Here I was, ready to sleep, but my muse is a harsh mistress.
Or rather love isn’t simply about happiness. Love involves a lot of emotions, including the unpleasant ones: pain, sorrow, worry. I think there’s a misconception about love, that it’s always supposed to be pleasurable. Make no mistake, love can be pleasurable at times, but it isn’t Epicureanism either. And perhaps it is this misconception that leads to the dissolution of relationships, whether it’s something as simple as friendship, something as deep as romance, or something tighter and closer, such as the marriage between husband and wife.
Love is one of the most romanticized subjects, and perhaps it is what fuels this belief that love is always something positive. Make no mistake, love is a virtue, but like most virtues, it is hard to attain, and much more difficult to retain. People will cite Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet as the ultimate symbol of love, yet we often forget (or conveniently overlook) that it ended in a tragedy. When people say they’re in love, they usually get this giddy feeling, this sense of optimism, this hope that there’s something better in life and that they’ve finally tasted it. This is what we usually associate with love, this boyhood (or girlhood as the case may be) crush we develop, this attraction we have towards the opposite sex. I will not discount that feeling, for emotion is also part of love. But that is merely the beginning, the tip of the iceberg as they say.
Love, in the long run, is a commitment. It doesn’t even have to be a conscious commitment. Take friendship for example. I love my friends, although I don’t spend my waking moments thinking about it. Yet when the ask for help, I’m there. The same goes for family. It’s not something I’ve planned out beforehand, it’s something I simply do. And when they’re gone, I miss them. Of course that’s not necessarily the way with romance, but the commitment is there nonetheless. It’s a commitment to talk to the other person regularly, or to see them off, or to be concerned about them. Now this case is more deliberate, although our motivations for doing so can be called into question.
Sometimes, we break off the commitment. Because it gets harder, more difficult. The girl we were in love with might seem less attractive, or less energetic, or less empathic. Perhaps it’s a realization, either discovering more about the other person, or simply experiencing an epiphany about ourselves. We might give up on the relationship and do everything to get out of it. However, most of the time, what happens is we begin to have doubts. Doubts whether we’re truly in love, or doubts whether the other person loves us. This may manifest itself in several forms, from over-protectiveness to jealousy to pettiness. That’s part of love as well, although not necessarily the positive aspects of it. And then there’s the eventual break-up. Sometimes, there wasn’t even a relationship to begin with but simply a one-sided love affair. In either case, it hurts. That’s what being in love means: giving the other person the ability to hurt you. If we didn’t care about them so much, if they were simply strangers, then we wouldn’t be experiencing all this pain in the first place. Or you can imagine a fight between two best friends: the rift is large, and the sense of betrayal is nearly incapacitating. Why? Because we loved that person. It would have been okay if it was our enemy, but being hurt by someone we love is infinitely more lethal.
But that is not the love I am talking about, as true as it is. The love I am talking about is waiting in the rain for two hours just so you can have a chat with your girlfriend for fifteen minutes. It’s about driving her home despite the fact that you’ve had a long and difficult day, and you’re extremely tired. It’s about checking up on her every single day, even if it’s just to say hello, or to greet her good night. Eventually, the giddiness will disappear, and it all seems like a chore. But you do it nonetheless. That’s love.
Or perhaps you’re the girl and you have this problem. You see your boyfriend and he’s happy. You think that you shouldn’t tell him the bad news since it doesn’t concern him and it will only dampen his mood. But he asks anyway. If you pretend that there’s nothing wrong, there’s love there, but there’s also dishonesty. If you tell him what’s wrong, yes, it will dampen his mood. But he wants to know anyway, because you’re part of his life now. It doesn’t matter if your experiences are horrible, or painful. He wants to share it with you, to experience it with you. He’ll be there with you, whether it’s the good times or bad. And some people miss that point. Love isn’t simply about sharing the good parts. It’s about sharing, period. I mean if my friend got into an accident, I’d like to know what happened to him, right? Would it be a hassle for me to visit him or her in the hospital? Yes, it would but I’d like to be there for him or her. That’s what friendship is all about. That’s what being in a relationship is about. That’s what love is about.
The problem with being afraid to share your sorrows, your suffering, is that it erodes trust. For me, love is built on two foundations: trust and communication. I say trust first for without it, there can be no communication. I say communication for that’s what connects us. Communication isn’t simply about saying words, but it can take a lot of forms. Some people communicate by action. Others by affection. Some by physical contact. And eventually, communication deepens enough that it forms roots and transforms into love. It’s so easy to forget that love is about communication, but it’s true. Why do people fear long-distance relationships? Because it’s more difficult to communicate. Why do we get jealous of other men and women? Because we feel that we’re not communicating enough with our loved one, and that someone else is better at it. Love is dialogue, although not necessarily our conception of what dialogue should be. And good dialogue is about truth: it’s about sharing the good with the bad. If you show only one side of it, where’s the trust?
Love makes me happy. But loves makes me sad as well. There’s a misconception that when you’re in love, you’ll only end up with either one. Anyone who’s been in a genuine relationship will know that it’s both. Sometimes, it happens in cycles: there are good times, and there are bad times. Sometimes, it happens all at once: you’re sad because there are problems, but you’re happy you have someone to share it with. That’s the paradox about love. Yet our basest instincts will tell us either to avoid it, because it’s painful, or to embrace it, because it’s pleasurable. That’s what’s difficult about being human: because love doesn’t rely on instinct alone. We don’t know how to reconcile something we should fear and at the same time something we should welcome. I can easily imagine my brain trying to make sense out of all these contradicting instructions. But that’s where human will, human freedom comes in. We make a choice, whether to truly love or not. And the decision is never easy.
If you’re still following your instincts, you’ll ask is it all worth it. But love isn’t really something we measure, something we weigh in pound for pound. Love is about sharing your life with someone, forming ties with them (and it’s not necessarily about romance). Sometimes it’ll cost you more than you receive. But if you’re still keeping score, then you’ve totally missed the point.