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.