Welcome to yet another Monday installment. Today we look into love. I think, after having tried it the other way too many times, that Machiavelli may be on to something–it may be better to be feared than to be loved. People who love you are capable of crossing you up, people who are afraid of you know better than to try to. However, fear isn’t nearly as attractive an emotion to elicit in another person.
Refresh Yourself–Part 6:
Everyone Says I Love You
In the words of Tina Turner, “What’s love got to do with it?” Love, such a strong feeling, and so creepy. It isn’t just a many splendored thing, it is a confusing, painful, misleading thing too. By the time we’re nearing 30 we probably should have learned that love is a scary proposition. Love makes us vulnerable and strong, it gives us expectations and excuses, it intoxicates us with joy and hurts so much we can scarcely draw breath, it sends our paradoxical natures into overdrive. We seem to do our best and our worst for those we love. But despite being such a strong driving force in our lives, love has been subject to all sorts of myths, misconceptions, and unreasonable expectations.
Myth 1: Falling in love means you are meant to be together. Hell no. It is possible to fall deeply, passionately in love with a complete loser you shouldn’t give the time of day to or take candy from—thus the need to be careful who you date. If you date morons, jerks, and sluts, it increases your chances of falling in love with a moron, a jerk, or a slut. Sadly, it also increases your chances of marrying morons, jerks, and sluts. In the course of somewhere around three decades of life the average person has probably fallen in love at least once. If they are back in the dating pool after this magical experience then it is probably safe to say that love did not spell out destiny in the stars. I’m not saying love can’t great, but it is wise to keep in mind what it is and what it isn’t. Being in love means that you have amorous feelings for the other person and that’s about it. You loving them doesn’t have anything to do with whether or not the person you love is a good person, or if they love you back, or if they will treat you with even a modicum of respect. The realization that you are in love is simply a clarification of your feelings toward the other person—that’s it.
Myth 2: If a person tells you they love you they must mean it. Women are probably more acquainted with this concept than men because straight boys will say anything to get into a woman’s pants and they learn early on that “I love you” is right up there with “open sesame”. This word of wisdom is for guys who are more familiar with using this tactic than having it used on them. It is a sad truth, but a truth nonetheless that people are capable of saying pretty much anything to get what they want. For example, think of just about every job listing out there—regardless of the position they’re all looking for “self-starters” who work well “independently” but are also great “team players” devoted to helping achieve “personal and company goals” at a “high level” all while maintaining the “highest ethical standards” and can solve third-world debt, but how many of the people who get hired are really all of those things? Perhaps a few paragons are, but the rest of the workforce told the interviewers what they wanted to hear. Dating is nothing so much as an agonizingly prolonged job interview for the position of spouse/life partner. If we are capable of lying through our teeth to rise to the top of middle-management, what are we capable of doing for even the possibility of love and acceptance? Shoot, forget forever, what are we capable of simply to get a date to our reunion? So again, this is another example of needing to be careful with your feelings because people lie.
Myth 3: Falling in love is always about the person. In the course of a day how many times do you think you hear, see, or use the word love? How many times does that actually refer to a person? We are forever falling in love, just not always with people. We might tell a person we love them, when what we really love is that they find us attractive. Some people love that you are not their insensitive ex and that they get to be the bastard for a change. Other people are just in love with the idea of being in love and the person they love could be anyone with a pulse. Gold-diggers can fall madly in love with a person’s bank balance and credit rating. A woman with a biological clock ticking like a bomb can love that a guy represents her chance to start a family before menopause. With all this love flying around it is a good idea to examine what you really love because the other person deserves to be loved for their own sake just as much as you do.
Myth 4: It’s only words. What we say used to mean something, at least that’s what the Frank Capra movies make it look like. People used to say their word was their bond but now we say one thing one moment and something else the next, as if our short attention spans give us the right to be contradictory twits. Yet for as disposable as words have become, there is a strange disconnect with “I love you” that makes it the Bermuda Triangle of sentiment. It is this wonky double standard where we can say “I love you” and think that it shouldn’t mean too much, but heaven help us if someone tells us that they love us because that, my friend, has to be written in stone. Or sometimes, it is the reverse, where the person saying “I love you” really, really means it and is ready to pick out china patterns, but the person hearing it is either so used to hearing it or so skeptical that they don’t invest it with the same importance. Personally, I think the saying should be, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will leave me sobbing in the fetal position on a shrink’s couch.” Too long? While there is no way to guarantee that the person telling you they love you means it, you can set a precedent for yourself and use that phrase only when you mean it.
Myth 5: You can make someone love you. No matter what you do, no matter how perfect you are, no matter how long you are together, no matter how much you love a person, you just can’t make someone love you. If you think this is stating the obvious too much, then watch The Bachelor or The Bachelorette. Thinking you can earn someone’s love or persuade them to see things your way if you work hard enough, is a recipe for insanity. Not only can we not make people love us, we also can’t make them love us the way we want to be loved. We can do all sort of things to persuade someone that we love them and that we are worthy of their love, but in the end they will feel the way they are going to feel and there is nothing we can do about it. Free will can be a real bitch.
As always, thanks for reading. And in parting, I put it to you, when should a person not say “I love you”? I’m just curious what the consensus is. Oh, and for today’s musical selection we have “Caring is Creepy” by The Shins. Next Monday is the series conclusion, a reflection on character.