“Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides. And when it subsides, you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion, it is not the desire to mate every second minute of the day, it is not lying awake at night imagining that he is kissing every cranny of your body. No, don’t blush, I am telling you some truths. That is just being “in love”, which any fool can do. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident.”
― Louis de Bernières, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin
It’s a simple word made complicated by a million interpretations across the globe. We humans make it complicated. We mistake lust for love. We mistake infatuation for love. We mistake full-tilt, glassy-eyed, heart-pounding and weak-in-the-knees for love. We read more into it than we should. In the end, when the lust and infatuation are over, when “being in love has burned away”, are you left feeling empty or satisfied?
I was reminded of all of this again this past weekend when attending the wedding of a dear friend from college (one of those “adoptive siblings”) to a wonderful, lovely woman who I just adore. Part of their ceremony included a bit of the quote from Louis de Bernières, “Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away”.
Conversations with friends has found me explaining how I feel we’ve been duped on what love is by being brought up on Disney. We were shown idealized relationships where one character was rescued by Prince or Princess Charming and they rode away on beautiful, white steeds or shining coaches. They lived happily ever after in a castle in the clouds where every day starts with a serenade by songbirds. The characters only need gaze upon each others visage and they were once again “twitterpated” because the other was just so gosh-darn wonderful.
Guess what? There is a reason those stories are called “fairy tales”.
Relationships are hard work. Not all the time, mind you, but frequently. My Prince Charming is like every other Prince Charming on the planet, he belches and farts. Sometimes he says things in a way that comes out completely wrong and leaves me offended. Oh… and he folds the towels “the wrong way”.
Many days find me feeling like my Prince Charming’s roommate. We go through our routines, speak of inconsequential matters, watch TV or read a book and go to bed, only to start anew in the morning. We steal glances at each other and while we genuinely enjoy each others company, there are days where our inner dialogue says, “You again?”
What matters is that even though the passion has died down to smoldering coals, where flame is breathed into them time and time again, love is what remains. My Prince Charming will say something or do something, like bring home a cupcake, and my heart melts. I’ll turn on the heated blanket before bedtime so he (okay… me too) doesn’t have to crawl into a cold bed on a chilly night.
My Prince Charming holds the door for me and gallantly holds my coat for me to slip into it. I make his lunch sometimes, packing foods I know he likes, making sure he has enough to get him through the day. I keep the house clean, the laundry done and the yard tidy. He makes me laugh and I make him smile with some silly antic. He ignores my impulsiveness and I have long-since gotten over the towels being folded “wrong”. We talk… a lot.
That is what is left when the being in love burns away. The knowledge that your partner will be there for you when you need them. They have your back. They know when to make you laugh and they know when to let you cry. Love is ignoring the wrongly-folded towel, taking the trash out without being asked and cleaning up cat puke.
Truly loving someone beyond the passion involves accepting them as a whole. The good, the bad and the ugly. It means knowing they are human and humans frequently mess up. Love is making the lunches and turning on the electric blanket and making sure the toilets get scrubbed. Love is saying “Thank you” often and showing appreciation for all those little things. Love is sharing a common goal or purpose knowing we both want to get to the finish line in our three-legged race, together. Love is knowing that today might not be exciting, but tomorrow could be.
I don’t have all the answers, but I know that Love is what’s left when being in love burns away.