Relationships, part 5: It’s Not Love

I’ve let this sit here for weeks. It is a segment dedicated to the dramatic end of some relationships in 2005 and my way of eradicating the last of the demons from my working past. Yesterday someone was asking a question, inviting comments on one of the network sites in a thread called, “Love vs. In Love”. It brought me back here.

It’s been said, but “love” really is an overused word. It’s a powerful word, so people incorporate it into so many things when other words would more accurately describe their feeling. In fact, I would argue that “care” is what most people feel. Love may be too deep a feeling for most situations. If you really break it down, “minor interest” would be the starting point for all evolving relationships, with “love” being a final destination.

It’s funny when you think about how truly powerful the word is. In most love stories come the uncomfortable moment when the lead male or female must finally confess their feelings and either struggle because they’re not sure if the other person feels the same, or states it confidently just before the first passionate kiss. It’s a sacred word you’re not supposed to throw around, but we all do it. We love movies and food, kittens and gum drops, violence and sex. But with people, I think we mostly just care, and that is probably enough until we get to know them better.

If this doesn’t make sense to anyone else it’s fine by me. Truth is, it’s almost impossible to understand some things, no matter how it’s explained, but I think I have a way that will do the trick.

I cared for “Stephan”. He was this goth-looking guy who worked at Wicked. Tall with short brown hair, tattoos, not great skin, blue eyes. I felt an immediate care for him because he seemed like someone who needed someone to care for him. The night we got together we went to a club, we saw a show, we had sex and then cuddled… He got me with the cuddling. I hadn’t met any man up until that point who liked to cuddle, and that is where he grabbed my caring past “minor interest”.

We didn’t date, but we did see each other off and on, and I fell into a terrible trap. Here is where I get to vent a bit about “in love”. Frankly, I say the appropriate word is “infatuation”. “Love”, to me, describes a steady and measured feeling that should only ever be applied to a feeling as mature as actual love. My personal reminder is this, “If you’re ‘falling’ into it, it’s probably a trap.” That is where I think people really overuse the word “love”. You are “infatuated”, not “in love”. I was definitely infatuated with Stephan, and I definitely cared for him, but it never got farther than that because there was always something wrong between my head and my heart. There was always an argument that something just wasn’t right. The care I felt came from my nurturing side. Stephan talked of wanting babies and a long-term relationship, he played a good verbal game when it came to saying the things most women want to hear, but he slept with tons of women at once and he was abusive in various ways. One of the main problems we had was the fact that I was not at all interested in having more children, and not at all interested in being in his harem. I don’t judge people who are honest and want things, but the dishonesty and abuses kept me from ever feeling anything more than caring and infatuation. I could see this scared little boy, playing at everything and definitely not just at “love”. He pretended to be friends with people, pretended to be trustworthy. He probably still really needs someone to care for him, but is anyone that strong? I certainly was not.

I will say this, he did call me a few years after I ended our back and forth for good because I met Doug and felt love, again, which was nice because it had been so long. I’d had to avoid all of his phone calls because I knew he flirted with the idea that I would run off behind anyone’s back to see him just because his ego was that big, combined with the fact that he collected women and didn’t like to let any of them go. He caught me on the phone and did something unexpected. He apologized. He apologized for anything he’d ever done that might have hurt me. I accepted it. It was good because I deserved that apology. He’d been a little bit infatuated, but he had also cared.

I fell in love with my first husband, which is to say that I fell into infatuation with him, but then I got to know him and I can say that I do love him. He’s not a bad person at all, he’s just different from me and I didn’t know enough about myself to know that we wouldn’t make a very good couple. We are better as friends. But I guess that is love, isn’t it? Love comes from knowing someone and understanding who they are and why they do the things they do. It seems we love some people by default. Family members and childhood friends we still keep in touch with – love lasts. Everything is just caring on its way to love unless it gets cut off, and I think that’s where a real distinction can be made in new romances. Some romances are real and honest, and then others are one person playing the other for the things they want. I learned this from the insanity I went through at the hands of Stephan, bruised physically and emotionally by lies and a macabre web of childish games, if your head and your heart do not agree with each other, walk away. Something is amiss and you could be in for some real trouble. But there is an even better way to know what you actually feel…

Just before I met Doug, my son came to stay with me for a week. I had seen him regularly in the last three years since my divorce with his father, but I’d never had a place large enough for him to come and stay with me. I’d just gotten this apartment in Fox Hills and had him out so I could be alone with him during his Spring Break, since every time I visited him, it meant spending time with him and his dad.

We were three or so days into his stay when Stephan called me. I answered and he asked what I was doing. “Oh! My son’s here and we’re hanging out.” He said, “Your son’s in town and you didn’t tell me?” as if I should have somehow reported it to him? Immediately in my head I couldn’t figure for the life of me why he would care about my son, and then he suggested we all do something together. In a moment of complete terror and clarity, I knew.

I love my son. I love him. Deep, real, honest, beyond-caring love. My feelings for my own child have never been in question. The answer hit me in a flash and I finally realized that it was not love with Stephan. I’d never gotten close. I knew this because the sentence, the epiphany that presented itself in my brain was this: “If you don’t want your son to be around this person, why are you around this person?” It set me free. I finally got it. It was the trap of thinking it was love that had kept me around. Thinking that love is something worth investing some time in, when it wasn’t love at all. And that was my torture. As soon as I realized it was not “love”, I was no longer imprisoned.

That is why I adamantly say, “It’s not love.” Not because I’m still hurt or trying to avoid something, but because it’s true. Love doesn’t come with doubt. If it does, it’s not love… it’s something else.

33170cookie-checkRelationships, part 5: It’s Not Love

Relationships, part 5: It’s Not Love

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11 Responses

  1. maybe it was love but love simply went away. i think nowadays civil ex-lovers simply tolerate each other out of common decency or maybe even for the sake of their children. maybe love doesn’t have to go away but societal constrictions force us to make drastic decisions. I don’t know. This is all over my head…lol. Polyamory begins to make more and more sense to me each day.

    Check out this link when you get a chance:

    It talks about a new study on mate selection. topics like love, morality, ethics, and spirituality always seemed off-limits to science but i think everything can be explained more sensibly using the scientific method. Great post!

  2. Hey… have you ever seen a movie called “Species”? They actually talk about that. Funny. Only human beings would dance around a topic a million times in their head before coming to the conclusion that they are just like other animals on the planet. lol

    I’m a big advocate for life experience, and maybe I just have too much life experience (lol), but my belief is that the more you know, the more complicated life becomes, and simple truths sometimes just won’t do. I have met thousands of people, studied them all in one way or another, and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that many trip over what they think is love because they don’t know any better, because we’re taught to cater to love and we’re taught that so many emotional human instances are “love” when it is really some lesser version of it. How many people would be saved from the game-playing stakes if they knew they were just infatuated? Sure, most would still play the game, anyway, but they’d know what they were doing, or at least have a better idea, and it might even make the art of playing more fun. Truth is, until you know… you just don’t know. Then again, just when I think I actually know something, I usually fall on my face.

    I do know I was not in love, which is not to belittle the experience or the lessons I learned, it’s just to say that it wasn’t fucking love. lol

  3. P.S. – Thank you ‘backspace’. You had asked this question earlier in this whole series thing and I appreciate your asking because it forced me to find the words to explain it. I’ll read that article at greater length because I think science can explain almost everything. Almost…

    Seriously, thank you. 🙂

  4. i’m gonna have to watch that movie again. all i remember was how hot the lead actress was….lol

    i’m not sure science can explain everything either but I will say that the scientific *method* is without a doubt the best way to arrive at truth. Life experiences are scientific observations and if you collaborate that data with lab research (i.e. neuroscience, evolutionary psychology, etc.) i believe it will better help you explain your thoughts and feelings. maybe….who knows…i don’t…!!

    here’s one other food for thought i’d like to share with you. It’s from Dr Helen Fisher a somewhat well known anthropologist who posits (via Wikipedia and her book Why We Love):

    humanity has evolved three core brain systems for mating and reproduction:
    lust – the sex drive or libido.
    attraction – early stage intense romantic love.
    attachment – deep feelings of union with a long term partner.

    Her ideas are worth a read and listen when it comes to *love*. Incomplete in my opinion but interesting nevertheless.

    Have a great weekend!


  5. Very insightful piece. I like how you wrote about how now you realize that the guy you were on and off with, was simply someone who you felt “needed to be cared for”. I think that I may have mistaken certain situations in life for love, when in actuality it wasn’t.

  6. I think it’s an easy mistake because no one clarifies it or makes the distinction, and I know guys who’ve done it, too. We all have a nurturing side and when we do happen to have chemistry with someone, it can be all too easy to mistake caring for love and then somehow feel obligated to help that person even if it greatly puts us out. I know one male in particular who spent quite a few years caring for a woman who was an absolute mess, and in the end, it didn’t help her much at all. It could have saved him a lot of trouble just knowing he cared for her and wasn’t in love, because he might not have tortured himself as much. That’s not to say he wouldn’t have helped her, he just might not have been as miserable.

    Hey! Is that what Dirty Bob meant by “get a dog?” Smart ass. No thanks. I prefer cats. 😀

  7. Hmm…love…Let me give my own viewpoints on the matter. They say the love between a parent/child is unconditional, whereas the love between two partners is conditional.
    It is a different type of love. A different level.
    A child could put the parent through all seven shades of hell and the parent would still love him/her.
    Whereas a partner could cheat, lie, be mentally/physically/emotionally abusive, and the other partner could feel that love slipping away, eroding and decaying.
    The three components that go up to make a relationship between two people work, is love, trust and respect. Once one of those start to go, it begins affecting the other two.
    And especially in the case of trust, it is very hard, if not impossible for some people to regain.
    I actually work with a man who blatantly told me he loved his son more than his wife. This man’s viewpoints are skewed in other areas to me,(he can be chauvinistic and sexist) but this opinion reinforced in me one of the reasons why I do not want kids. I would want my partner’s love all to myself.
    Whether of course, he was right is open to question.
    I believe that you did care for Stephan but were not in love with him. Perhaps I am wrong, but that was the impression I got. It is so easy to mistake infatuation lust and caring for love. It is a strong word. Psychlogists reckon the opposite of love is not hate…it is indifference. Not caring. Example: I am indifferent to my first boyfriend who cheated on me with my best friend’s sister.

    Stephan seems to have a lot of issues towards women that he needs to work on. His insecurity made him think it was ok to be a “player”and date lots of women at once. This would have been fine if all the women knew about it and were in agreement to it all but I can guarantee you that they didn’t know. It gave him power. But. he apologised, at least that was something. Black and white thinking is easier for people to handle…but life is lived in shades of grey. However, when it comes to matters of the heart, I believe it is always best to be honest, monogamous and have good communication. I cannot understand people who have more than one partner or date around. I am just not wired that way. 🙂

    Doug seems like a keeper though!So kudos for that choice! :))

  8. lol Doug is definitely a keeper. 🙂 I tried to explain to someone somewhere that it could have been love with Stephan, but that level was never given a chance because it lacked that important element you mentioned – trust. And I agree with you, honesty is the most important thing. In fact, I knew what he was about when we met, and I did care for him, but he tried so hard to convince me it wasn’t true, and I’m a trusting person. It is the way with people who don’t trust others that they create ways to push people away. In fact, he blatantly pushed a mutual friend away by finally being very honest, “I’d rather have respect than friendship,” thereby severing any friendly bond they had, yet not realizing that respect is rooted in trust and friendship. ?? I guess there are other kinds of respect? Fear-respect? Crazy world. Someone hurt him and I hope he has or is mending. Feeling love is a good thing! Well, it’s suppose to be a good thing. lol

  9. Great, insightful article, Julie. If one were to change a few names, this could easily be about me and my ex fiance.

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