Where does love go?

A friend of mine asked the other day, “What happens to love when it is over? Where does it go?”

True love used to be something I thought only belonged in fairy tales. Girls like Cinderella, Aurora, Belle and Ariel were the lucky ones. In my broken heart I believed that that kind of love did not exist for me. I’ve really only had 5 intimate love relationships in my life. Not sure is that is average for someone my age, but they all taught me something about love.

My first husband was very charismatic, charming and by all accounts the Price Charming. Tall, dark and handsome. He was my first “real boyfriend” and I loved him with everything my 19 year old heart had. We married quickly. Very soon I realized I had made a mistake. Too young to understand my demons, my needs were overwhelming and it did not take long for either of us to get really frustrated with each other. As the years passed, the resentment grew. It just wasn’t meant to be and although we tried for 10 years, we parted really hating each other. The glass slipper shattered. It was so painful. He did find the love of his life and although I resented her at first I grew to see what an incredible woman she was and much more suited to love and care for him the way he needed. But mostly, she was an amazing step mother to my daughter. I was truly saddened when she passed away a few years ago at a very young age. I can’t help but think as I look at our relationship now and the relationship, or lack thereof, he has with our daughter, that she took the best of him with her. Her death changed him and in my opinion it speaks volumes to the role she played in his life and his heart. I hope he can find that love again.

There was a very short lived relationship with a man that should not have occurred. He gave me comfort and safety at a time I was very lost and alone. I loved him in a way that scared me. I often wonder what would have been if the timing had been different or if the circumstance had not separated us.

I was involved with another man for almost a year after my divorce. The relationship was dark and dangerous and not at all healthy for me. There was a strange sense of peace and safety in the danger. It was a bizarre really mess- with-your-head place to be. I learned a lot about myself and my limits, but I still carry physical scars from the world he took me into. We loved each other but in a way that was just not good for me.

My second husband was the strong, silent type. He wanted to love me and I wanted to be loved, but deep down I knew, despite what others in my life thought, that is wasn’t meant to be. Broken and battered from the end of my first marriage and the relationship that followed, it seemed safe and he seemed sincere in his attempts to want to make a life together. With time, it crumbled. We never connected. He had no idea how to even try to love me and I had no idea how to teach him. Add his family’s resistance to accept us and it was destined for failure. Over the years we shut down completely, his priorities shifted and I was left feeling unwanted, unloved, neglected and alone. Not even close to a fairy tale. I loved him, and still do, but was never in love with him. After I left our marriage, he convinced himself that I was the love of his life, even though he did not care for me that way, and is stuck in what could have been. I know there is a girl out there meant for him.

These 4 relationships (I’ll tell you about the 5th one in a moment) taught me so much about love. But, for me the answer to the question of where love goes is the realization that we have the power to literally kill love.

I’ve learned that:

-Love has a life. It is born, grows and needs as much nurture and care as any living being. It must be cared for on a daily basis, not just when it is convenient or when both parties are free of distractions. In order for love to not just survive, but thrive, both parties MUST be there every day. If not, it will wither and eventually die.

-Love needs respect to grow and flourish. The old cliché that respect is earned is such a bunch of bull. Respect is given as a gift. Each of us has our own demons, old hurts, pains, insecurities. Each of us has our own way of doing things. Different doesn’t equate incorrect. Respecting the differences in each other and learning to accept and love the other, despite those differences makes the love stronger. Each of us play a role in the relationship and respecting that role is essential. Let go of the control and choose to respect your partner’s role even if you might disagree with the method. Power struggles just create resentment, which is poison to love.

-Love is a choice. There are days when loving is very difficult. When the dishes are left in the sink for the 100th time, or when you are fighting for the covers in the middle of the night. The days you are tired, short tempered and the very way your partner breathes sends you to the moon. You know the moments I’m talking about. Taking a breath and CHOOSING to love through those days becomes a habit pushing and shoving those old irritations aside and it becomes easier to be softer to each other in the harder times.

- Love needs time. It is imperative that each partner take some time to nurture each other every day. The small things like running a bath or a foot massage can mean the world to the other after a hard day of battling the world. Turn off the TV, take a walk, push each other on the swings. Watch what happens.

- Love needs communication. Open, honest, in-depth communication. The kind of communication that gets into the dark places that no one likes to talk about but everyone needs to talk about. This kind of communication builds trust, intimacy and forges a connection that can’t be matched.

-Love needs affection. We all have a touch quota that needs to be met each day to feel loved, secure and basically normal. Touch is the most effective way to convey love. Take the time to snuggle, spoon, hug, tickle and even make out. The results are stupendous.

-Love needs a safe place. Create a home that is a sanctuary for all. A safe place to make mistakes, be forgiven, to talk, and just be silly. Keep the fighting to a minimum and just love each other.

- Love needs secrets, a sense of humor and privacy. Love needs to be silly and expressed in goofy ways. Inside jokes, whispers, family secrets are all part of the game of loving each other. Get creative.
Airing disappointment in the other or venting to many is disrespectful and damaging. Share the great stuff with others and once the yucky stuff is resolved, dump it.

- Love needs a third person. Love only gets better when God is in the middle.

My third (and last) marriage is so different from either of the ones before. Different than any other relationship I have ever had. From the beginning we were just what the other needed. Friendship was forged first. We were there for the other, listening, supporting and caring for the other. When we fell in love, it was a natural progression from friendship and I found myself more relaxed and comfortable than ever before. Sure, there are days when strangling him seems like a good option, but those days happen when I forget what I learned about love and let my anger and old hurts get the best of me. He is my true love, and I have never been more grateful for anyone or anything. It is incredible to watch what happens in our home when we work together as a team. Love thrives where we live.

So, as much as we can be responsible for letting love die. We are also responsible to nurture and care for love so it grows into something real, tangible and demonstrative, not the thing of fairy tales.

So, to my Hip-hop samba dancing dude… I love you Mr. Tucker, with all of my heart.