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Love Is a Four-Letter Word

loveYou can find Pennie sharing regularly on her website, The Accidental Blogger. This post was initially featured there.

“You never loved me!”

I didn’t answer back. At the time, I didn’t know how. The accusation wasn’t true, yet there was some truth in it.

I had loved my ex-husband, even in that moment, but my love wasn’t that our-hearts-beat-as-one love. The soul mate, I-can’t-live-without-you true love.

A side note: I’m not including in this tangle of thoughts love for children or parents or pets. This is about romantic love.

“You never loved me!”

I felt the raw pain in his accusation. After three children and more than fifteen years of marriage, there it was, this half-truth squatting uncomfortably on the shards of our relationship.

That moment haunted me for years. The untrue truth didn’t prompt the demise of our marriage (we had other problems), yet for years, I struggled with the notion that I had a defect in my love gears that made me incapable of true love.

Is true love a childish fantasy or daydream? I don’t think so. I know couples who have true love, who feel they are soul mates. At times, I felt envious. I compared myself and wondered, “Why can’t I have that? Am I broken?”

In an effort to untangle the nature of my love mechanism and hoping to find out what was broken, I committed quite a bit of thought and energy to these questions.  I looked in, but I also looked out.

Looking out, I became aware that assumptions often made about true love and other relationships fall apart on scrutiny. Couples who feel they are soul mates are not without their ups and downs and missteps. Even soul mates must work on their relationship. Couples who don’t fancy themselves to be soul mates can enjoy depth of commitment and compassion. Old solid relationships may still have embarrassing middle-school moments, and budding ones often work through hurdles with maturity and wisdom.

Looking out, I confirmed what I already knew: romantic love comes in many sizes, shapes, and tones.

Looking in, I started defining the expectations I had going into a relationship and understanding the qualities I wanted in a partner and partnership. Pretty damn practical. Share in all things domestic, complete projects together yet have projects of our own, communicate with compassion and patience, journey together and journey apart. My list did not include requisites such as must be my soul mate or I would die without him.

The observations and introspection helped me understand that I wasn’t broken at all. Perhaps I guard my heart, perhaps my love is not true love as conceived by many. Yet I would argue that my love is true.

Let me explain further. I love my partner of nine years. I’m still working on domestic equity, but we share, we fuss, we communicate, we have projects, we take trips, and we have independent interests and endeavors. We’re not soulmates, but our love is good. True love? I would say that my love is true, but I would hasten to point out that, if he were to die tomorrow, I would be sad, deeply sad. I would mourn and grieve. But I would not be devastated or feel lost. Why is that? Is that because he’s not my soul mate? Is it because I guard my heart? I’m not sure what the answer is. I do believe, however, that the trueness of my love should not be measured by my dependence on the presence of that person.

For those who would accuse me of settling for a partner I can love instead of waiting for the one I can’t live without, let me assure you I didn’t settle, I chose. We chose each other. That said, I’m not writing this for those doubters. I’m writing this for the other people like me, who, at some point wondered if they were getting it all wrong, if they were incapable of true love, if they were broken because they couldn’t surrender their hearts with abandon.

While we can make generalizations about love, define it, classify it, even qualify it, those intellectual exercises can confuse us. Make us question the love we’re experiencing. Personally, I don’t believe in hard edges that define where you cross into or out of true love. Instead of ideals and definitions, I would have been better served as a young adult by this kind of advice:

  • Don’t chastise yourself if your love doesn’t fit a standard definition.
  • Observe others in love but don’t belittle your love for being different.
  • Your unique love journey should start from within, loving yourself, understanding your expectations and needs.
  • Be true to yourself and your love will be true.

My ex was a little right but mostly wrong. I did love him. In some ways I still do.

In the end, no matter what size, shape, or tone, love is love. Be true to it.

© Pennie Nichols 2015. All Rights Reserved
Pennie Nichols

    I have long been an editor, writer for hire, and textbook author. I wrote my way into a freelance career and suddenly I’m here, with socks covered in the bothersome burrs of freelancers and middle-aged women. I am not weary of writing. Every day is a new opportunity to define, invent, and discover myself through words. Words are the tools that help me dig deep into my experiences and relationships, the energy that draws me out into light and understanding. Through sharing my experiences and words, I hope to connect, to share a little light.

    Walker Thornton

    Tuesday 16th of February 2016

    Pennie, nice article. I'm not sure the idea of a "true soul mate" and surrounding our heart is really all that common. Your experience reflects some of my own thinking. Thank you for being willing to share that.

    Pennie

    Tuesday 16th of February 2016

    I agree. Not that common. Thanks for reading.

    Corinne Rodrigues

    Tuesday 16th of February 2016

    I've watched Sangeeta Khanna grow into a well-known and much loved authority on healthy food. She is my go-to person when I want to check out ingredients,etc. I love this interview and am so proud to call her a friend.

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