Apparently, my heart can be entirely pummeled by love, and I will still believe. I can be broken open and poured out, betrayed and left alone, and I will still stand firm in my conviction that love is real. One would think that I would come out of it all with a guarded heart and a firm conviction that love belongs only in fairy tales, in fiction, and in cinematic tales meant for fools. But no. I still believe.
Perhaps you, more battle-weary and seasoned, are shaking your head indulgently at my foolishness, wondering when I will see the light. Or perhaps instead you are wondering how you, the recently broken, might ever be able to find your own belief again when right now all you can feel is the pain. Maybe my optimism seems forced, a declaration that doesn’t quite ring true.
I don’t want to pour out my whole life story. It’s not quite interesting enough to merit a memoir here, but if you will indulge me, there’s something I’ve learned about love. We often mistake love for attachment and caring. We think we’ve fallen in love when we’ve simply fallen into codependency and infatuation. It can be hard to separate those feelings, to pull apart what wants to cling to the familiar so that we can see what it’s really all about. Usually, it takes a big change or startling red flag for us to take a hard look at the attachment we’ve been calling love.
Other times, we doubt love because we’ve loved and lost.
We felt genuine love, not simply an attachment, and yet we didn’t get to keep those relationships. We might question whether or not we were loved or if love is real if it doesn’t last. We’ve been taught to search for forever love, our soulmates, and so we don’t always value loves that are meant to stay only for a season. We think these loves are somehow less, rendered unimportant in the grand scheme of things, no matter how much they shake our very foundation with their power and even their transience.
I’ve experienced the attachment disguised as love.
I’ve also fallen in head over heels true love- love that didn’t stay. I’ve loved more than one person at once, simply by virtue of still holding love for someone in the past and yet moving on to love again. I’ve learned about love through experiencing it, and I’ve stopped trying to attach certain expectations to those experiences. For instance, longevity.
Love is love, even if it doesn’t work out.
Love is love, even if it doesn’t look the way we thought it would. Love is love, even if the other person doesn’t love us back. Love is love. It’s real, and attaching expectations to it doesn’t change that fact. Sometimes love is letting go and loving freely. Sometimes love hurts.
I’ve also learned that love doesn’t come on our command.
We can’t will it into existence, however much we think that it’s over-due. We can’t make someone love us who doesn’t or make a relationship be what we need because we need it. That’s not how love works. It doesn’t change us into someone we’re not or change the ones we love into who we need them to be by virtue of our feelings. We’ve tried to make love into what we want it to be rather than accepting it for what it is.
It’s magnificent when you think about it. Love is powerful. It may not change our personalities, but it certainly can make us softer and stronger and capable of forgiving more than we ever thought it could. It can be a knife’s edge of hurt in our hearts, and yet we can give it freely. It’s what makes us reach out to others who are hurting or alone. It’s what makes us better people.
But we’ve mixed up relationships with love.
We don’t seem to understand that relationships can exist without love, and love can exist without relationships. We forget that love isn’t rendered invalid because it had a shorter shelf life than what we were hoping, nor does it render future loves irrelevant if we still feel love for those in the past. Love still is. It exists. It endures.
I guess that might seem all well and good for someone who is not currently experiencing heartbreak to think of love so philosophically. But I was recently broken open with a heartbreak of my own. I had to love and to let go in the same breath. I had to take the idea of the life I was going to have and actively demolish it to create a new one, with no clue what that new life would look like.
I’ve gone through all of that and still believe in love. That it exists. That it’s out there for me. That the love I’ve experienced has been real, even if I wouldn’t have written those particular endings into my own story.
Love continues, and I believe.
I can still watch romantic comedies or read a romance without disgust- although I do often observe in wry amusement at the plot twists, as I’m plenty familiar with those in my own life. I can see couples together without resenting it, and I can celebrate the love stories of those who are in my life without bitterness. I can live as a single person in the world with a heart wide open to love and whatever else is next for me.
My broken heart, broken so many times I’ve lost count, still believes in love. It always will. I hope you can believe, too.