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.