Today’s entry is Day 5, my definition of love. Now, although I’m linking last year’s entries, I’m trying not to read them before I write this year’s entry. So I may echo myself occasionally, but then again, I may be chronicling a change in mindset over the past year. I kind of hope it’s a little of both. Anyway.
Love, to me, is when the good outweighs the bad. It’s when the benefits of the relationship far outweigh the difficulties. I mean, all relationships are difficult, whether they’re familial, friendship, love, or parental. It’s just the way things are. Different personalities and different backgrounds butt heads. I think love is when you’re not just willing to look past those differences, but actually value them. I think love is when someone matters so much to you that you want to put in the effort of making the relationship work.
For familial love, I have (obviously) my siblings and dad. My family and I differ greatly in our political and religious views. I used to say we never talked about them, but that’s not entirely true. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I realize that my origin family and I discuss politics and religion pretty damn frequently. The great thing is that we disagree with each other, but that doesn’t stop us loving and respecting each other. I had a several-hours long discussion with my dad on corporate taxation the other night. I vote Democrat, but I lean far more left and socialist than the Democratic party is willing to go in America. I’d prefer to live in Germany or Norway, quite honestly. My dad, on the other hand, is an interesting mix of values. He’s a Tea Party-supporting, Republican-voting, Glenn-Beck-listening guy, yet he has a firm grasp on history, is a lawyer, and possesses slightly socialist (in the true sense of the word; not the Americanized Glenn Beck, proto-communist definition) values. He lived in Germany for 5 years, Norway for 2. He understands political systems elsewhere in the world, and doesn’t suffer from the blind ethnocentrism that colors so much of American politics and voters.
As a result, although we disagree on how certain things should be achieved, we both agree that changes should be made. We can have a lively discussion ranging from corporate taxation and the history of labor unions to whether or not gay marriage is a state or a Federal issue, and although we have completely different ideas, we’re able to have a vibrant discussion based on facts, not emotion, and end the conversation with respect and affection.
I really value that about my family. I really value that we disagree, but we can (usually) discuss our disagreements. I really value that we love and respect each other. I really value that our disagreements don’t shape our interactions; that our commonalities do. And the thing is, although right here I’m focusing specifically on a conversation where we did disagree, but treated each other respectfully anyway, that’s not the majority of our conversations. Pretty much all the conversations I have with my family members — sisters, brothers, and dad — focus all the minutiae of daily life. We talk about the kids, our daily activities, our struggles, our hopes, our dreams, and our shared history. Maybe 10% total of all these conversations focus on our political and religious disagreements. I talk to my dad, on average, twice a week. I talk to my siblings at least twice a month (maybe not every single one gets two, or even one, conversation a month, but if you average out the total time talking to siblings, there is a conversation with a sibling at least once a month.)
Friendship love is different. Unlike family, there’s not the vague sense that you have to have a relationship, even if they say or do something that bothers you. Friends are the family you’ve chosen, and those bonds can be surprisingly and disappointingly easy to break, as I’ve learned in the past. Now, my closest non-familial friendships are of the variety that we can pick up conversation without a hitch after weeks to months of not talking. My friends are very similar to me — in political/ religious values, in communication style, and in hobbies/ interests. This is awesome, because those quirks that can cause problems in other relationships (retreating from the world for weeks/ months at a time) are accepted as normal by my friends, because they do it, too. There is no oddity in us calling each other after an extended period of non-communication and us picking up the conversation without a hitch.
Parental love is, to my mind, the most difficult. The problem is mainly in discipline — on the one hand, you love your child and want the best for them and want them to be happy, but on the other hand, you aren’t their friend. You’re their parent. You can’t be the buddy or pal, you’re always in parent mode. Even when you’re having fun and playing around with your kid at the zoo or the museum or what-have-you, you’re still the parent. Still the discipline. Still the person who has to stop the game when it starts escalating or getting out of hand. You have to be the responsible one now, and that power dynamic prevents a true friendship until your child grows up, moves out, and supports themselves.
Parental love is difficult because it’s so unique. In all other relationships, it’s generally accepted and understand that we make our own decisions. Example: Say I have a friend in college who never does their homework, but always complains about bad grades. I may tease them about how their lack of completed homework directly correlates to their bad grades, but that’s the extent of it. If my son, on the other hand, starts getting bad grades because he’s slacking on his homework, I’m not going to react at all the same way I reacted to my friend in the exact same situation. I have the ability to influence and discipline my son, and I will. I don’t have to — I could choose to react the same way I did to my friend, and preserve a buddy-buddy “cool parent” dynamic with my son. But in the long run, that would be detrimental to my son’s success in life, so instead I discipline him, even if it means he gets upset at me and thinks I’m lame.
Finally, there’s romantic love. Possibly the most difficult and the most rewarding. My husband and I come from completely different backgrounds. I don’t mean financially, because we were more similar in that regard than appearances initially led us to believe. I mean in regards to personal interaction, communication, and religious beliefs. We have very different ways of dealing with emotional turmoil, and our communication styles have caused some pretty painful misunderstandings and conflict in the past. The judicious application of patience, forgiveness, and marriage counseling have helped us overcome a lot of our personality misunderstandings. It was a lot of work, but it was (and is) totally worth it. My husband is my best friend. He’s an amazing, incredible, patient, funny, intelligent, and sexy man, and the rewards we reap from our relationship are more than worth the problems we’ve overcome. I trust my husband more than anyone else in the world, but that level of trust comes from having to reforge our relationship from what (at times) felt like ashes. It’s a level of trust and love that can only come from going through the fire together.
A few weeks ago, we were talking about our wills and power’s of attorney. I said, “If I die, obviously I won’t care if you get remarried, because I’ll be dead. But it’d be nice if you could wait longer than 6 months before getting remarried.”
John started laughing, and he said, “No offense, but I’m never doing this again. I’ll stay married to you, obviously, but if you die I am never going to get married again. This is just way too much work.”
I couldn’t help it, I just started laughing with him. He’s right. I’d come to that conclusion myself years ago — that if for some reason, the unthinkable happened and John was no longer in my life, I would never again get into a serious relationship with marriage and forever as part of the deal. It’s a lot of work. It’s insanely rewarding, and I’m glad to have John in my life — but I don’t think I have it in me to put this much effort into another relationship ever again.