Loving Manipulation

Sometimes I wonder if we love others partially to receive some sort of loving response in return. Aren’t we creatures of reaction? We want to be responded to. We need to feel cared about. If we’re unhealthy, showing affection towards our loved ones could be, deep down, a form of subtle manipulation.

We mean well. We actually do care about our loved ones. There are no ill intentions; manipulation is not the conscious goal, nor is it our only motivation for giving love, but small bits always remain, as if there are tiny, love-starved parasites inside of us that feed off other people’s favorable reactions. We give hugs knowing that it feels good to be hugged back. We invest in others’ lives because we also want to be invested in. If fed well, those parasites get bigger. The bigger they grow, they hungrier they become. Love becomes hopelessly self-centered; love becomes something completely different from love. We get addicted to reactions, so we give more. When we don’t receive our desired reaction, we feel crushed. At this point, we begin to delude ourselves into thinking that we’re not loved at all. Clinginess and desperation set in. The parasites grow so big that all true affection for our loved ones gets swallowed whole, yet we still manage to believe that we’re not really manipulators.

It is not a shameful thing to desire reciprocation–quite the contrary; it is normal and healthy to need love. But it isn’t fair to channel those desires into acts of affection meant for others. That would take the genuineness out of it. It would twist love–a beautiful thing–into yet another device to please ourselves. Giving love is not meant to fill one’s own needs. True love is purely altruistic. It pours out, gives life, and expects nothing in return.

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