A word of caution: This is a rambling post. There’s probably a point in it somewhere, if you care to sift through the muddled confusion presented below. But that takes effort, and if you’re not the type to sit through stuff like this, log off now and go out and save the world or something.
All right, let’s see a show of hands. How many of you believe you are – or have been – in love?
Come now, let’s be honest.
Quite a lot of hands. Not surprising, I guess. If there’s one thing we can admit is inevitable in the human condition, it is it’s unfailing compulsion to fall in love.
Or at least, love as we believe it to be.
See, I don’t consider love to be something definable, something tangible. I think love is merely a concept, a name conjured out of thin air to describe what is sometimes undescribable. As Al Pacino says to Keanu Reeves in The Devil’s Advocate: “Biochemically no different from eating large quantities of chocolate.”
Maybe that sounds a bit harsh. Let’s soften it up a little.
We know this: there are supposedly different categories of love. There’s the love of a child for her doll (“I love my Barbie!”), there’s the love a child for her parents and vice versa (“I love you, Daddy!”, “Ditto, my lil’ pumpkin..”), there’s the love shared between a couple (“I love you, darling”, “I love you too, sweety”), etc, etc…
But what does all those declarations mean? What does saying “I love you” signify?
I’ll tell you what I think it means. It’s a promise. An IOU. A note of intent, saying “Hey, I’m going to care for you, and be there for you, and support you, and treasure you, and think the world of you, and be your best friend, and share in your joys and troubles, and generally be the person you can always depend on at anytime, anywhere, till the end of our days.”
There’s more to that, but the above is probably the gist of it.
But what about people who have – or think they have – fallen in love? How does the above explain the feelings they get? You know, the sweaty palms, butterflies in stomach, tongue getting twisted in knots, nervous fidgeting, constantly thinking and dreaming of the object of their affections….
Well, it doesn’t explain it. That’s because I believe – and this is gonna sound a little strong – these people are NOT in love.
Yup. You read that right. There’s no such thing as “falling in love”. Even that phrase, so often the mainstay of global popular culture, so often the single defining theme of countless songs, movies, stories, gossip, rumour, what-have-you, is as meaningless as buying a card for your wife of 25 years on Valentine’s Day. (Does a guy in a long-term committed relationship really need a nudge from the calendar to tell his wife he loves her?)
Just like the noun ‘love’, there’re also supposedly different categories of “falling in love”: puppy love, the crush, infatuation, unrequited love, love at first sight, true love, etc.
I think that’s just a bunch of baloney. It’s all the same. See, the difference is hindsight. Everyone who “falls in love” thinks that’s what it is – until it ends badly, in which case they refer to it as a “just a harmless crush”, “an infatuation, really..”
While those lucky enough to see the “crush” grow into a long-lasting committed relationship look back and say, “Well, it was love at first sight, you know..”, “Yes, the moment I met her, it was true love…”
That’s what I mean when I say I believe love is a promissory note. When two people meet and one or both find themself or themselves attracted to the other, is it love? No, just hormones.
When someone tells the object of his/her affections that he/she “loves” the other, is that love? No, as I’ve mentioned above it’s just a promise. A declaration of intent. But it’s a start.
When people have spent time and effort making good on that promise, never wavering from the objectives that they have declared and summarised so succintly in those three words, when they can look at each other in the eye and know what both of them have undergone over the years to keep their relationship strong and happy, that’s when they can say, truly say, that they’re in love.
Love is a track record. It’s what you do, not what you say, or even what you feel.
Look at all the broken marriages, the countless divorce cases. Would you say the unfortunate couples were never in love, that if they were “truly in love”, their marriage would last?
I wouldn’t. I’d agree they were never in love, but I’d disagree about the second part.
Like I said, none of us start out “in love”. Relationships end not because people weren’t in love, but because people did not work on making the relationship work. They simply failed to keep their promise.
So the next time you want to express your love to someone, keep in mind that your words – sweet talk you probably picked up watching some schmaltzy movie somewhere – is like a campaign promise you make to your constituency (here meaning the ‘lovee’) in order to win their votes.
Real love – TRUE love – is what you do to make good on your election promises so you can win re-election.
This is the end of the post. I think I made my point somewhere up there, but then again, I’m no writer, so if you’re as confused as I am, let’s discuss these over a hot cup of java.
… and that’s a wrap.