Love, Actually?

Today I took a notion to look up love in the thesaurus; to investigate, inquire, elucidate, and perhaps pontificate on the kinds and qualities and misappropriations and justifications for using this word for a feeling. After all, it’s such a very big word. It’s so all-encompassing in fact, that these are the synonyms I discovered, some which are repetitive:

adoration, very strong liking, adulation, affection, allegiance, amity, amorousness, amour, appreciation, ardency, ardor, attachment, cherishing, crush, delight, devotedness, devotion, emotion, enchantment, enjoyment, fervor, fidelity, flame, fondness, friendship, hankering, idolatry, inclination, infatuation, involvement, like, lust, mad for, partiality, passion, piety, rapture, regard, relish, respect, sentiment, soft spot, taste, tenderness, weakness, worship, yearning, zeal

adore, like very much, admire, adulate, be attached to, be captivated by, be crazy about, be enamored of, be enchanted by, be fascinated with, be fond of, be in love with, canonize, care for, cherish, choose, deify, delight in, dote on, esteem, exalt, fall for, fancy, glorify, go for, gone on, have affection for, have it bad, hold dear, hold high, idolize, long for, lose one’s heart to, prefer, prize, put on pedestal, think the world of, thrive with, treasure, venerate, wild for, worship

Good grief, no wonder we might be confused!

Just as there is no manual that can assure we will be good enough parents, there is nothing that assures us success in intimate relationships, despite our best efforts or whether or not we’ve had adequate role models. There are too many variables in each human life to account for simplistic reductions.

If we attune to the din of an ever-present media (and heaven knows it has a very loud and persuasive voice), aren’t we all but doomed? This medium would largely have us believe in a romantic ideal. If we learn about relationship from script however, isn’t failure almost certain? How could one remain in touch with anything remotely close to who and what, in essence, we truly are? One might, for example, discover oneself compromised until the person that once was, that individual drawn to another in order to share this thing called love, becomes a shadow of what once was genuinely, unequivocally and delightfully unique. Resentment might cloud vision on both sides, as a future attempted as a couple crumbles to cinder.

If one expects another to fulfill an epitome, isn’t disappointment fairly certain? It takes a great deal of energy to hold oneself equal to another’s illusion. And there is no room for power plays when we seek equal footing; no room for pedestals in a long-term relationship. Living in close proximity to another helps clarify both one’s highest and basest qualities. Accepting this while being open and willing to grow with these painful realizations – along with the support and loving acceptance of another – can help both mature in unexpected ways.

What would we do, how would we present ourselves if tomorrow we and a lover parted? Would we go back to school, dye our hair green, get a full body tattoo or the job we always wanted? If the life we are living and the life we dream of radically diverge, we may have lost touch with the essence referred to earlier. Yet the person with the power to get life back on track lies within. If I live fully and make choices as though my life matters both independently as well as in relationship (meanwhile allowing the same freedom for my beloved), I am likely to enjoy and sustain a successful union. This seems to require many adjustments over time, and conciliation can be tricky. It cannot succeed with me losing myself to the needs and/or demands of another. It does require, however, that I learn to dance, and occasionally toes get stepped on in the process. I can groan in pain or realize the minor missteps. Sometimes both realizations occur simultaneously and it’s a split-second decision as to which is more important. However as I practice, I get better at knowing where these metaphoric toes are, both mine as well as my partner’s. As my significant other does the same, we deepen in love and understanding.

Of course nothing can be reduced to simple platitudes when it comes to human interaction. Yet it still seems that expectations regarding the nature of love, itself somehow requires the other to transport one into fantasy. And although this might be a welcome respite from time to time, I don’t believe it can sustain over the long term. While it can be dessert, the main meal or daily sustenance comes from consistently holding one another in a space of deep friendship and caring, of sharing a life best lived together. If it does not, consider the blessings inherent in solitude.