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Make sure you know the meaning of “true love” before you head to the Hallmark counter

2013 January 24

That silly day is approaching, when LOVE is celebrated with hearts, flowers, engagement rings, kisses, chocolate, poems, Hallmark pronouncements, and astounding sex in some bedrooms, I trust. Valentine’s Day gift guides from peppy PR gals and guys started flooding my inbox weeks ago.

I call the day “silly” because I think that most of these lovely gestures of love aren’t going to and coming from people who are truly “in love.”

I can just hear you muttering: ‘There she goes again.  What does she know about love?  Divorced, involved with a bad man for a dozen years….blah, blah, blah.’

Precisely.  I’ve learned about good love through all my trials and tribulations with bad love, as well as by observing everyone else’s mistakes for lo these many years.  But before I tell you what love is, let me set the stage by introducing you to three women I know. These are not made up women.  They are all women I’ve known for years.

WOMAN #1: Just 31, Roseanna (not her real name) was engaged to marry a man 24 years her senior.  He’s rich and successful; owns a house in the country and a co-op in the city; takes Roseanna on exciting trips and showers her with gifts.  That’s the good news.  He’s also an alcoholic and has been a playboy.  He tells her he’s going to “ruin her life.”  She’s left him, AGAIN, heartbroken and devastated.

WOMAN #2:  Almost 35, Jenna and her long-time boyfriend recently broke up because he wanted to control her life.  “He’s smart and wonderful, but he expected me to go where he wanted, when he wanted and do what he wanted and I was beginning to get depressed about it all,” Jenna told me.  “He had expectations about how we should live our lives but didn’t care about my expectations for myself.”

WOMEN #3: FOF Marissa has been married for 30 years to a man who has provided well for her.  They have two children and live in a beautiful home in the suburbs.  Marissa hasn’t worked for much of their marriage.  She has an infectious personality and a world of friends.  She’s also put up with her husband’s on again-off again explosive temper and verbal abuse. He’d often prefer to go off to “his” room to listen to “his” music and watch “his” TV.  He’s completely uninterested in talking about anything meaningful. Marissa started an affair, her first, about two months ago. “This man sends me love notes everyday about how smart and caring I am, and his intelligence stimulates me. I’ll take that over sex. [Marissa and her husband have a good sex life, by the way.] I am in love with him.  I don’t love my husband anymore.”

The meaning of true love is no big mystery.  It’s not about sex, money or power; big houses, fancy trips and gifts. It’s not about being smart, stunning and slim. People in love don’t try to change one another, exert their wants and needs on one another, or pick at each other. But people in love are ready, willing and able to do the hard work of changing themselves to keep their love bright, if that what it takes.

People in love aren’t threatened by each other’s goals and ambitions, or even their lack of ambition. People in love don’t try to hurt each other in any way. They don’t say sarcastic things to one another (well, maybe sometimes).  They don’t pout, growl and snarl around each other.

True love is about one thing and one thing alone: Adoration. People in love respect and admire each other for who they are, not for what they want them to be.  They fill each other’s needs, not always at the same time or to the same intensity.

Women #1 and #2 did the right thing. They loved their men but they didn’t have anything close to true love. Woman #3 surely doesn’t have true love with her husband, no matter how many years they’ve been married.  It’s too early to tell whether her new love is “true love,” but I don’t fault her for trying to find out.

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  • Kate Line Snider says:

    All three of these ladies are idiots.Woman #3 is paying with fire. Why not just leave the bum?

    I’m in a loving marriage now, but I can say from hard experience that having nobody is better than living with an a-hole. As for having an affair, who wants to live with all that dishonesty and sneaking around? Women can be so stupid. The man with whom she’s having an affair is no prize, either. After all, he’s bopping another man’s wife.

    Once again- second year I’ve commented this way on your blog- My husband always remembers it an responds appropriately, but I still think Valentine’s day ought to be abolished.

  • Kate Line Snider says:

    Sorry, my typing today is terrible.

  • Mary Benson says:

    Well, having experienced all of the versions of “bad love” of these 3 examples, I can’t be as harsh as Kate Line Snider and call the women idiots–after all, I try to be nice to myself!

    I think we all fall somewhere on the “good love/bad love” spectrum in our relationships. I think by at least being aware of the lacks in our relationships, we can maybe nudge ourselves along in the direction of a more healthy, nurturing kind of relationship. I say “maybe” because I was very good at picking the same type of man, over and over, and it took me until I was 43 to get it right.

    Unfortunately, my path to the type of peaceful, healing relationship that includes the mutual respect and adoration (and room for growth!) Geri describes required a lot of destruction first. Destroying the first marriage, home and lifestyle, destroying my internal ideas of what a successful marriage (and a failed marriage) is, destroying some friendships when the people felt a need to “choose” one side or the other in our non-fighting divorce, destroying other love relationships when they turned out to be a carbon copy of what I just got out of, etc. It was surprising to me to find how much destruction I had to wreak on my way to a peaceful life.

    I can’t just dismiss affairs out of hand–they can actually be good! An affair can show Marissa what she is missing in her marriage and give her the confidence to leave (her boyfriend may only be a transitional relationship that helps her get out of the marriage). I asked a twice-divorced friend how she knew it was time to leave, and she said, “I knew to leave when it became more painful to stay.” Marissa’s affair could help her to find that point when it becomes more painful to stay, whatever happens with the boyfriend afterward, and I can’t condemn that if it helps her to get to a better life.

    I used to think marriage ought to be a 5-year contract, renewable every 5 years. Then I met my second husband, and realized that the 5-year renewable marriage is something you think of when you are unhappy (an easy out! I just won’t renew!).

    Enough rambling. I don’t put much stock in Hallmark Holidays, myself, but do think that any movement, whatever gets us there, further away from the “bad love” side and over to the “good love” is good.

  • Laura Borud says:

    It never ceases to amaze me what too many women will put up with thinking it’s love and afraid to move on. I thought I learned what actual love is the last 3 years. I had never felt the deep love and respect and the emotions that just grew deeper than I had with my previous boyfriend. His 17 year old daughter moved in full time and it was over like that so apparently I was wrong. While I will never again tolerate the bad relationships how will I ever know if love is true or not? I don’t believe I was wrong but since the ex would never talk about it I was left lost and adrift. Back to the subject NEVER let a man control you! That is NOT love.