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Thursday, June 26, 2008

One True Love or Many?

A friend regrets that she has not yet experienced a lasting love, one that would have engaged her whole mind, heart and body forever after. I am surprised because to me this seems a most loving woman! I would say she IS love. And she has certainly experienced loves with whom she's no longer together.

It hits me at last what a sad fate that would be, which she dreams of – to have loved only once, even if forever. Yet we have all had that dream of the ultimate Soul Mate, the Perfect Match. Certainly no-one has nourished that romantic fantasy more than I did for much of my life.

I adore being in love, and the thrills of passion (yes, even now!). But, as we learn, love evolves beyond that 'first fine careless rapture'. I also appreciate the great adventure of marriage, working out the puzzle of how to continue in love through the day-to-dayness, the petty things about both parties, the intrusion of life's practical problems, all that. I've had one very short marriage followed by two long ones, and of course they have encompassed all sorts of emotions and many different phases of relationship. Some of those are downright awful while they last! I've always liked the story of the elderly, long-married couple who were asked if they'd ever considered divorce. One of them, and it doesn't matter which, said, 'No, never. But' (with a wink) 'often murder.'

Two of my marriages did end in divorce; one's still going despite some occasional shaky moments. I know now that the first, very brief one wasn't founded on love but on the idea of love. We were 'playing house' and the toy building blocks soon collapsed, sadly but inevitably. (The fact that he turned out to be a seriously compulsive gambler didn't help!) But the others were love matches for sure. And then there were all the loves before and between the marriages, and even during.

I'm an absolute sucker for a handsome face and a delectable form, but lasting love demands more than that. I've had my share of one night stands, unsuitable suitors, and brief dalliances that soon fizzled out for lack of common interests. I'm not counting them here; I'm talking about the real loves. I'm a deep, serious Scorpio, no good at flirting but absolutely into grand passion and soul connection. Yes, the sex had better be good – and so had the mental and spiritual rapport. Give me 'the marriage of true minds' every time!

Luckily for me there have been several. Sometimes that got a bit tragic, when things weren't destined to be permanent – more so when people died – but my memories of all my true loves are warm and lasting. (Even when sexual consummation wasn't included – though that was rare.)

'Love forever' I wrote to John, whom for a long time I regarded as the great love of my life.

'Forever is a long time to love,' he wrote back. 'How about, Love – as long as you're still the person you are today.'

He died young and suddenly, a few months later. So, although I am not the person I was then, 26 years ago, he stayed forever the person he was, and – for that or whatever reason – I've loved him this long at least.

And yes, the love has changed. At that time I thought I would have thrown myself into a fire if it could have saved his life. It couldn't, so that was never tested. The longing for his lost physical presence went on for many years, and I still quicken to the thought. And yet, in a way I am looking back affectionately at a younger me as well as him. Once I dreaded all the years I must live, in which he would still be dead; now I am glad to have lived long enough to fall in love a few more times, and to be unable to say any more that that love surpasses all others.

And there were others before him, too, whom I recall fondly. If I'm not 'in love' with them any more as I was years ago, still I enjoy that feeling of tenderness towards the people they, and I, used to be; and those who are left alive I wish very well. (Four, including both my former husbands, are dead.)

Whether things turned out well or ill, as I viewed it at the time, I see now how each lover gave me something special and taught me more about loving. I had so much to learn!

I used to say, 'Every woman deserves one bastard' – on the theory that they can give us our greatest lessons if we choose to learn. But now that I look back, I don't see any real bastards in my own love life, just human beings.

I have to say, I've been well and truly loved, and that matters to me. I begin to understand that it matters even more that I become able to love others well and truly. In any aspect of life, it's good to have something to grow into.

It's taken me this long to finally understand, not intellectually but by experience, that love isn't a pie! It's not that if I give a slice to X there'll be less left over for Y; quite the opposite. Love grows with being given, so the more I give the more I have to give. You've heard this before, I'm sure. I had! It's something else again to fully experience it.

Now I'm at last coming to a place of unconditional, non-possessive love. That's a hard thing to summon up, in the throes of romantic passion. But in the end it's the kind of love most worth cultivating. We find it in our friendships and some of our family relationships, if we're lucky. I'm glad to say that I'm discovering it can certainly apply in one's romantic life as well.


  1. Love is fascinating: how it feels, what else it makes you feel, the chapters it makes of your life, why you feel it, when and who for... plus of course, that you can never be objective about it when you're in it. It's like standing in a breeze - you can feel it but you can't see it... until you take a step back and watch it in the trees.

    The phases of love are interesting too, although scary when you don't know them... when you look back at the 'honeymoon period' of a relationship for the first time, it's easy to think, What happened? before you get round to evaluating your relationship and realising you're still as much in love as you ever were, but that this doesn't mean that you have to spend every second thinking about it. Wonderful as that is, I'm glad it's not forever or we'd never get anything done! The first steps of love are like an altered state, and like any altered state, it's great to get back there every now and then but it's also nice to plateau.

    I've gone off on a tangent again... but that's a testament to how much I enjoyed this post!

  2. Your lovely comment doesn't seem tangential to me, but right on topic!

    Yes, how true - we start out not knowing where it will lead. How brave we all are, when you come to think of it!

  3. i've been thinking about love a lot lately, as I'm sure you've noticed :) reading and re-reading this post, i think i actually felt myself finally "exhale". i find myself getting so bound up in permanence, or rather, impermanence lately - thank you for the reminder that love changes and that that's ok.

  4. Thanks for stopping by! Crossing my fingers and toes for you, in finding a solution for your dilemma.