The Art of Loving
In The Art of Loving, Erich Fromm writes, “One can often find two people 'in love' with each other who feel no love for anybody else. Their love is, in fact, an egotism a deux; they are two people who identify themselves with each other, and who solve the problem of separateness by enlarging the single individual into two. They have the experience of overcoming aloneness, yet, since they are separated from the rest of mankind, they remain separated from each other and alienated from themselves; their experience of union is an illusion.”
The word “love” is so badly misunderstood because this, what Erich Fromm calls “erotic love”, is the only meaning most people attach to the word. But, in the truest sense, erotic love is not love. It is like a drug, or a wild thrill that can be triggered by any intense feeling between two people who find each other physically attractive.
If this encompasses the full extent of one’s understanding of love, the experience of erotic love will be just as short and fleeting as it is intense. Eventually, the blissful feelings begin to fade, and there arises a desire to move on to the next relationship, as though it will be different the next time.
Erotic love is one of the greatest thrills of life, a celebration of being alive, and is almost surely the most fun an adult can have. But it is not the source of love, it is not salvation, and clearly not the path toward lasting happiness.
To achieve lasting joy and the end of suffering, we need what I call perfect, or unconditional love. Erich Fromm breaks this down into self-love, brotherly love, motherly and fatherly love, and the love of God—which are all forms of real love that are experienced from beyond the ego.
Only a person who first comes to know love can experience erotic love in a way that is entirely different—even opposite from—the way romantic relationships and marriages are typically experienced. To the awakened person (one who fully knows what love is), the erotic relationship is joyful play and just as fun as ever; but there is no pressure to make it more than it is. This is true love, or what A Course in Miracles calls the holy relationship.