“People were created to be loved. Things were created to be used. The reason why the world is in chaos, is because things are being loved and people are being used.”
― John Green, Looking for Alaska
A little girl always wanted to have a white rabbit. How can anyone resist them — they are so cuddly with that nice fur, and so cute with their small, twitching noses. One day, the girl’s parents decided to grant her this wish, but, as they could not keep it in the flat, they arranged with the grandparents, who had a shed behind the house, to keep small, white ball of fur there.
At the beginning, the girl was over the moon; she was playing with the bunny, petting it, taking pictures and showing them to her friends, occasionally even feeding it, but the hard work of cleaning up after it somehow ended up being her grandparent’s responsibility. The girl named it Snowball. With time, the bunny bonded with the girl, feeling immeasurable joy each day when the girl was there spending time with him. Snowball couldn’t wait for end of the school hours, and, although bunnies don’t know much about clocks or time, this one could pinpoint the second when the door would open, showing the girl with her big smile.
Slowly, as school responsibilities took over, the girl started spending more time with friends and less time with the bunny. Visits to grandparents become less frequent. But Snowball was waiting patiently. Sometimes, the girl would visit her grandparents, and he could hear her through all those walls and street noise, just by raising his long bunny ears. But, when she forgot to visit him, occupied with other things, his heart would sink what felt like a mile deep. He would sit in his not-very-spacious square cage, waiting patiently for the girl. Minutes, hours, days, even weeks would pass, but the only people he would see were the grandparents, daily, at the feeding or cleaning time. A few times, the girl would just come at some random time, scratch him behind the ears for a few short seconds and, shortly after, run away somewhere else.
At first, Snowball hoped; he even tried to protest. He tried to be angry, but, slowly, with each passing day, sadness started overwhelming his small and fast-beating heart. What was once a happy bunny became a sad shadow.
Even the grandparents started protesting, asking the girl why she wanted the bunny in the first place, and she always simply replied, “I love bunnies; they are so cute and cuddly”.
One day, sad, forgotten, and lonely, the bunny died. And, yes, the girl came, and she was crying a lot, but, the very next day, she forgot. Despite everything, if you would ask her, she would always reply that she loved him.
Try to imagine that you are that little bunny, waiting behind closed doors 7 days a week in a cage. There are no other rabbits to play with—only you. Just to be petted for a few short seconds and then left alone again. That is not love; it is torture, and, for a lack of better words, I would call it hell-for-bunnies.
In ancient China, there was a torture technique where jailors would tie a prisoner’s head and body to a wooden board, letting water drip on his forehead. Old tales say the prisoner would go mad anticipating the next drop.
Now, imagine being confined by something, waiting for someone’s attention, and being constantly neglected, although that person’s wish of “love” confined you in the first place. That is not love; it is torture.
Without giving, there is no love. So, what is there that we can give?
The most precious thing we can give is the same and only thing we have in this world: time. Time is a gift we received when we arrived in this world. To love, among many things, means to be willing to dedicate, give, and share portions of that gift to someone or something else.
Many human relationships are like the above story: we “love” the objects of our desire in our heads, but we do not want to spend time with them.
As it happens, when people have something valuable, others will try to steal it. We live in society where people compete for stealing your gift in many ways: companies allure you to chase money, different religions offering stories, the media is giving you entertainment, cultures offering you short-term pleasures, many people seek attention... Though they sometimes will give you something in return, like colourful papers with numbers on them, mostly, all those will be devoid of love.
We are often careless about the gift, using words like “hanging around” or “fooling around”, and we even have different ways of “killing time”, like we have so much time to spare that we do not know what to do with it.
Different philosophies will even try to convince you that, after your time expires, and you die, your clock will extend or reset, especially if you give them money or serve them for a long time.
And we are busy, so busy all the time, running around like a chicken with its head cut off. Everyone wants love, but only under their own special terms and condition. I call that “5 minute love”.
Buzzing everywhere, trying to keep up with events and information, but, at the same time, we would like to have long-term partners, seeing them only 5 minutes a day, or until someone “better” comes around. When and if that “better” choice comes around, we repeat the same routine all over again.
If you want relationship to last, don’t treat your partner as a “5 minute love” or a roommate you never see around.
It can be reasonable for roommates to not see each other much, because of different working patterns or responsibilities in their lives, and that is fine, as they share space because of financial reasons, not to form deep bonds. As it often happens, as soon as they are able, they will find their own place to live or stay without knowing much about one another.
Understanding the word “partner” does not require more than typing that word into the dictionary, and we will get “Partner: person who takes part in an undertaking with another or others, especially in a business or firm with shared risks and profits.” Or how about the good old matrimony wow, you probably heard at some wedding: “I promise to be faithful to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, to love you and to honour you all the days of my life.”
There is no trust and relationship without physically spending time; forget phones, chats, video calls... all that is just a quick fix adopted for “5 minute love”. There is no ‘taking part’ or ‘honouring’ without spending time with that someone in the real world.
Being too busy, many miss the opportunity to form deeper bonds and create something truly beautiful. To learn, to develop, and to grow together, what can be more beautiful than that?
Many parents say they love their children, but, yet again, they spend countless overtime hours chasing more money for a more comfortable life, buying things, toys, phones, computers... that will separate them even further apart.
Without the conscious decision to devote your time, there is no love.
It is always a choice: what do you care the most about? Do you care about your spouse, or do you care about chasing that promotion? Do you care going to that PV football game where your son will play for the first time, or do you care about finishing that report that will give you “extra points” in your boss’ eyes?
Would you rather spend time with your boyfriend, or would you rather go on a trip with friends?
Would you rather spend time with your friend over beer and see your girlfriend just for quick sex, or would you be with her the entire day, missing that one game?
Is it just a dopamine shot (pleasure) you are after, or is it a person?
Do you treat your partner as an object or a living being?
If your partner ever starts telling you that s/he loves you, but, on the other hand, never has time for you, always being somewhere else or spending time with someone else, run away and don’t look back. Those words are nothing but an empty bag.
Like that little girl, people tend to say they love other people—relatives, partners, friends, lovers—but they don’t spend time with them. Even when they are with them, they are not really there—always absent-minded, always somewhere else. They stare into their phones, computers, and TV screens, searching to connect and bond in a false place.
With time, the lack of that bond starts expressing as pain. Then, one day they decide to compensate for that missing bond somewhere else: on the internet, short-term relations, alcohol, casual sex, porn, drugs, or constant travel—always trying to find a new source of pleasure that will numb the pain. With time, the habit becomes an addiction and slowly falls into despair.
We say we love one another, but, without spending time, love is not there.
Relationships break up, because partners neglect one another, each spending time on something “more important”, living together five minutes a day.
Did you know that people don’t care about your money or how expensive your gift is?
You can give thousands of pounds, and, although they will happily spend it, they will not change their opinion of you. They won’t care how long or how hard you’ve worked earning that money. But, spend time with them, listen, talk, play, and be there when they really need you, and they will bond with you, and they will return multiple times what you gave to them.
Love is only possible if we are willing to dedicate time to the object of our love. If we say that we love someone/thing, but we are not willing to dedicate time, it is not love—it is a delusion. Spending time, even when we know it won't yield any returns, we can say we loved. On the other hand, you can spend huge amounts of hours on some company reports, but it does not mean we love them. It is the same with people.
It is not just time, but what else we give with that time. Is it a smile or anger; is it an argument or agreement; is it ego or compassion; is it care or neglect? Are we there for them when they are sad, lonely, upset, and angry, or do we run away? When we listen, do we judge, do we argue and fight, are we compassionate or we tend to give an advice...?
Time is a scarce commodity, and we are frequently torn apart, asking ourselves, “If I spend too much time with my partner and less time with friends, will my friends start feeling neglected? What should I do?”
Life has its own ways and limits. It is not possible to have thousands of close friends, expecting to keep up close connection with everyone; something must give. Our gift is limited.
When we are young, we spend most of our time with our parents. Then, we slowly go to school and find new friends. As we grow, we even make friends for life, but, slowly, those friends create their own families and dedicate a majority of their time to them. Going out with friends becomes less frequent, as people create their own families. So, it is a natural process to dedicate the majority of time to what you want to be your most inner circle. In that way, we create long lasting places of trust. If that does not exist, probably your partner is not your priority, and you are just using him/her to satisfy your own needs regardless what they are.
Love is complex. Nowadays, there are frequent talks about unconditional love, where the unconditional part is often confused with acceptance or even tolerance. Although both are necessary for love, on their own, they are not love. We can tolerate or accept someone even without love, especially if we do not need to spend our own personal time. It is easy to tolerate and justify other people’s actions, if their actions don’t have affect on our own life. Equally, just spending time being with someone does not mean love. We can spend time with someone without feeling anything—or, even worse, being rude or abusive.
So, it is not enough just to spend time, but it is necessary to be engaged, to be present, to practice how to give and show love. Temporary emotions of affection, attachment, passion, desire, lust, sex, pleasure, idealisation, and romance are not love, either, but they could be part of it. Love is something else; it requires time. Sometimes, it is hard work; it requires devotion, sacrifice, learning, and willingness to change and develop. Love means being interested in knowing the other person and the things s/he cares about.
Just because 7-foot tall boyfriend plays football does not mean that she needs to do the same. Just because she is into yoga does not mean he must do the same, or that they should be sad, angry, or pushy because the other person does not want to do those things.
But, what if those things take up a great portion of that person’s time?
We are going back to “5 minute love”. Is that person willing to reduce “other” times, in favour of you, or does this person just want to add you as another 5-minute task on a very busy list of daily activities?
Thinking, wishing, or feeling desire toward someone is not love. Although our desires may be granted, if we don’t care about the object of our love, we will lose it.
So ask yourself: what do you really want? What feeling—or, more importantly—what are you trying to gain from that relationship? Regardless of being an animal or a human, ask yourself: how will that affect the object of your feelings? Put yourself in their shoes. Ask what would happen if someone would use you as a disposable bag: how would you feel? What if you were that white rabbit?
If you seek real love, do something for that person, and show her; let her know; show you care.
Just saying “I love you” is not enough. Without giving time, dedication and devotion, in most cases, those words just mean “I am addicted to you” or “I am sexually attracted to you”, but love is not there.
When love is present, people don’t lie, manipulate, control, cheat, abuse, or play with the other person’s feelings.
If you want to create something for your loved ones, don’t build a Taj Mahal. Build something s/he can appreciate while s/he is still alive. And, as it happens, the best thing you can build is love by dedicating your own time.
Give your special person love, learn and listen, be interested, be patient and create a bond that will eventually break the chains of space and time.