Perhaps you haven’t thought of love as having two sides to it – but I believe it does. Actually there are likely more than two sides, at least our world has referred to the multiple facets of love in many ways.
For the sake of simplicity, let’s look at love through the lens of hard and soft.
So what does this mean? Glad you asked.
To create relationships that are both loving and healthy we need two things, which I call the soft side and the hard side.
The hard side means being able to
- set clear boundaries
- protect our personal space
- take responsibility for ourselves and not for others
- respond in a self-centered way
- say no
- make our own choices regardless of what others think
- defend ourselves
- maintain our personal integrity
- go our own path in life
The soft side is about
- opening up to others
- feeling and expressing love
- allowing ourselves to be vulnerable
- healing past pain
- releasing fears
- surrendering and stepping into uncertainty
- accepting what is
- letting go of control and detaching from outcomes
- feeling connection and oneness
The soft side is about trust, openness, unity and flow. It is a warm, fuzzy, peaceful, all-encompassing energy. The hard side is what enables us to delimit, separate, identify, define and choose. This is me, and this is you. Here is how far you can go. This is what I will not tolerate. This I want. That I don’t want. Here is my territory, and there is yours. This here is none of your business, and that over there is none of mine.
We need both the soft and the hard facet of ourselves in order to maintain healthy and loving relationships. Both are important.
If you have the hard side and lack the softness, you will be great at delimiting yourself from others, at setting boundaries, saying no and doing your own thing, but you will also be emotionally closed off, out of touch with your heart, prone to trying to control external life circumstances and other people, stuck in fearful stiffness and feeling lonely.
If you have the softness but lack the hard side, you will be a wonderfully loving, caring, giving, lovely person, very open and warm, but you will also be a doormat who can’t say no, who gets hurt, takes on too much responsibility for others, feels guilty, permanently gives energy away, gets treated like crap and ends up totally depleted.
The hard and the soft side are no opposites.
Being the one doesn’t mean you aren’t the other. You can be both really hard and really soft, or neither particularly hard nor particularly soft. Some people are neither very good at delimiting themselves and setting boundaries nor very good at opening up, expressing love or surrendering. So they end up both feeling fearful and disconnected, and having a hard time asserting themselves.
So it is not one scale with two extremes, but rather a two-dimensional model, with hardness and softness values being independent from each other. I suspect our hardness is what makes us impressive in other people’s eyes, and our softness determines how comfortable they feel around us.
This is only an intellectual model of course. Maybe it is artificial to express such complex things with a pair of numbers, but I find it quite useful. … I think the optimal place to be in is the point where we are both totally hard and totally soft.
Being both hard and soft is not a contradiction. Actually, I think that being the one helps us to be the other.
When we are able to set up a strong structure and know that we will always stand up for ourselves and make sure that our personal integrity is respected, then we feel safe, and can safely expose our soft underbelly and be gently loving inside of that structure.
The other way around, when we are able to open our heart, trust ourselves, others and the Universe, surrender to uncertainty and vulnerability, let go of control, and feel infinite love and connection to the whole world deeply inside ourselves, then it is easier to risk pissing people off, because we know deep down that nothing truly bad can ever result out of it.
In a way, both is about feeling safe – but in two completely different ways.