I do not believe in love. Not any more.
If my 48-year-old heart accurately reflected my love life, you would see the detritus of a shattered marriage, the remnants of two or three great romances and so many wisps of what-might-have-been.
Through it all I believed in love. I blindly pursued it like a young, energetic dog barreling after a car it will never catch. I sat on it, bearing down with all my weight and hoped it would stay put for once.
And that’s why I do not believe in love. Because love, the way we commonly understand it, never stays put. It cannot be harnessed, corralled or controlled. It comes and goes as it pleases, even in the happiest of marriages.
In the movie The Four Seasons, characters played by Alan Alda and Carol Burnett have a long-lived and happy marriage. Alda says their love comes in waves; every now and then, they are hit with a wave of “puppy love” and all of its silly symptoms. A little later in the movie, he and Burnett are at each other’s throats.
“You know how our good times come in waves?” Alda’s character shouts. “Well, right now we’re in a very deep trough!”
It took me a long time to find someone I could yell at like that. After one spectacularly failed romance, a friend told me about another frustrated, single woman who made a list of everything she wanted in a relationship. She prayed over the list, put it away and found a husband a short time later.
Hard to argue with success. Still, I procrastinated, thinking a mental list would work. It didn’t. But in that failure, I finally realized why the list was important. I had long set goals for weight loss, for writing. I wanted to lose 20 pounds, to finish a novel.
I’d never done that with relationships. Not ever. Love always appeared, either magically or after I had flailed about in lonely panic. I had no idea what I wanted or needed from the person with whom I would spend my life. I believed love would take care of that. All evidence to the contrary.
The number 1 stared up at me from that sheet of blank paper for a long time. But once I finally started writing my list, it was difficult to stop. All of what I wanted from life, from a partner, from marriage, even from myself poured out.
A few weeks later, I made a friend. A few months later, he and I were inseparable. Soul mates.
You see, I believe in soul mates. I believe in the vows and promise of marriage. I believe in loyalty and faithfulness, in commitment and shared responsibility. I believe in G-d and in the perfect imperfection of life itself. I believe in my husband, with all my battered heart.
But I do not believe in love. Which is probably okay. Because love certainly seems to believe in me.
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