Sorting through the past
Love by any other name
Have you ever been in love?
It is an age-old question without a proper response. The dry definition of love is, "an intense feeling of deep affection". Does this adequately express the word love? If so, are there different depths of deep affection?
The new love of a boyfriend. The jolt of electricity between two people as they "fall in love" and find that mutual attraction. Is it deep affection? We say we are "falling in love" but I hold that we use the term "falling" because this is not love. This is nothing more than attraction and the excitement of infatuation. Ah, the definition of infatuation, "an intense but short-lived passion or admiration for someone or something". But this intense passion rivals the intense feelings of deep affection. Many people believe that infatuation is love. They feel that when they lose that "spark" that they have lost the love they shared. But, just to play Devil's advocate: would you give your life for one you just met and had that intense passion for in that moment? I know I would not give up much for that sensation. This is how I know it is not love. When I weight that spark against my life, I know the spark will fail long before I give up my last breath.
The fresh love of a newborn baby. Wow! Could anything be more controversial to throw under the bus? A newborn baby. Many say, "I fell in love the moment I saw his smile". You mean his bout of gas, right? Many more say, "It was unconditional love from the first moment I held him". Was it? I know we like to tell our kids these things. I have talked to many friends and coworkers regarding their experiences with having a baby. For the most part we all recall it the same way. First there is the trauma of giving birth. There is no way to bring the child into the world that does not cause great trauma to the mother. A woman's body undergoes tremendous change to bring life into the world. At the end of that we have the euphoric feeling of "the pain and trauma is over". Then they hand us our little bundle of joy. For me and a lot of women, we look down at this precious gift and say, "what am I going to do now?". Then for the next few years we make it all up as we go along. Yes, seriously made up. But do you love that child? Is it an unconditional love? The first instant you see that baby, no. It takes some time. Some time for the shock of the trauma to wear off. Some time to grow and feel the love and admiration of the child. But, yes, eventually it is this unconditional love. An intense feeling of deep affection that will not leave you under any circumstances. A love that you would lay down your life for. A love that will destroy your life if you don't guard against it (to come in another entry, look for "empty nester"). This love is so pure and true, I don't think you can find this love any other way.
The love of a spouse. This is the most widely talked about and disputed love on earth! Some people say you can never love a spouse like you love a child, I agree with them. Others say the love of a child is not as strong as the love of a spouse. I don't find this as true. For me: I wish that love of a spouse did not exist. I wish I had never converted from infatuation with my now husband to love. I wish that I could turn off or let go of the intense feelings of deep affection. I wish I didn't care what became of him or what happened in the long run to this human. But, atlas, I did fall in love with him. The rest of this post is dedicated to why I hope neither of my children ever fall in love with their spouse.
I love my husband. It didn't start off as love, it started off as lust and infatuation. He was a 22-year-old very built military man. He was disciplined. He was mentally and physically strong. We played softball and exercised together. We loved our life. Then we decided to have a child. Through many tries due to my infertility we finally conceived. It was 1995. My pregnancy was quickly deemed high risk. My activity level had to decrease. I could no longer play contact sports. During the last 3 months I was put on bedrest. The lack of physical activity changed the composition of my body and the overall make-up of my relationship with my husband. We were now on different paths. He tried to be supportive but lacked empathy skills (something I didn't know about him). Where most people would hug me or tell me things would change after childbirth, he would poke fun or make a joke. This was the red flag I missed. At this time love was still developing and I could have left without lingering feelings. But I stayed. I blamed myself for being weak.
After the birth of our son we moved to another state. This would be the last time I ever saw my close friends. My husband, who I had now fallen in love with, became depressed and sullen. I got him all the help he would take, but his mood did not improve. Eventually, I became pregnant again. This time we had a daughter. My husband was still depressed and was very verbal about not liking children or me going through pregnancy. I told him he could have a vasectomy or get divorced, both would solve his problems. He chose to have a vasectomy and rationalized, "I love you I just don't like children". This started the 18 years of Hell. With each passing year I heard, "only __ years until the kids leave". He counted down the years like he was counting down a prison sentence.
Divorce? Yes, I left him. I left him many time. I left him and moved across country. Each time he came to me and wanted another chance. Each time, out of love, I gave it to him. Finally, as my daughter was graduating high school he became too much to handle. He had started drinking several years before. He was rude and mean as a drunk. I sent him to rehab ($10,000 out of pocket). In rehab he told everyone that he drank because I was emasculating him. We had a family counseling session with the kids present at which time the counselor told everyone his drinking was because I was too controlling and he felt as if he had no say in his life. It was my fault. So, as my daughter was graduating high school, he became drunk one last time. He broke down my door and tried to harm me. I called the police. He went to jail and I filed for divorce. Good for me. I sold my house, moved into a small apartment, and started a new job. I was happier than I had been in a while. At least most of the time. At night, or when my mind wandered I would cry. I missed that man I married and fell in love with. You know, the disciplined muscular military man. Yeah, him. But he no longer existed. He was gone. It was only me now, and the me of 25 years before did not exist either. So, I started creating a new me, a stronger me, a better me.
Guilt. So time passed and I continued to get stronger. Meanwhile, he got weaker. In the end he was living in a storage unit working at Target. He was weak, skinny, malnourished, and on death's door. My daughter, a new mother now, couldn't stand to look at her father. He was lost. He would come by and we would talk. Yes, I still loved him. I wanted what was best for him. He swore he had stopped drinking. I moved into a 2-bedroom apartment and let him sleep in the 2nd bedroom. He started getting his business back on track. He started eating better. Eventually, he started to feel better. After a couple of years, we rekindled our romance and remarried.
Now on the second try. Fully in love with this man and married again. Who would have guessed the outcome. Everyone, that is who, everyone. He quickly started drinking again. He yells horrible things at me when drunk. He is continually passive aggressive. Yes, I still love him, but it is a new kind of love, caretaker love. A caretaker in a romantic relationship will look out for their mate's needs, feelings, and desires. The mates tend to be an emotional "taker" or manipulative. My spouse is both. No, I have no idea how many years we are into this new relationship, maybe 5? But this I do know, it is worse than ever. Is there a way to fix it? Is there a way to ensure happiness for me? I don't know...