Thursday 14 February 2013

What Is Love Anyway?

This has been bugging me since I read a review of a memoir in which the person accused the author of being "in love with love" after being betrayed by her boyfriend/fiance.

We tend to assume love is defined by its results.  It can't be real love if the other person is a douchebag or cheats or is abusive.

I think that confuses a healthy relationship with love, which may end up trapping more women than it saves.

This is a hard concept for most people to get if they haven't been through it themselves, but it is possible for a person to genuinely love someone who is abusive.  They feel the same feelings of devotion and attachment.  But those feelings do not make the relationship a healthy one.

Love can fade away under those circumstances.  It can be replaced by fear, a sense of obligation or indifference.  But there will still be momentary flashes of goodness that can reignite the old sparks.

Those aren't enough to make the relationship good.

"The course of true love never did run smooth" is from Shakespeare.  Quoted by lovers everywhere as a mantra to overcome their struggles.  Except, in context, it's used as a justification by the lovers in Midsummer's Night Dream to prove their love is true.  Things aren't going well, therefore this must be true love!

We do have a tendency to equate effort with depth of emotion.  If we have to really work hard at showing we love someone, then we must really love them a whole lot.  Except that in a healthy relationship, it shouldn't be an effort to be loving.  It should be part of a natural expression of the joy and affection each of you feels for the other.

I think it would be so much better if we taught girls and boys that love can feel good and overwhelming and powerful.  Which is why it makes you do so many stupid things.  (We've all been idiots in love ... admit it.)  But those feelings aren't enough to keep a relationship together.  If the relationship hurts, if it makes you feel less than you were before, then it's not worth keeping.

Tell them it won't be easy.  The strength of the feelings makes it hard.  They'll feel nostalgic thinking about the good times.  But it can't be just the good times.  A relationship is an entire package and if you're not happy with the package, better put it back on the shelf.  Tell them they have to be strong and that they have the support of those around them.

These words may not make it onto a Hallmark card anytime soon.  But they're the words I intend to tell my boys.  And any girls or boys who will hold still long enough for me to spit them out.

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