Wednesday, May 25, 2005

True love

The word ‘love’ is bandied about frequently. We all use it on a daily basis. Indeed there are many different kinds of love… kinds that the English language doesn’t have words for, so they all gut stuffed under the universal banner of “love”.

It’s a word I battle with. Because it’s laden with so many different connotations, I think very carefully before using it… I make absolutely certain the person I’m saying it to understands the specific meaning I was aiming at.

Sometimes it’s easy… When I tell someone “I love Star Trek” it’s pretty straight forward. They instantly know what sense I mean: that I really enjoy immersing myself in the Star Trek experience, by watching it, reading about it or playing games based on it.

Likewise when I say “I love my cat” they can understand that too: she makes me happy when she lies on my chest and purrs, and how she used to keep me warm on winter nights when we still used to live together.

It starts getting a lot more complicated when I say “I love you”. This meaning is not necessarily immediately apparent. There are many kinds of love that can exist between two humans… unless the person I’m saying it to knows me particularly well, they won’t know which one I am referring to.

It’s for that reason I usually refrain from saying it to people altogether. Growing up, it wasn’t really said in my house. I don’t recall a single occasion when my parents or my sisters ever told me they loved me, or vice versa. There was never any need. Perhaps that’s part of the reason I find it so hard to say now… not much practice.

As it stands today, there are only two people I say it to from time to time. And it means something quite different when I say it to each of them.

To the one it reminds her that she is an important part of my life and that I care about her a lot, in a completely non-romantic sense. She understands that, and when she says it back to me I know that she means it the same way.

To the other it means something else entirely, and when she says it back I don’t know what it really means.

That disparity has got me thinking a lot about so-called ‘true love’, and what its nature really is.

I’ve spent some time recently trawling through dating websites looking for something… I don’t know what. But one thing I noticed recurring in profile after profile was the expressed desire to find what they believed to be “true love”… often quantified in terms of trips to Paris, candle-light dinners, walks on the beach and so on. Although passion and romance are cool, I don’t believe they represent true love at all.

The way I see it, true love is about a willingness to do whatever it takes to bring happiness to the object of your affection. It’s about being prepared to make sacrifices for them.

True love begs questions like these:

Am I willing to leave the relationship to make this person happy?
Am I prepared to wait forever for this person?
Am I prepared to sacrifice my life, or any part of it, for this person?

Only once you’re able to answer ‘yes’ to all of those questions are you in a place when you can understand true love.

But not only that, it’s about everyday life. It’s about being prepared to share every aspect of your life with someone.

It’s about staring into their eyes and seeing more beauty than exists anywhere else in the world for you. It’s about taking a taxi to work so your partner can use your car because theirs is in for a service. It’s about having a meal ready when your partner gets home from working late. It’s about massaging the stress-knots out of their back without having to be asked because you know they need it. It’s about taking over all the house-hold chores for a few days when they’re in bed with the flu.

It’s about the slightest touch to the cheek, or a soft kiss on the forehead… when these things mean more than anything, than everything… when that touch says “I love you”.

These things seem mundane and thoroughly unromantic, and indeed they may be. But to me these are the things of true love.