Love, essential for emotional well being, gives hope and meaning to life --
Love accepts others as they are, an affirmation of life creating a spiritual connection.









  Other books by Benjamin Conley:
The Spiritual Connection: Values, Faith, and Psychotherapy
Taking the Fear Out of Being Close
Success in Marriage
Making Relationships Work
Affirming Feelings





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to meet with Benjamin Conley at his office,
1881 NE 26th Street, Suite 221, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33305

Or talk to him in person by calling: (954) 727-9713

PO Box 4304, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33338-4304
Books about positive values, spirituality, and counseling

(This book can help you pursue the intimate relationships you desire. Please use the text to stimulate your own thinking and understanding about the issues discussed, even though you may find some ideas surprising.)

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Excerpt from:
The Meaning of Love
by Benjamin B. Conley, M.Div., LMFT
Pages 5-9


Love is perhaps the most written and spoken about subject in the world. Yet, one can always write even more, since it is such an important one. It is "what makes the world go 'round." It is often spoken of as the central emotional nurturing element in life. At the same time, it is the center of much struggle and the disappointment that comes from love gone awry.

When we go to weddings, we commonly hear a reading of Corinthians 13: verses 1 through 13. It describes love as a "still more excellent way," the foundation of all things and the basis for enduring relationships and family.

"Love never ends; as for prophecy, it will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect; but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away.

"When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood.

"So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love."

This Biblical passage and its common use reflect the deep emotional significance of love and loving. The significance of love is deep enough to bring tears to the eyes of those taking time out to focus on the importance of relationships, as in attendance at a wedding or a funeral. Yet, we live with much ambiguity and confusion about the meaning of love and it's place in human affairs.

We think of love as the solution to life's problems, such as war, strife, and interpersonal conflict, and yet we have difficulty giving and receiving love.

We think of love in terms of what we were familiar with as a child, of being taken care of by our mother, of being encouraged to take our first steps, to "do it myself," to take pride in our accomplishments, to be supported in our growing up and making our way in our work and family relationships.

We think of loving our children and those who are part of our lives. We think of love in terms of the depth of our adult relationships and the meaning and importance we give to those dear to us.

The discussion about love that follows is based on a description of the various meanings we give to the word "love" at various stages of our life development. It is a discussion of how love "goes wrong," but more importantly, an exploration of how love gives meaning and depth to relationships when it goes right.

We love in the ways we have learned and practiced. We can use what we know to affirm what is positive in ourselves and others, while we grow and learn even more about the joy created by loving. Let us begin with examining the three meanings we give to love in the ordinary course of living.


Love can be thought of in three different but related ways, all part of our common sense way of using the word:

1) Love can be used to mean positive treatment of others, as in "He was very loving (nurturing) toward her." When people are treated in a loving way, with seriousness and respect, they tend to be loving in return. If they are treated badly, for example, are told what they say is not important, they will experience being treated in an unloving, unfriendly way.

Love in the sense of treating others positively may be an offering of the affirmation needed by the other person. At other times, when someone says, "I love you," the meaning conveyed may not be an offer of nurturing to the other person, but rather the message that "I hope you will give me the affirmation I have not given myself."

Either way, treating others well or being treated well is one of the three meanings in which the word, "love" is used in our culture. All three of the meanings are related. We use love to describe the way one person may treat another. In these instances, we may say, "He was very loving toward her," or "What a lovely thing to do." This use of the word love is generally very clear and unambiguous.

When someone says, "I love you", the meaning may be that "I need you to give me the affirmation I have not given myself in response to the treatment of others." When a person is loving in the sense of affirming the fundamental rights of others, their right to space in the world, their right to manage their own life, and their right to pursue their own goals in ways that do not infringe on the fundamental rights of others, those others usually respond very positively. They love being treated so well.

2) Love can be used to express the feeling of joy, as in "I love dancing with you". This is the pleasure and delight we experience with a person we enjoy, things that bring us pleasure, like a good book, and environments we find nurturing, like a beautiful sunset, and feelings of contentment and physical relaxation.

This second use of "love" is meant as an expression of pleasure, enjoyment. In this sense, one may say, "I love sitting here, looking out over the sea at the mountains on the other side of the bay." Or, "I love to spend time with you; you are a delight." Or, "What a lovely painting." Or, simply, "I love you", meaning "I enjoy being with you so much that I feel great warmth and affection toward you."

The pleasure we have in things and people is usually quite clear and is one of the gratifications leading us to choose to be with one person more intensely than others, since we may also be delighted to find they have the same basic values, similar interests, and so on. The more there is we enjoy about a person, the more we are inclined to be with that person, on the basis of "loving" them in this sense of enjoying them.

3) Love can be used to mean an emotional investment in the importance of the other person, as in "I love you very much." This is very different from enjoyment, since caring about another person may call for unpleasant tasks to be taken care of. Our emotional investment in another calls for consideration of what is important to the other person, even though we cannot take over responsibility for his or her life.

Which of these three meanings of love is dominant in a given moment may vary. But all three are inherently positive and affirming of the other person. The behavior by which we express love varies, but whatever the behavior, the response to positive treatment is internal validation and delight ("I love being affirmed"), and encourages emotional investment in relationships with others ("You are also important to me").

When someone says, "I love you", the meaning may be that "I need you to give me the affirmation I have not given myself in response to the treatment of others."

(end of excerpt)

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