How do you know someone loves you? Is it because they say those three words at the climax of our favorite romantic comedies and dramas? Or is it more than what’s said, but what’s done?
Marrion brings this powerful question to the foreground as he thinks through the many forms love has taken in his own life.
There are no answers or silver bullets here. But as Marrion shows us, perhaps love is more than saying and doing, but actually just another way of being.
Intimacy is touching someone. Bonding. It’s something that is unique with a couple of people or just one person. It can be felt through physical touch or conversation, or even acts of caring for a person. Vulnerability is a big part of intimacy, which is something I struggle with but am working on with all of my relationships. Trust is a part of it because I find it difficult to be intimate with someone I can’t trust. And I feel that love is a part of it. Sex, too.
As human beings, we thrive off of it. Everyone doesn’t need it, but interactions with other people shape who we are. Without any human interaction, what language would you have and what would you say? What would you be? We learn who we are based on our interactions with other people: talking, exchanging, loving, and being hurt.
I want to believe that I am love and that I can exude it. That I can give love to other people. And I hope that someone can learn something from me, think differently, and/or apply it to themselves.
Growing up in my black, religious family on the South Side of Chicago, we weren’t a very sensitive group of people. We were all emotional but we weren’t expressive of our emotions. So, love, to me, meant showing up for someone—needing someone. I love my parents because they provided for me and were kind to me, but that isn’t the only form of love.
It was only recently that I began to see that love could be seen in more than just a familial way, and that love could embrace sensitivity and manifest in you being open and expressing your emotions. I didn’t always feel that was how love should be expressed growing up. I thought it was just saying, “I love you,” and showing up for someone–and those three words were only really used with families or people I dated. Part of that is still true, you can say it and you can certainly show up. But it is simply in a very raw and unfiltered way, caring for someone, in whatever way that means to you.
For example, one of my good friends constantly shows me what it means to BE love. Over the past year, she and I have grown very close because we have so much in common–we’re both Black and queer and writers. Through my relationship with her, I’m learning how to truly exude love in everything I do. She sets such a great example in that she is so thoughtful and so sensitive, and not in a way that makes her incapable of functioning with others.
Her sensitivity allows her to stay present and challenge aggression. So, whenever I feel myself being aggressive or commanding, her calming voice and patient nature forces me to refocus my energy and approach her with compassion, and in a way that makes me want to be better, so that I can provide the same light energy to others. To me, that’s what it means to BE love.
Now, I show my love by saying “I love you” to the people I care about. Even if it is awkward or seems like it will be uncomfortable, I do it to challenge myself. And in the end, it isn’t as awkward or weird as I anticipated.
And my experience with her has also helped me reflect on how my own idea of being love has evolved over the years in previous friendships. Previously, I would show love through humor. I would crack jokes on my friends because that’s what we were taught to do when I was young. I used to think if we could joke with and about each other that means we’re really friends. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with humor, but now I approach it differently–more thoughtfully–and I don’t think that’s the only way I can show love to others.
Now I show my love by saying “I love you” to the people I care about. Even if it is awkward or seems like it will be uncomfortable, I do it to challenge myself. And in the end, it isn’t as awkward or weird as I anticipated. Also, I practice active listening a lot more. Instead of talking or being so set on getting my message across, I’m trying to be more responsive to the things people are telling me in conversation. I respond more to their energy, and in a very caring way listen to them. And if I don’t have anything brilliant to say at least they know they’ve been heard. That’s been helpful.
Breaking free of the fear and judgment has truly allowed me to invest in being intimate with others, and not just lovers. Once I overcame that, I realized I had the capacity to love everyone. And share that love openly.
A lot has changed and my own ideas about intimacy have helped me rethink my own definitions about love and how I show it. Now, I’m generally more open to being intimate with others. As a Black man growing up in the hood, I was never encouraged to share my feelings. If I did, I would automatically be considered a wuss or gay or whatever.
And while I am proud of my sexuality, even I still carry that fear of being bashed for expressing my feelings. But now that I’m letting love guide my every action, I could care less about what others think. If my feelings are hurt, I’m going to tell you. If I’m sad because I got fired, I’m going to share it. If I’m scared or anxious or excited, I’m going to share that, too. Breaking free of the fear and judgment has truly allowed me to invest in being intimate with others, and not just lovers. And once I overcame that, I realized I had the capacity to love everyone. And share that love openly.
Ultimately, I want to believe that I am love and that I can exude it. That I can give love to other people. I think that when you say things through love, in a real and selfless way, people can understand the core of what you’re saying. I hope everything I’ve said came from love, for myself, and for others. And I hope that someone can learn something, think differently, or apply it to themselves.