Marriages are sloppy and hard and complicated, so let's use a simpler example. Did you ever have a friend who wants to "come with"? Like maybe you and some of the guys decided to hit the Extreme Wings Sports Bar by the mall and you didn't think to invite your buddy Henry, because even though you like Henry, he hates sports and spicy food. It was nothing personal. Anyway, Henry's like "Hey, guys, what's going on?" and you tell him and he decides he wants to come, and he decides to do what it takes to be with you -- specifically, watch sports and eat wings.
"Great," you think, because you're a big fan of Henry and you enjoy his company as much as you like watching sports and eating wings, and now you have both. So next week, you invite Henry to come out with the gang, and he does. Then again, each and every week, until one day he turns to you in the middle of the mall parking lot and screams:
"I have done everything for this relationship! Everything to make this relationship work. If it weren't for my willingness to eat wings and watch sports, we wouldn't have even spent this time together!"
And y'know what? Henry's right. And it just doesn't matter, because Henry's sacrifice was a lot more like a lie. One he never needed to tell.
Let's be clear. We're not talking about lovers who sacrifice for each other. That's what love's about. Someone gets sick and the other one plays nurse. Someone is sad and the other stays in to play cheerleader. Someone is messy and the other one plays sexy French maid. Sorry, ignore that last one. I just started thinking about slutty Halloween costumes.
The meaning of love.
The point is, true love is all about sacrifice and doing for one another, but those sacrifices can't be made in secret at the start of a relationship and then whipped out as a debt to be paid.
Think We Can't Live Without Them
I don't want to seem heartless. I'm not. Despite all my rhetoric and vitriol, I'm an optimist and I believe in love, but there is something that all lovers feel and say that isn't particularly helpful: "I can't live without you." Let's take a moment to listen to the greatest cover of all time, Harry Nilsson singing Badfinger's "Without You":
I have felt that in my life. That feeling is real. It exists. It's important, but it's not something you should think too much about. And as horrible as that sounds to say, I think I can prove my point. We know the world is sharp and difficult and filled with loss. Forget about divorce or breaking up -- let's think about death. Death steals loved ones and lovers from us all the time, and no one can minimize the grief and pain. But would you ever tell a widow, "You're right. You can't live without him. You should probably kill yourself now." Of course not. That would be just about the coldest, harshest, most terrible thing you could say.
"I'm not buying your book." -- OK, the second worst thing you could say.
Why? Because you know that life has value in itself, and that no matter how unspeakable the pain that comes from the death of a loved one, you still have a life to lead -- a life that deserves to exist. A life that is not defined only by its relationship to another.
You are you, and when you fall in love, you will be you in love. Another person might make you smarter and kinder, and hopefully you will be with that person forever, but believing that your existence ends with theirs won't help you be a better person or lover.
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