When I say, “I love me” or “I love you,” what do I mean?

I love me. My need to do my own thing, and my right to be me, are immeasurably precious to me. The thoughts I think, the emotions I feel, the words I speak, and the actions I take are mine. They all are freely chosen by me, and for them I am totally responsible. Where satisfying or not, they are my experiment in actualizing my own personhood, my opportunity to learn from my own experience, my expression of my love … for me.

I also love you. Your need to do your own thing, and your right to be you, are equally precious to me. The thoughts you think, the emotions you feel, the words you speak, and the actions you take are yours. They all are freely chosen by you, and for them I am in no way responsible. Whether satisfying or not, they are your experiment in actualizing your own personhood, your opportunity to learn from your own experience, your expression of love … for you.

Now I am aware that behind any resentment I feel in our relationship is my demand that you change – my demand that you think and feel and speak and act the way I prescribe. I am also aware that this is both unfair and unsatisfying. It would be far better, in an attitude of love, to meet each other in the middle – to nondefensively negotiate whatever might make for MUTUAL need satisfaction – since I am aware, too, that the best interests of each of us will best be served through careful attention to the best interests of BOTH of us. So, to restore my own attitude of love for me, and my equal love for you, and to express my sincere desire for mutuality, I here and now cancel all my demands. I reaffirm that you are not in this world to live up to my expectations, any more than I am in this world to live up to your expectations.

You are you – the you I love. I am I – the “I” I love. And if in being ourselves we find one another from time to time, it’s beautiful. If not, it’s sad … but it can’t be helped; for such a finding-of-each-other can come only in that moment of love when, simultaneously, you and I each fully appreciate and affirm the other person as lovable as is. This can happen. It has happened before. I want it to happen again. I hope it will happen to us, and I willingly assume whatever responsibility is mine for its happening. I cherish that prospect.

But even if it never happens, I am relaxed in the freedom of loving me, and loving you, as we are. For because I “know” in the innermost core of my being that truth the love is the attitude with which to perceive you, as well as me, I am truly free – free to be me, and free to affirm your freedom to be you.

That is what I mean when I say, “I love me, I love you.”

–John & Laura Landgraf