Love, Actually: Dialogue 3

In her award winning novel, The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison shares an unfortunate observation about love.  Love is only as good as the lover, she warns.

Sobering thought, if ever I read one.

So, if the love an individual gives to another is only as good as that individual herself, then how are any of us expected to offer love that is not…well, let me speak frankly here: How can any human being be capable of love that is not in some way fucked up since MANY of us wander this earth nursing countless emotional wounds that go unnoticed by ourselves and the ones we attempt to love?  So, if love is only as good (as whole, as healthy, as pure) as the person who offers it, then how can any mere mortal love another mortal well, wholly, purely?

Quite the dilemma, no?

Rachelle, a newly single woman in her mid-30s, certainly believes so.  Rachelle’s encounters with love suggest that Morrison’s observation has a hint of truth.  The first person to teach her about love was her father.  “Growing up, I was never unsure of his love.  I knew he loved me.  I knew he would protect me no matter what.”  Rachelle even recalls a specific time when she felt uneasy around her father’s male friend.  Before she could voice this uneasiness, her father read the look of discomfort in her eyes whenever this particular friend was around.  “Does he make you uncomfortable,” her father asked.  She nodded and like magic, the creepy friend never stepped foot in their home again.

A very pure and sincere act of love from Daddy.  But, while Daddy was saving his daughter from the hands of a (possible) pedophile, he was also snorting cocaine.  Starting as a casual pastime, his cocaine use escalated to an addiction by the time Rachelle was a teenager.  Rachelle recalls the loving father who hugged and comforted her just as easily as she recalls the father whose drug-induced temper was so volatile and erratic, she sometimes did not know what to expect from him.

In addition to teaching her that love protects, Rachelle’s father also taught her that in order to maintain love, one must be very, very careful not to anger it and chase it away. “I remember one of my first relationships,” she shares.  “When I look back on it, I walked on egg shells all the time.  Feeling like I really had to avoid making my boyfriend mad.  Once, I mistakenly broke something of his and for a few seconds I was terrified he would be so mad with me that he might want to break up.”

How good was Rachelle’s father’s love?  It was not without its winning moments.  Because of his love, Rachelle came to expect that if a man said he loved her then he would listen to her, take action to give her what she needed and make her feel safe.  But, her father’s love also set a template for most of her relationships with men whose love was only as good as they were.  A few short weeks ago, she ended a long term relationship with a man who would not commit to her.  In addition to his disinterest in marriage, Rachelle also cites a list of self-destructive behaviors in which her boyfriend engaged as factors leading up to their split.

It would be easy to connect the dots from teenaged Rachelle’s relationship with her father to adult Rachelle’s relationship with her ex.  Any armchair psychologist would deduce that she subconsciously chose the self-destructive boyfriend because her formative years were spent around a man who routinely self destructed.

“I don’t know if it’s that easy,” Rachelle shakes her head.  “Morrison may be on to something with that quote, but I think it passes judgment on people like my father and ex-boyfriend.”  Yes, if you are emotionally scarred, if you are addicted to any substance, if you are fearful of commitment, there is only so much of your love you will be able to give.  But, her father did give her love.  Her ex-boyfriend was sincere in his love.  “We didn’t break up because he couldn’t love me enough or because he was unable to really show me how much he cared about me.”  According to Rachelle, in both of these pivotal relationships, the men were not completely good, but their love was.

Kind of.

“I don’t know if the relationship I had with my father was healthy.  Nor do I know if all the  years I spent with my ex were just evidence that Toni Morrison is right!”  What Rachelle does know, however, is that both of these men’s love has been valuable.  It may not have been the healthiest.  It definitely did not come from the “best source.”  Still, when it came, it was graciously accepted by her.  It provided her with what she needed.  It was completely and unquestionably good.  Even when the lover was not.

Perhaps the truth really lies in the heartbreaking story of Pecola Breedlove, the protagonist of The Bluest Eye.  Yes, Ms. Morrison, love is only as good as the lover.  But, at the end of the day, most of us are in the same predicament as Pecola.  We long for love.  We sacrifice too much for it.  We are grateful for it or anything that feels like it or looks like it or promises to turn into it.  To consider from whom the love comes and how that source might taint such a coveted commodity is too much to ask of us.  So, we love.  Broken and poised to break, we love.

One Response

  1. Love this K. It certainly opens the can of discussion. I’d like to add a few things about Love…

    Love is like a ball of gas; it is formidable, yet it shifts all the time. My belief is that we keep trying to make Love a solid — a static, one-off, stay put item, that never really moves. We are socialized to make Love one-dimensional, YET our consciousness is constantly reshaping Love. The challenge is understanding that Love has so many faces, even if we were the most brilliant person alive, we would spend a lifetime trying to define it; and in turn, trying to make it fit into our “perfect” cognition of Love. With this, comes expectations from Love. But Love does not indulge the Lover, so ultimately, it is the Lover who ends up disappointed by her own will.

    Having trauma in one’s childhood will certainly influence behavior as an adult, IF the person has not learned proper resilience and coping along the way, for healthy behavior. I’d like to read your thoughts on the Single Gal dating the Single Gal — What is she looking for in herself? What does she believe is missing? What is HER investment strategy for acquiring all that she desires?

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