Love, specifically romantic love, remains an exceedingly complicated entity. While it has been studied from a variety of perspectives from the sciences to the social sciences to the humanities, it is still a mystery. People have killed for it, died for it, sacrificed everything for it and made insane decisions in its name, yet it is still a core essence of human life. It is, perhaps, a necessary evil. And despite all the inconvenience that comes with it, the danger it is fraught with, the seemingly always-bad timing that it occurs with and the major lifestyle adjustments that must be made for it, even when we see it coming, knowing all this, we cannot get out of its way. Once love has us in its sights, it never misses.
Then there are the old clichés, the musicians and the poets telling of the “power of love,” proclaiming that “love conquers all” and how if we have love, nothing else matters. It sounds good. It sounds even better when one is in the throws of love. And while these are not new sentiments (people have been saying such things as long as people have been), also not new is the sheer insanity of love. It makes no sense. It is never convenient, always expensive – and not just materialistically – and the potential downside is pain so uniquely bad that it makes one wonder who ever invented such a thing. Scientists will tell us it is evolutionary. Social scientists might be inclined to view it as a social construct and humanists might view it as a binding factor that makes our existence unique in the universe. However it is studied, there is one thing that virtually everyone agrees upon; this entity, love, is a real thing.
I have been “in love” a handful of times. I have been in love mutually even fewer. In fact, I often wonder about those now failed relationships… was there really love and if so, was it mutual. I also used to believe that once “in love,” that love would never die, even if the relationship did not last. I no longer believe that, however, once love takes hold, it does not go away easily or willingly. At least not for me. My first marriage was like that. So was my second (or, technically, current for just a little while longer). My first marriage lasted less than five years, but the first two thirds of it were pretty good. I still do not know what happened exactly, but it is likely that the rapid and total change in the dynamics of life was more than it could bear. There was much more to it than that, but it is now more than 20 years later – the analysis period is long over.
But, and this is a big but that I tend to conveniently forget (love has a built-in forgetter), it took a long time for the love to fade. A long time. So long, in fact, that I formed the aforementioned belief that love is eternal. Although I cannot pinpoint the exact date or period, I can say that it did, in fact, die. I wish I knew how long it took, but it probably doesn’t matter. I would venture to guess that each and every instance of love is unique and, perhaps, there are versions of “eternal romantic love” that live beyond the end of the relationship. It takes a whole lot of love to make a commitment like marriage, so it makes sense that it would not just go away overnight.
Which brings me to my current experience. After 20 plus years since the end of that first marriage, I met someone and the magic was all new again. I should point out that I was pretty happy in my singlehood; I was certainly not looking for love. I was not “anti-love,” I was not militantly single, I made no vows to never fall in love again, there was no conscious effort to stay out of a relationship, but I was not in need of one. We fell in love relatively quickly (I say we because even though I find myself questioning whether she was ever actually in love, I always come around to believing that our love was mutual), but the timing was all wrong. The love was there, but too much else that is necessary for a relationship – any relationship - to survive never materialized. In the end major trust issues destroyed our marriage less than a year after tying the knot. In the coldest of terms, marriage is a contract and when the terms of a contract are violated, the contract is void. However, unlike any other contract, marriage is based upon this entity, love, that cannot be divvied up in a settlement agreement.
Right now, my future ex-wife and I are not on good terms. Actually, we are on no terms at all. That is probably my fault. In my anger I have said some things that, while true, were not said in a very nice way. I still care, however. But here is the problem: Is that love? Maybe (hopefully) it is just the remnants of it. And here’s a little insight that the composition of these very words inspired… that parenthetically inserted “hopefully” is, at least partially, a lie. The truth is that part of me hopes it is still love – and it’s the part that got me into this whole mess in the first place. Even more twisted is that I hope she feels that, too. She has a new boyfriend now (rant/unrant, I’m not going there today), but I still go through the multiple scenarios in which it would not have ended this way…. in which it would not have ended at all.
I might be inclined to say that I have had bad luck with love, however, the upside of love is that it is so good, so compelling, so overpowering that to fall into it at all is worth it, what ever it is. For me, this is not the end of the world, but it sure felt like it. Occasionally, not very often anymore, it still does. If it hurts that bad, it has to be real.