To love another as an object is to love him as a ‘thing,’ as a commodity which can be used, exploited, enjoyed and then cast off. But to love another as a person we must begin by granting him his own autonomy and identity as a person. We have to love him for what he is in himself, and not for the good we get out of him. And this is impossible unless we are capable of a love which “transforms” us, so to speak, into the other person, making us able to see things as he sees them, love what he loves, experience the deeper realities of his own life as if they were our own. Without sacrifice, such a transformation is utterly impossible. But unless we are capable of this kind of transformation ‘into the other’ while remaining ourselves, we are not yet capable of a fully human existence…
--Thomas Merton, "Disputed Questions"
I cannot say that I have ever loved another person other than as an object: for the good I could get out of him or her, economically, emotionally, physically, or even spiritually. The assertion of some that their significant other "completes" them is a classic example of this type of false love. Only God can complete you. What you probably mean when you say such a thing about another human being is that he or she is useful in filling a hole in you, or in adding a missing emotional or other "appendage" onto you that you believe, somehow, makes you more complete, or, at the very least, more happy. "She makes me feel good about myself" does not appear to be "true love," as Merton defines it.
Seeing life through another person's eyes, experiencing the deeper realities of his or her life as if they were our own, is not something that I can admit I have done. Trying to empathize with another might be a start, but that effort seems akin to taking baby steps as opposed to running a marathon. Merton claims that I must love the other person for what he or she is in himself or herself and for this alone, that to do this I must transform myself (sort of, kind of) into the other while remaining myself, and that this transformation is impossible without sacrifice. I need to track down the book from which this quote is taken and explore it further. After six decades, it would be important to determine whether or not I am capable of a "fully human existence." Better late than never.
Perhaps the writers of the Netflix series "The Crown" had a related idea about sacrifice being the essence of love in the ending scene of the first episode, in which King George, dying of lung cancer (a fact hidden from Phillip, the king's family, the public, and, initially, from the king himself) delivers some hard truths about sacrifice, patriotism, and love to a young Prince Phillip during a duck hunt, while simultaneously George's eldest daughter and Phillip's wife, Princess Elizabeth, contemplates the mortality of her father and the inevitable sacrifice of her previous life to the responsibilities of the monarchy. While I stumbled across this series by accident, and have not enjoyed all of its episodes equally, I think much of it, including this scene, is well written, directed, edited, and acted, and (one of my favorite aspects of good film making) that it artfully blends music and film. Hans Zimmer, once again, adds his talent to the mix, and as I've recently mentioned, I admire that man's work.