I was watching a popular TV talk show today (the one hosted by the most famous black woman in the world) and she had a celebrity guest on (the only daughter of an insanely popular, dead male musician, perhaps the most beloved rock and roll singer of all time whose former home is now a tourist attraction). This guest was asked about her brief marriage to an also very famous musician who I believe is a child molester, and whose music I have boycotted for several years based on that belief. The question posed to this woman, who has her father's droopy eyes and curling lip, was "Do you think he loved you?" She didn't know how to answer that, and so the question was rephrased: "Do you think he loved you as much as he knew how?" It was THAT question that really got me thinking.
I think that love is a fairy tale. Society has spent many years, and many millions of dollars in movie production, crafting a mythical ideal of what love should be, how it should taste and smell and look and talk. We are conditioned to believe that love means your whole life stops, and you never have another thought that doesn't include the other person, the object of your affection; we are supposed to fall in love and not be able to breathe, think straight, or spend another night alone. Life is supposed to be blissful, and nothing bad ever really happens as long as you still have that person in your life. I think that is a load of crap. I'm not sure that anyone can ever reach this ideal.
We are all changing, all the time. We learn new things and develop our minds, go through deeply influential experiences, and we change as a result. When you take two people who are in a relationship, you have two people who are changing all the time, not necessarily at the same rate, and not necessarily in the same direction. Perhaps some of these changes are shared, but some most definitely are not. The idea of commitment to one person for the whole rest of your life is something not to be done lightly. Don't get me wrong, I think it can be done and I think it can work, but I also think that is rare. I have two friends who I think are a great example of this; they have decided on a conscious level to stay together and keep loving each other, and by making it a priority in their lives, I have complete faith that their relationship will endure.
Back to the question that started this whole inner dialogue: "Do you think he loved you as much as he knew how?" It's a question that I hear a lot when relationships end and we sit, dissecting the relationship into fragments, trying to find the exact moment when things went awry. The answer this famous daughter gave was yes. She thought the pedophile did indeed love her as much as he could at the time they were married. (Me, I'm not so sure, but hey, I wasn't there.) The reason this question awoke this thought process in me is because I'm not sure that any more can really be asked of a person. I think most people who are in romantic relationships (and by this I mean relatively traditional relationships, not these modern friends-with-benefits relationships) love the person they are with ONLY as much as (or less than) they can, as much as they know how. Certainly people hold back and give less than they could in many circumstances, and do horrible things to one another and use one another and hurt one another. But how can you ask someone to love you MORE than they are able? I think the questions to ask are: "Did he love you in the same way you loved him?" and "Was the way in which he loved you enough for you?"
I have spent a lot of time dissecting a particular relationship I had that ended some time ago. I am absolutely certain that he loved me as much as he was able. I have no doubt of that in my mind whatsoever. I also know that he did not love me in the same way I loved him. I loved him more. For years, I tried to push him into loving me MORE, so things were even. But, he couldn't. He already loved me as much as he could. And so, the way he loved me was not enough for me. We both knew it. And so it could not survive.
I think this is the way it is in relationships. People love each other as much as they can, and hopefully, it will be equal enough, or it will be good enough, for both of them. I don't think it works to ask more of someone. I think it makes things harder. In some cases, it makes things impossible. Despite all of this, I am still a romantic at heart. I guess I just have a different idea of what that means than most people.