect language and thought to offer explanations which they cannot give,” Alan Watts proposes in his classic book The Wisdom of Insecurity, which is still as relevant today (if not more so) than it was when first published in 1951.

It’s something I see myself doing a lot: focusing on words, wanting to contextualise everything and fit it into a box. I can only see this now after spending time with people who give me space to be myself (flaws and all) without trying to reshape or talk down to me. That’s what love is – the freedom to breathe. Oddly enough, the more space you’re given the less you need.

In this space of kindness, shared-imperfection, and respect I see my flaws for myself and can do with them as I please. I’m in no huge rush to change though – just noticing things I’d like to improve in myself gets the process happening on its own. Striving for a goal in the future (including self-improvement goals) only ever leads to more striving.

So, I have simply become more aware that my life revolves around words a little too much: understanding them, justifying them in my head, reshaping them.

In the past, this meant I kept people in my life for far longer than I should have. When a person I loved said something which clearly showed a terrible lack of kindness and respect, I would simply talk to them until I had guided them to say new words which were more palatable! Or, I’d try and contain everything within me and not speak at all.

Neither option is great, and trying to do better by talking less or by convincing your partner to communicate more is only addressing the symptoms, not the cause. Quite simply, love should feel safe. More words or less words will never lead to any level of respect and kindness if those things aren’t there in the first place.

Women are swallowing their own tongues to be a shadowy, non-existent shell of a human in order to not be seen as “naggy”. What a way to live, to constantly walk on eggshells and hold your breath… to be half alive. What a high price we pay for “love” that isn’t really love at all.

Nowadays, instead of focusing on trying to speak less, or communicate better, I choose relationships that give me space. Where there is a foundation of respect and kindness (which still requires care and consideration), but my words can come out freely before anything is a big deal. I’m not here to be the perfect woman – that’s a goal I cannot meet. I’m here to be my own shade of human, to live my life.

When we catch ourselves focusing too much on words; trying to reshape them into something they are not, trying to change a lack of kindness and a lack of respect into love – perhaps we need to be willing to let go.

The problem with “love” is that it, too, is just a word. As with any word, it’s just a symbol that’s pointing to something else, but no-one really knows what it’s pointing to. I’d like to do away with the L-word altogether and replace it with the words: respect, kindness and freedom. More words! But at least these words evoke the right feeling, so they point us in the right direction.


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