A Theory of Love

I know that there are uses for categories and labels.  They are very useful for categorizing people, for putting a layer of distance between yourself and someone that you need to leave behind for whatever reason.  Even when you don’t need the distance and it’s just a function of trying to make life easier.  I’m an INTP.  You’re an ESFJ.  This means that we should some how be able to predict each other.  I’m a Cancer, you’re an Aries.  I already know this is going to end in disaster.

Except, of course, you never fall in love with someone’s resume.  And all of those traits that land you in the DSM really just mean that you’re relentlessly flawed and therefore relentlessly human.  I don’t know anyone who isn’t a little screwy in some way or another.

So what are you going to do?  Love is already as improbable as an aardvark.  It’s classic risk-taking behavior that ought to be treated by medication.  It’s a disease in and of itself.  It’s also the only thing worth throwing yourself at in this mess we call life.

And we’ve been lied to about what it is and what it looks like.  It isn’t always Prince Charming.  Sometimes it is  your best friend that you never saw that way before.  Sometimes it is an idea or a cause.  Sometimes it’s the whole mess of humanity.

Romantic comedies lie, television shows lie, trashy romance novels lie.  It’s not clean, it isn’t clear cut, it isn’t something you do once and then you get to coast for the rest of your life in a champagne bubble of bliss.   There’s no classic story arc here.   You don’t meet, misunderstand once, meet again, and live happily ever after.  If you get that arc at all, it’s one that’s repeated once a day.  Maybe once a week.  Once a month if you’re lucky and once a year if you’re exceptional.

Every day you get up and you get dirty and you get cut and sometimes those cuts get infected.  Some days you hang on by your teeth and some days by your broken fingernails.  You fight and you f*ck and you fall down, and then you get up the next morning and you do it all over again.  You go further, grow more compassion, do things a rational person would never do, hurt each other, rebuild stronger than before…

And as long as you’re doing it together, as long as your strongest impulse is to defend the space for your partner to grow, as long as your partner is as close to being home as you can get, as long as you’re in it together…  I say go for it.  Get dirty.  Do it all wrong, then try again tomorrow.  Duke it out (metaphorically).  There’s space in-between the unrealistically optimistic love songs and the kick him to the curb love songs.  Space for it to be impossible and be forever and ever amen too.  Room for patience.  Room to let the other guy be imperfect and let you down.  Good reasons to set your ego aside, to stop thinking about yourself altogether for a time, and do what he needs done even if you don’t like it.  Because God knows you’re going to need the same treatment at some point.

Love that lasts isn’t sunshine and roses.  It lasts because even when you hate your partner the most, you still want to wake up next to them tomorrow morning.  It lasts because the one person who can cut you the deepest is the only person who can help you heal.

Obviously, I’m not talking about the kind of love that involves real fists and knives.

All I’m saying is that life and love are messy.  Embracing it makes at least as much sense as fighting it.  I’d rather be messy and imperfect with the person that fits.  It’s better than following all the rules with someone who doesn’t fit, as if you can tie your life up in a pretty bow like they do on TV.  I don’t care that it isn’t anyone’s idea of perfect; I know who I want to be eating breakfast with in 20 years.  Which means I’m going to show up again tomorrow.  And the day after that.  For as long as I can, to hell with supposed to and should.

So there you go.  I’m sure there’s a DSM entry for that too.

A Theory of Love

83 thoughts on “A Theory of Love

  1. I’ve always thought of romantic love as a burden, something that was felt towards me and that I was expected to feel back. I can understand compatibility, but love? No. Still, I think I get what you’re saying here. Live life to the fullest and don’t worry about getting hurt; I totally agree with that.


  2. So true. My first husband was “perfect on paper” but a screw-up in real life. My second, who is very different from me, has hung in for 13 years (so far), as have I. Making it work is very under-rated.


  3. It is a very interesting theory that love is a diagnosable disorder entirely worth engaging in. I have seen many real people model their expectations based on these depictions, and they do actually end up in therapy. But the truth is as you put it, “It’s also the only thing worth throwing yourself at in this mess we call life.” I agree, and that is also not a minor consolation either.


  4. There must be… The very premise – that there’s something inside that must be given expression – sounds like the kind of thing a good psychiatrist would find troublesome. But I’m the one writing about a very raw frustration in public, so I’d be doubly diagnosed.


  5. Maybe it’s just my personal experience, but I’ve always found love to be defiant of rules to a fault. I like to say — crudely — that you can’t legislate sex. Tell a man who he can’t have and all he’ll hear is a challenge.

    I believe this is the type of revolution some of our great spiritual leaders have pushed. Jesus, for instance (I’m not christian, this is just an example), came, by his admission, to free us from the law that we might be governed by the principle to “love the lord your god with all your heart and soul and mind and love all mankind as you would love yourself.”

    My theory of love is that it’s critical to what separates us from animals. It’s the ability to care about someone else — their happiness and well-being — more than yourself. That directly defies the laws of evolution. One of my favorite things about love is its defiance.


  6. An interesting perspective & read. After whats happened in my life this week, I relate a lot referencing love to passion im my own mind. New to WordPress and trying to tell my story to the World, its awesome to see posts like this, totally enjoyable & inspiring.


  7. Only a person who has experienced love could write a post like this – kudos to getting underneath all the ‘hoopla’ surrounding love, and finding it’s core. Really great read 🙂


  8. I would like to like this a few more times. But perhaps we shouldn’t believe in ‘Love’ anymore. Yes those feelings you have are real, but why do we call them love? Love is something cooked up by troubadors and in more recent days ad agencies. With enough proximity you could have fallen in love with a different person who matched you… It (the myth of ‘Love’) creates and furthers behavior patterns of hurt and obsession and grudges and fear and anxiety. So. Why do we continue to follow that piper? And to the Ask Liesmith person, I would say, rather than referencing Jesus, why don’t you look up some writings on polyamory and make your point in a concrete and recent way. Doesn’t mean you have to change. Just read and think.


  9. God so very true. I am going through tough times with my hubby now and I couldn’t imagine being with someone else. And roses aren’t around these days. Thanks for the blog!


  10. **LOVED reading this! And want to say word, word, word..you nailed it. What I’ve learned on my life journey as a hopeless/hopeful/romantic/born to be a lover-not-a-fighter type of person is this..LOVE is more about what we feeeeeel from the heart to be bestowed upon another and shouldn’t be given in hopes of receiving the same in return. So the ultimate that will happen as a result of this? That because its given sincerely and from the heart not to receive something..that indeeeed LOVE will be returned. For aren’t the best beautiful gifts in life the ones that are given without expecting a thing back in return?? Least thats the way I see it…


  11. I am Aries woman and I do see your point because I have gone through the same, it wasn’t about flowers and wine so much but there are days when you want your loved one to comfort you and you do need some fairy tale. Now, having gone through that now if I need someone, I do need a little flower and wine one.


  12. blackshepherd says:

    There, there!!! I mean: “hear, hear!!!” Funny, I was just writing to myself about blackness and depression and somehow surviving the winter…maybe I’m “in love”….no just kidding, no, seriously…I think you’re correct…real love is the absolutely most irrational expression a human being ever can make…by “real” I mean “lasting”…it conquers all…it’s always there the next day or several days later, it’s rooted in something that’s deeper than anything else that could otherwise undermine it…it’s almost impossible therefore it’s mystical and virtually unexplainable and it can be the lonliest feeling one can ever feel because the connection often must survive on faith…faith in the basic goodness of the other…but so much more…I’m too depressed to think about it but I think you’re right “somehow” that’s what I’m trying to say…I think…


  13. This is brilliant. The view as love as a disease, and the saving grace to this thing we call life is a fantastic comparison of polar opposites pulling on one another. Well done.


  14. kittyjane says:

    Love it! Seriously true. I love where you said “as long as your strongest impulse is to defend the space for your partner to grow”, SO important and if we keep a view on this throughout the hard times, it’ll make us defend and protect our relationships even more! Posting this on my blog.


  15. The words are raw and it stirred me. Maybe because I’m a bit more realistic these days, I believe in the 70/30 rule. I think relationships need to be effortless most of the time and there is no such thing as perfect, but there is such a thing as easy.


  16. How appropriate that you posted this on election day in the U.S.! It’s a perfect metaphor for our messy political system – we’re all slogging along here, sometimes hanging by our fingernails, sometimes hating “the other,” but always waking up next to each other trying to make a better life together. All of us totally dysfunctional. Thanks for the food for thought! Congrats on being Freshly Pressed. I will investigate your other posts — I like your voice & style. Authentic. Peace out-


  17. gnivmcelada says:

    “Love that lasts isn’t sunshine and roses. It lasts because even when you hate your partner the most, you still want to wake up next to them tomorrow morning. It lasts because the one person who can cut you the deepest is the only person who can help you heal.”

    I love that part. For me LOVE lasts because the person choose to LOVE, stay in LOVE and never give up on LOVE. 🙂


  18. sianhannah says:

    I love the way you conclude clearly all the messiness you have been through at some point, If you come out the other side with this kind of understanding and appreciation you have done really damn well hun! x


  19. “The one person who can cut you the deepest is the only person who can help you heal.” Powerful. As someone who follows the optimistic love songs and bow-wrapped love stories on television, I really appreciated this post. So honest. So raw. So accurate. Thanks!


  20. littlewing131 says:

    Great post 🙂 although it does make love sound rather painful. In my experience: relationships are hard. But for someone you love that hard is worth it. The love you feel makes the hard much much easier.


  21. Thank you. Your comment came on a morning I really needed a little bit of hope myself, and was exactly the right kind of encouragement…



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