Through conditioning although maybe it’s also inherent, I seem to have come to believe certain things about love—romantic love anyway. All my life I’ve fallen in and then out of love, not a huge number of times mind, maybe half a dozen times or so.
I didn’t’ actually know there was such a thing as ‘romantic’ love. I didn’t recognise the many different ways we love. At eighteen I could understand that the love I had for my pets was not the same as the love I had for my parents or my friends, if indeed I recognised at eighteen that I had friends I 'loved' that my feelings of affection and joy in their presence was a form of love. At eighteen I remember thinking and perhaps telling someone (I was standing on the over bridge at Gordon station, I remember that, something of an epiphany) that I had noticed I could ‘love’ a boyfriend for six months or so and then it seemed to fade away and I didn’t think I’d ever be able to sustain a relationship with anyone beyond six months, because somehow my feelings always seemed to change and I no longer felt quite the same way about the person as I had in those heady, silly, beautiful romantic ways. At that age, I had no idea there was such a ‘thing’ as romantic love. And it wasn’t until some years later I came across a little book called ‘We’, and began to learn romantic love. I was a bit appalled really. Appalled and reconciled. Appalled I had never encountered the concept of romantic love before in an ‘objective’ way, of seeing it as a widespread phenomena. Appalled that say, my mother ( a big call really) (or someone) hadn’t warned me of its dangers and the necessary but seeming unreality of it. The idea that when we 'fall in love' we are falling in love with a mirror of ourselves, as projected onto another, explained many things about why my loves had predictably and routinely vanished.
It was one of my first intellectual understandings about love and I haven’t really had cause to have other big ones very much, until quite recently. I saw in my life where and when I was ‘in’ romantic love that it had always been delightful and sometimes completely devastating.
In subsequent relationships, and there haven’t been that many, and in light of my education about romantic love, I have forged past the six month period. The moment of some small disillusionment when the reality begins to settle that you are with someone who isn't a part of yourself, but a distinct and separate individual. Someone who you need to reconsider in the light of romantic love’s departure and you find yourself making decisions based more heavily on rationality. Not entirely rationally of course, but once romantic love has run its course, your brain kicks in a bit more. Romantic love risks making such a fool of you, so perhaps these more rational considerations have a lot to do with saving face-your own, to your own, which is of course ridiculous. But you find yourself needing to make an intellectual decision about the person you’re with. Who are they really? is there something I actually love or even like about them? Hopefully there is some quality about them that drew you together in the first place and hopefully this will be enough to sustain a longer term relationship. But why do I say hopefully? Why do I say longer term. This is at the 'heart' of what I’m learning.
Once past the romantic love and possibly to save face with myself, to give myself some justification for the silliness of romantic love, or maybe because I actually can and do love people beyond romantic love, I have been usually able to ‘decide’ yes, I do love this person, I love their sense of humour, their kindness, their wisdom, their drive, their whatever. There still exists within the person with whom I fell so hopeless
‘in love’ a quality or qualities I admire and can love or learn to love and grow to love and I decide that they’re worth it. Sometimes I’ve been quite wrong –of course and neither they or I were worth it, and soon you realise love is not enough, there needs to be other areas in your personalities where you both connect.
Now it seems, I’m learning another lesson about love, it’s a newly learnt lesson, and I’m not sure I'm learning it so well, early days. I wonder, as the dawn of realisation hits, maybe its one of those things that I am the last to know (again). Maybe I am describing the re-invention of the wheel. Maybe it’s something men do and understand better than women? I, like many women seem to have a greater capacity for unconditional love for better or for worse. It feels good to love someone unconditionally, but not so good when that love is unrequited, or when the penny drops or shit hits the fan-- take your pick and it becomes apparent your not loved quite so unconditionally and or maybe you don't deserve to be, or they don’t ‘deserve’ your devotion, although I’m loathe to think that love is something deserved or not, it just 'is' isn't it?. I think I’ve tended to believe that the man who claims to love me, beyond romantic love, should love me intently, completely, and without reservation. I may not expect him to love me unconditionally, he may not be able to, but he should love me importantly. I should be the focus of his ‘love life’, he should love me well. He should think our love the most important 'thing'. Our love should be be something he takes very very seriously is very very passionate about. But maybe I’ve been wrong about so many ‘shoulds’.
I have a very good and funny friend who sometimes says in a thick, Polish accent “I love you darling . . . but not very much.” It never fails to amuse me as being a subtle and gorgeous put-down, but I think I’m also discovering what that actually feels like and while I could feel terribly hurt and wounded about it, it also tells me that some loves are simply not as good as others. Not that I have any plans to settle for someone who loves me poorly and so I guess I’ll keep hoping for something better or perhaps not (life is a helluva lot easier, and less emotionally fraught when you’re on on your own, that I"m also learning. But maybe I should keep in mind the possibility I will find someone who can love me a little better, and that because I suspect this one cannot, doesn’t necessarily mean the goddamn end of my world. Take the good with the bad as another friend said. It may not not be the greatest love of your life, but it is a love nonetheless and my hitherto unacknowledged and I guess largely unconscious beliefs that the man I love and live with should love me very, very, very much rather than just ‘so’ so, is probably a bit naïve and alas, romantic.
I don’t know, It’s been a sobering lesson. I don’t feel sorry for myself, I feel a bit relieved, a bit harder a bit colder perhaps, but a bit more able to cope with what’s in front of me. Coming to these thoughts, this realisation seems to take away from the pain of railing against some of the harder lessons of love.