What About Love?8 min read

As with many other things, the problem with love lies in the difference between what it is and what we expect it to be - what really happens when we think we fell in love, and what we thought happened.


Part 1: Is it true love even if it does not last?

The nature of love occupies us a lot. It is to some extent mystical. But it should not be that the only evidence to its truth is that it lasts. Maybe it did not last, but it was still true.

I have figured it out in the midst of countless stories of friends and acquaintances separating from their partners, some of whom have been in a relationship for not so long and most others after many years of marriage. Of the fewer ones who are not separating, many wonder why they are not happy in their relationships/marriages.

Most of them are asking what happened? I thought I was in love. I thought we were in love. May-be I never really loved him/her. Maybe it was not true love. Did I make a big mistake choosing that person in the first place?

People are increasingly asking why can’t most relationships last past marriage, past having children or even past a decade.

I read in a book by a relationship therapist that one man came asking what happens to love after marriage? He has had 3 marriages and each time he thought he was in love. Each one, for different reasons and with varying circumstances, ended up with no love left.

The way I see it, after observing and listening to a great many stories with a myriad of different circumstances and characters,  we do not fall in love with a person; We love the feeling this person makes us feel – a feeling about ourselves. And at that moment, we think it’s the person. He or she is the one. Solely. Purely. Irreducibly.

While the person is at the heart of  this feeling, it is only partly true that the reason, we feel we are in love, is entirely attributed to this person’s unique and everlasting qualities. Who he/she is because of their self, and whatever future self tied to their present and past selves.

It is however, partly the person, partly the given time where many factors are perfectly aligned and specific to that moment or moments. And it is also how we love ourselves because of that person, at that moment in time; how that person makes us feel about ourselves. We feel sublimely loved, special, unique and most worthy. Feelings we all desire and need very deeply. We declare, he/she is the ‘One’.

Then, with time, a great many fights after, arguments and discussions, triggered by disagreements and conflicts of interest over holiday plans, how to educate the children, whose time is worth more, how to make use of limited resources, how to and whether to tolerate our respective in-laws and friends, who will wash the dishes this time, who is always doing more at home, who needs to take more initiative, who should be a better parent…

…this feeling gradually evaporates.

Because all these different conflicts create situations where we transmit none of those messages that say we are special, unique and loved. We surely had disagreements and rows before – while we were simmering in love, but the frequency, and the type of conflicts were considerably different and the way we resolve them is maybe the more distinguishing aspect.

Most people at the early stages of relationship will fight over time spent with other people, small habits that get on the others’ nerves, tiny acts of selfishness, organizational matters, compromises….but these fights are rooted in a deep need to spend time together, sometimes in jealousy, and mostly to reach the point where we declare that we will spend the rest of our lives together.

And at that stage,  no one ever says or rarely says they fight because they are just very different people  – that mostly comes after marriage. For now the fact that we are different (even when others point it out to us), makes us feel complete, like we complement each other- it is what makes it all fun.

If you listen to those in love, they idealize everything in their relationship.

Even the faults of the other are made to seem either seductive, mystic or complementary to our own personality. If he is dry or blunt, she will make it sound like it is what makes him charming in a special way. If he is a loner type or socially inept, then he is selective and authentic- maybe even deep. Even mischief is sexy to a partner at this stage. Because it makes her/him feel special – he/she is weak towards her/him. If she is a tomboy, it attests to her confidence in her feminine energy. If she is brash, it’s because she is not like all the other girls who are too meek.

We manipulate data to fit our narrative of why we feel so good with that person.

All these things which we rationalized become the ones we cite as the reasons we want out after being together for some time. I have heard my friends saying they came to the conclusion that they were too different.  He is such a loner…she is just brash… he is selfish...and they conclude, ‘irreconcilable differences’.

Those earlier confrontations are not as bad, because at that stage, we bring the best out of each other as we see the best in each other. And it is the same way we bring the worst out of each other many years after.

Once we come together with the clear statement that we will share the rest of our lives -once that has been achieved with the vows…the marriage or the moving-in that sealed this journey and that decision is behind us, all these rationalizations change. And that is when we fight slightly differently.

Each hurting word, each reckless act, each selfish move depletes a layer – a layer of the reasons we feel special. The reasons to believe we are specially loved disappear in a deceptive way, without us noticing this consciously. Seeing ourselves in each other’s eyes becomes painful. We appear flawed and our shortcomings are magnified.

So, in fact, they stop making us feel good – this special, this nice. This great!  First this happens in episodes, interrupted by remnants of the good feelings, then as the episodes expand, they replace the good times and they become the new normal.

In a way, if you think about it, this is inevitable. Totally normal. In fact, very probable. What is astonishing, is the cases where this does not develop in a similar way. While life goes on, we change, they change and what is highly unlikely is that our feelings stay the same.

When we vow to stay together, and love each other forever, what we really mean, is that when the bliss is over, and it does not feel this way –this nice, we will still stay together and try to make it work.  Because we need stability. Stability is a good thing especially  – yet not only – for children. And that is true. Stability is a good feeling for all of us. But is it enough?

So I reached the conclusion, that this love thing we think we can feel with a person, and which if  real then shouldn’t change,  is a big myth.

We think love is unconditional, when it is very conditional. The most conditional.

When our relationships fail, most of us think it was the wrong person, or that person changed beyond our expectations or the circumstances pushed the love away, and many think maybe they were not really in love- it was not true love.

In many cases  this is true. Some people were never meant to be together and some shouldn’t. Yes there is a fair share of these unhappy relationships because they were wrong from the start or have gone terribly wrong for various reasons other than misconceiving love.

But in many others, it is simply the myth of a true love that is separate from everything else- that is independent of everything else. It is expecting a feeling to last that simply cannot do so naturally.

Instead, what we should strive to do is re-invent this feeling with that person yet with the new parameters. The new me, the new him/her, the new circumstances i.e. the ‘changed’ me, the ‘changed’ him or her and the entire ‘changed’ thing.

It is my belief that in many cases, love did not go away – rather a conviction of a feeling of ‘no-matter-what’ has gone away. A belief that was misguided in the first place. The illusion that this feeling is entirely and solely because of a person – a magic of the combination of our two souls.

Because love is not unconditional, is not supernatural, is not naturally forever and ever.

It can be.

If we make it – if we want to, and if we are also lucky in all the ways we have changed and with all the circumstances surrounding our change; If we are lucky enough to be able to want the same things out of life after all this (or at least not want conflicting things); If we decide to recognize that and every few years renew our love- reinvent it.

Many ‘If’s’, but if sothen we can love each other again.

True love should not be treated as eternal in and of itself – immune to the passing of time.

Even if we no longer feel we are in love after many years, it was true love when it happened.

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