Saturday, 20 April 2013

Love is a Verb

Please forgive the cliché in the title, I'm struggling with titles at the moment and there's not really much of a better way to out this. I'm 6 months into that supposedly tricky first year of marriage, and I've been thinking about love quite a bit of late. Partly because I've recently taken to using 'love' as a term of endearment and because of all of the life/relationship upheavals that I hinted at here. In that blog I mostly talked my way around the things that were on my mind, primarily because I'm no longer an even semi-anonymous blogger and I now need to take into account that my words have further reaching consequences than me ranting into the void.
If my friends who follow my blog through my facebook post are wondering why they never noticed that post at the time, it's because I didn't put it on facebook. Too much rambling, and the potential to misconstrue who the blog post was about. The truth of the matter is that my blogs are about all of my friends. And my blogs are about non of my friends. I'm connected to a lot of people. I'm a colleague, an acquaintance, a student, a daughter, a friend, a business contact, a teacher, a sister, an editor and a wife. I'm also a random stranger on the internet. Nevertheless, there are odd convergencies going on in the lives of the people I know, and this is what often leads to blog posts of the ponderous kind. Like this one.

Where was I? Oh yeah, so I've been think quite a bit about the nature of love lately. Not specifically romantic love, just love for other people. I remember when I was in High School and we were having a break time chat with 'the cool teacher'. I have the idea that we all had one of those in our school, the one who you could catch swearing in class and who regaled the class with their drunken Uni stories, mostly because they weren't actually that much older than the Senior pupils. The one that you realise was actually a bit of an arse when you're old enough to know better. Well, we were chatting about relationships and I was in the minority because I was dating someone from a different school. I was asked, in a slightly sneering manner, if I loved him . I was well known for being over emotional, a characteristic of my early teens that surprises many of my current friends. In fact as a teen I was rather pragmatic about relationships, and my response was something about love meaning different things in different contexts and if they meant did I love him unconditionally and want to spend the rest of my life with him, did I think he was 'the one', then no I didn't feel like that about him. That didn't mean that we hadn't said that we loved each other, and it didn't meant that I didn't feel like I was in love with him. Just that I understood that I was fifteen and had a lot of things to experience before I loved someone enough to call them my other half and mean it with sincerity. 

The way that we talk about a thing, the language that we use to convey meaning, is very important in shaping the way that we react to it as much as the way we react to something shapes the language that we use. In that situation in High School I objected to the particular type of love that was being presented and I wanted to distance myself from it. What I mean when I say 'I love you' is different in many different contexts, and learning to tell the difference is something that I think is vital in becoming an adult. Learning the reality of love - in contrast to the fantasy we are sold in popular culture - is part of life. We learn that love is patient, not because the person that we love will always be perfect and patience will be easy, but because when you love someone you have to be patient with them to be able to live with them. (Husband will, I'm sure, attest to the patience required to live with me, something he won't be doing soon. But that's a different story for another day.)

What we also learn is that love isn't something that exists in a vacuum of squishy feelings. Love is not a state of being but a state of doing. Love is a verb for a reason, it requires action. It is not something we say, but something we do. By this I don't mean the supposedly obligatory bunch of roses on Valentines Day, or even sharing the housework. It's not a one off action, or something that you would - quite rightly - do for anyone that you were living with. It is an action not of habit or courtesy, but of necessity.

Understanding other people's relationships can often be tricky. While I can thankfully say that I've never expressed the 'I give it a year' sentiment in regards to other people's relationships, I have often expressed confusion at the dynamic of a particular couple. I often don't understand how they work because I perceive them as very different personalities and can't see how they could possibly function. This genuinely bears no resemblance to whether or not said relationship works, and I'm reminded of just how many people told me and Husband that it would never last, that we were young romantics and that we would eventually join the 'real world'. This real world is apparently full of heartbreak, and devoid of authentic long term commitment.

As much as I know that's not true, it is sometimes too easy to see the faults of another relationship when you're not ensconced in it's bubble. There's something about love that we all recognise when it is present, and when it is noticeably absent. A lack of physical contact or regard for their partner was continually observed by many people in a couple who were friend of a friend of mine. The kind you see in the company of other people. Perhaps because of the situations in which we encountered them it was easy to compare, but the lack of affection was startling. We often wondered amongst ourselves why he didn't leave. Things are never clear cut and, as my Mum is fond of saying you never know what goes on behind closed doors. But...

But, we do see and respond to those things that signify love between two people; unconscious gestures in public spaces, an awareness of the other person both physically and emotionally, mentioning them in conversation because the distinction between 'you' and 'me' is so much more blurry, a mindfulness of the other's comfort and well being. Love is not found in overblown romantic gestures, or in clichéd phrases. It is found in the intimate, everyday touch of two people being and encountering the world together.

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