Friday, May 21, 2010

Love actually is....

I love romantic comedies or rom-coms. I rejoice in the formula: two people each going through their own struggle have a chance encounter and fall in romantic head-over-heels type of love. Inevitability some strife comes their way and they are torn apart again only to realize at the last possible moment and have to get through rush-hour traffic (why does the moment of awareness always occur during peak times I know not) and then one professes their love in a very public and poignant way, everyone cries and they both live happily ever after. always know what you are going to get and it always works out in the end.

The rom-com is beautiful because it is simplistic and so completely unrealistic, precisely the reason I adore them. I mean, one of the other equally important reasons I find them so entertaining is that the two parties manage to do all the above in hopelessly stylish apartments, clothes, and lives on impossibly meagre salaries while never seeming to work, or at least not work particularly hard. Again, pure fantasy and for me a delightful one.

For most, the romantic ideal like those presented in rom-coms has become ingrained in our psyches and so we start out on this quest to find for this one perfect person who will come and make everything right in our world. This is where trouble sometimes ensues. Yet people, this is not an entirely new concept.

In Greek mythology humans began as two headed, four armed, four-legged creatures, bound together in happy togetherness. Zeus was fearful of the power of all this joy and split humans in half, thereby creating this intrinsic need for humans to spend their loves seeking to find their “other half”. According to myth, the problem is that the separation created such a deep divide and even when we find our other part we don’t feel completely whole again, so we often keep seeking. Sad really.

Not the tidy ending of the rom-com we have come to expect but the same premise. Our lives are centered on finding that one true love who will then make our lives magical, no matter how it turns out in the end.

In recent weeks, I have been thinking a great deal about love and what it actually is. Having a child is the ultimate change experience (have I said this about a billion times already?) and the love you experience is like nothing you can imagine prior feeling it. This is the type of love that you would truly lay down your life for and are willing to make any sacrifice for and makes you reassess all the types of love in your life.

My family, friends and daily interactions have also been a source of inspiration, whether through fascinating discussion or sadly through heart-breaking life experiences. Plus, I meandered back into my own love repertoire to do some analysis.

The most recognizable bible quotes in history especially for those who are rom-comers like me has to be:

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous;
love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly;
it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,
does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;
bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails...But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7,13

Whether you are religious or not it is a beautiful quote which is precisely why it is used in so many wedding ceremonies. It reminds us of the boundless nature of unconditional love. While used to describe the manifestation of romantic love in that of a marriage it is really speaking for the love of God, a perfect being. I would wager this is a much harder undertaking when the manifestation of your love leaves dirty socks daily on the floor or leaves the toilet seat up. Like enlightenment I think this level of love is an enlightened state of being that requires practice, daily practice, and lots of it (especially the love is patient bit for me, a real tough one). Taken literally, I think sets us up for an unrealistic perspective on love.

So, here’s what I think will bring about a healthier relationship with love:

Respect love for what it is

Love is a wonderful and powerful emotion, like I’ve said it can transformative but not in of itself. Love is the catalyst of making great things possible but we still have to do the work. Love will lift you up but only as high as you help it.

The love for a child is magnificent and can point you in the direction of authentic love. Now I understand what all those bleary-eyed new parents with manic looking grins felt they said “It will change your life forever, but you will never want to go back, not even for a second”. I used to think “Yeah, right!” while I smiled back at them, “you look crazy” I thought. Now I get it, I am the crazy smile looking fool.

I love what the love for my family has done for my life. It has helped me reprioritize my values and goals, it has given me a greater appreciation for my parents (and most especially my mother), it has created a deeper level of compassion for other people and for more “spirited” children (whom I found challenging to be around before having Miss Mouse). This love has opened me up to new experiences and given me a greater sense of confidence, caring and courage.

Real love opens you up to a new level of being with the world. Real love is acceptance.

Respect love for what it isn’t

Authentic love also has limits.

If you think you will find the love of your life and then *poof* all your self-worth/body issues/spending/drinking/gambling/laziness/trust/commitment issues will magically disappear then think again. Love is not a magic problem solving pill – ask anyone who loves an addict.

I would say without a doubt I have found the love of my life, but I still struggle with some of the same internal issues I had before.

What I’ve learned that love it is not a means to an end, but rather a journey (as cliché as that sounds). Ask any first-time parents about their relationship with each other in the first year and you will hear that there is definite ebb and flow to romantic love.

Love is also not a mechanism for controlling others or getting them to behave the way we want. Loving someone means accepting them “just as they are” a la Bridgette Jones Diary (gratuitous rom-com quote) and not how you want them to be.

I have often said, how a person is at the beginning of the relationship is the BEST THEY WILL EVER BE. They are on their best behaviour, I certainly was. So, if you have any reservations or gut reactions to any behaviours at that stage, they won’t get better and may in fact get worse. Your love will not magically transform them into the person you want them to be. It just won’t, take my word for it.

I also think that in the beginning love can create the emotional and physiological highs of drug addiction and therefore can create the state of mind where you feel invincible and EVERYTHING sounds like a great idea.

People, some things are not great ideas during these first weeks or months of romantic love:
• Making a video of anything you do together that you wouldn’t do in public
• Tattoos – PEOPLE THESE ARE PERMANENT and unless you want to date only Destinys, Shannons, Bobs or Matts for the rest of your live, please wait until at least a year before going for the permanent ink on flesh commitment.
• Adopting any type of pet (unless it lives in a glass bowl) senior citizen or a child together. Let Billy Bob & Angie, Madonna & Guy, Sandra & Jesse be your cautionary tale, we all SO thought those marriages would last. Avoid anything that requires that you would have to change your dependant status on your tax returns.
• Lending great sums of money for any reason; if his mom is truly THAT sick or her business will fold without the cash, then your money probably won’t make a difference in the long run and you’ll be resentful at having lost it.
• In fact, avoid giving any new paramour:
o a key to anything you own, even your post office box;
o anything you would refer to as “heirloom”;
o passwords of any kind.

Anyone who cares for you, truly and deeply, knows you are as flawed as they are and they don’t expect you to act a certain way or want you to compromise yourself. If you are still together after a couple of years and you want to engage in the above mentioned activities, go for it, because by then the high has worn off and you can think more clearly.

Plus you probably have learned all their passwords anyway.

Accept all love that comes your way graciously but set very clear boundaries

Love makes the world go around and yes, it is all you need, but the most intense, passionate love you can ever experience will be diluted if you don’t love yourself just as much. (Man, I am really the cliché queen today). Just as a loving parent will set reasonable boundaries for their child, individuals should be the guardian of their own hearts with others.

Those who truly care for you will respect any reasonable limits you set or they will walk – true love does not coerce or manipulate to bend your boundaries.
If I could have one wish I would wish that everyone could have a true love affair with their authentic selves. I honestly believe that if we all moved towards deep, true, unconditional love with our real selves there would be very little struggle and strife in the world. It is simplistic but not easy to do.

To me, accepting all the love that comes your way means being open to the experiences that life brings and sometimes at first, people, it doesn’t seem very loving. Sometimes “love” arrives in the form of things we fear and avoid, like loss, death and challenges or even invitations to events you don’t want to go to. This is all love, life is showing you that it’s interested in you and cares.

Part of loving ourselves means knowing how to accept the love the world is giving us without losing ourselves. Boundaries of all kinds are us acting lovingly to ourselves. When we establish what our values, morals and limits are and respect ourselves we are free to love openly and honestly without fear. We don’t have to be scared of what can or will happen in our relationships, we can just accept how things are and be ready to give it up if it conflicts too greatly with our boundaries.

Got it? Great now go forth and love! Heck, why not go and love in impossibly stylish clothes, in impeccably decorated pads, in hopelessly trendy neighbourhoods while barely working. I’ll be watching.



  1. Great thoughts, but I'm not a rom-com fan, myself. I like the romantic stories that end badly, Wuthering-Heights-style.

    Had we never loved so kindly
    Had we never loved so blindly
    Never met or never parted
    We'd ne'er been so broken-hearted