“I have learned not to worry about love; But to honor its coming with all my heart.” —Alice Walker
Do you remember the song How Deep Is Your Love? The 1977 single spent six weeks at the top of the U.S. charts and is listed at number 20 on Billboard’s All Time Top 100. The Gibb brothers and Robin Hugh wrote the song “virtually in a single weekend” at Château d’Hérouville studio in France. The song was one of five they wrote for the film Saturday Night Fever, and Barry Gibb remembered the reaction when the film’s producer Robert Stigwood, who commissioned them, and music supervisor Bill Oakes arrived and listened to their demos: “They flipped out and said these will be great.”
Well they were great! And still are great!
I believe in you
You know the door to my very soul
You’re the light in my deepest darkest hour
You’re my savior when I fall
And you may not think
I care for you
When you know down inside
That I really do
And it’s me you need to show
How deep is your love
I really need to learn
Wow! These words are timeless expressions of love: “I believe in you,” “you know the door to my very soul,” and “you are the light in my darkest hour.” They still express the quality of love many of us have deeply experienced, and yet they also question the level of love that many of us have not had returned — “How deep is your love? I really need to learn.”
We all question love and all long and yearn to know if we are loved. In fact, Doufornow wrote me again and said something really surprising.
There was one that I pine for still after 30 years ago and remember our time as though it were yesterday (Goleta, CA DPHS Class of 85 / 1982-1984) … I still hold her in my heart to this very moment, but it may never be as we are worlds and 3,000 miles apart, and she does not do Facebook (I have searched). Whether she feels the same toward me or not I will never know …
“I still hold her in my heart.” Amazing after 30 years of unexpressed love that he still holds her in his heart. How beautiful!
But why and how can we still hold someone in our hearts?
When you trip over love, it is easy to get up. But when you fall in love, it is impossible to stand again. —Albert Einstein
I think that love can be expressed in many different ways and at different levels and stages of our lives. However, whenever we fall in love, our hearts remember! Our hearts remember when we go deeper than the shores of love. From my own experience and studies, I have discovered that there are four levels of love. The first is Shoreline Love. Many of us search for and find love on the shores of life.
Each contact with a human being is so rare, so precious, one should preserve it. —Anaïs Nin
Shoreline Love includes intrigue, fascination, excitement, sexual attraction to another human being. This stage offers the hope or promise of personal intimacy and the dream of passions and longings fulfilled. It can be the first stage of a deeper experience of love. But all too often shoreline love is a visceral and nonspecific response to extremely strong forces pulling two people together. However, if we stay on the shore we do not experience the deeper dimensions of the ocean nor the intimacy and deeper love we long for. So to know the deeper realms of love we have to walk on and dive into the water!
A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave. —Mahatma Gandhi
Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, Loving someone deeply gives you courage. — Lao Tzu
The second stage is Deep Love. In Deep Love we open our hearts to love and be loved by a specific person. Unlike Shoreline Love where we may never even let a person know how we feel, in Deep Love there is confession in a face-to-face (not just email or online) acknowledgement of mutual interest and shoreline attraction. There we begin to spend time, to get to know and move through our lives with another person we have acknowledged we are attracted to. We try them out to see if they fit into our lives, into our patterns, and into our hearts. Here we watch for the red flags and the stop sign signs, and we try to obey them.
Being alone is scary, but not as scary as feeling alone in a relationship. —Amelia Mary Earhart
In stage three, or in Deeper or True Love, we commit. We actually speak about expectations, exclusivity, and faithfulness and loyalty and integrity.
True love always makes a man better, no matter what woman inspires it. —Alexander Dumas
Before marriage, a man will lie awake all night thinking about something you said; after marriage, he’ll fall asleep before you finish saying it. —Helen Rowland
In True Love we mature and move from childhood to adulthood to marriage. In this stage we finally take responsibility for the experience of happiness and joy in a relationship. We practice what I call the two “Surrs.” We Surround each other (You cover me) and Surrender (I surrender to you) to each other. We experience a powerful sense of venerability, support, acknowledgement, to care for another human being with caring, kindness, mutuality, and faith.
Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies. —Aristotle
However, it is in stage four, or Deepest Love, where we really soar to new highs — and we ascend into the realms of transcendence. For deepest love transcends space and time, taking two lovers into the unfathomable depths of human-divine interaction and intimacy. We not only experience the satisfaction of Shoreline Love and Deep and Deeper loves but the inclusive transcendent love of a source of love that is not dependent on performance but is constant like the sun’s rays. When I feel the warmth of this love, I feel not only acknowledged but blessed, recognized, gently touched, passionately pursued beyond measure. While our hearts dance on the shorelines of love, our souls and spirits mount up contently, joyfully into the unimaginable depths of human-divine love.
One Love! One Heart! Let’s get together and feel all right. —Bob Marley
I hope you will experience all these loves. How deep is your love? You — yes, you — get to choose.
Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I want to hear your stories.
Akivah Northern is a certified Family Wellness Trainer and holds a Master in Divinity from Yale. Her biweekly column explores the deeper heart in all its dimensions. She welcomes heartfelt questions from readers of all ages at email@example.com.