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Thread: What is true love?

  1. #1
    Bronze Member MirrorKnight's Avatar
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    What is true love?

    I just came across a Quora article with examples of true love. Two stories in particular brought tears to my eyes.

    1) A handsome and athletic young man is pictured with his beautiful girlfriend, probably at prom or something. Next there is a picture him in military uniform, and a picture of him in combat gear on tour somewhere in the Middle East or Afghanistan. Next you see him horribly wounded on a hospital bed, plugged into an assortment of machines and heavily bandaged, his girlfriend by his side holding his hand. Next there are pictures of his life post-war, cuddling with his girlfriend, who stood by him despite him having lost all four of his limbs to his injuries. Finally you see him standing (on prosthetic limbs) at his wedding, marrying the girl.

    2) A simple picture with a simple caption. An old lady in her 80s or 90s, sitting at a diner, eating lunch with a picture of her late husband placed opposite her, as if they were on a date together.

    I am not sure why these stories affected me so much. I think I can be quite a cynical, shallow and logic-driven person, but I guess a part of me is hoping to find love like that. But what is true love? Have I walked away from it?

    I broke up with my girlfriend of 1.5 years a few weeks ago because I was unhappy in our relationship. Not going into detail again, but I believe that she did love me enough to stick with me if I became bed-bound with an unfortunate illness or injury, she would have loved me unconditionally and we could have grown old together. I think her love at least partly comes from her co-dependency issues however, but does that invalidate her love? How do you define true love?

    Don't worry, I am not back-tracking on my decision to break up. I get sad sometimes when I think about her, what we had, what I lost, how I hurt her etc... but in general my mental health has improved since the breakup. I am also not so selfish as to string her along in case I ever want to get back together with her. She rang me crying just over 2 weeks ago, but aside from that, I have maintained NC since the breakup.

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    What happened to Kathy? Where is Jane living?

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    Platinum Member Clio's Avatar
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    Imo, you have not walked away from true love. True love is reciprocal. It's give and take. If you aren't feeling it for the other person then there is no sustainability and the relationship can break down at any time. Your ex may loved you but you didn't feel the same and that means that you did not have "true love" with her.

    Relationships are complicated and these photos you mentioned are just snapshots/moments in time. You don't really know what happened before or after. The young woman may have cheated on him while he was on deployment or the old lady may have been neglecting her husband while he was alive. There are lots of motivations to stay on a relationship and not all are noble. When it comes to relationships noone knows what happens behind closed doors and appearances can be deceiving.

    To me true love = accepting each other as they are, respect, trust, patience, forgiveness, commitment and trying to be the best version of oneself for each other. That makes it hard work and reciprocity is fundamental.

  4. #4
    Bronze Member MirrorKnight's Avatar
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    Thanks for your insightful answer @Clio

    Regarding reciprocity, I guess I am trying understand whether I sabotaged my own long term happiness by convincing myself not to love her anymore. I wonder if I have agency in deciding who to love, whether such a decision could even by defined as love, but love is supposed to be elevated above rational choice and logic? I'm still working on developing a more satisfactory set of criteria for what I want in a life partner and figuring out what really matters to me.

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  6. #5
    Bronze Member MirrorKnight's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by Hollyj
    What happened to Kathy? Where is Jane living?
    Jane is still living at my house in the UK. I am giving her space to move on, I am not in a rush to remove her from my house, it is not costing me anything besides some rental income, which though significant, pales in comparison with how much she meant to me, even if we cannot be together anymore.

    As for Cathy, I am taking things slowly with her, we still talk quite regularly and I have met her twice since I came back, but we are still very much in the "getting to know each other phase".

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    There is nothing in those two stories that implicate true love!!

    In both scenarios there is a one sided story!!

    Perhaps the girl loved her soldier bf. But would he have married her had he come back from deployment with all limbs intact? Was he a perfect bf? Who knows?

    The old lady , well she and her husband came from an era where you married for life. And she is honouring her vows despite what may or may not have happened through their married life.
    There are also people from that era that remain married despite their husband abusing their own children and ignoring it.

    I have no idea why you split with your ex.

    But I don’t think you have given up on true love. Regret is not love.

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    Does Kathy know that you are still reaching out to your ex? That is not right!

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    Platinum Member Andrina's Avatar
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    For me, true love is shown when a person shows you you are a priority, and you want to return those efforts: caring for him when he's sick, going to help her change a flat tire so she doesn't have to wait for hours for triple A. Making her birthday special, picking up things he needs at the store to save him a trip after work. Missing each other when apart.

  10. #9
    Platinum Member bluecastle's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by MirrorKnight
    Regarding reciprocity, I guess I am trying understand whether I sabotaged my own long term happiness by convincing myself not to love her anymore. I wonder if I have agency in deciding who to love, whether such a decision could even by defined as love, but love is supposed to be elevated above rational choice and logic? I'm still working on developing a more satisfactory set of criteria for what I want in a life partner and figuring out what really matters to me.
    Having followed your story, I would say that your breakup is the precise opposite of self-sabotage. Your connection with Jane was not built from sustainable fibers, because a big premise of it was that, in your core, you considered her broken, not as capable of handling the business of living as you. You did not respect her full humanity, and, alongside her, could not fully respect your own. I think you both offered the other something you needed for a time—and that, of course, there was genuine love between you two—but its potential to keep deepening and expanding was limited by the lack of respect. It was a kind of love that became more constrictive to growth (yours, hers) than conducive to it.

    Does that make it less "true"? I can argue yes, I can argue no, but I think that argument negates the point of love. That's the thing about love: it's an idea as much as it is a fact. If I point at a pickup truck and say "that is a pickup truck" while you say "that is Ferris wheel"—well, I am right, you are wrong, and if you're willing to listen to me I can "teach" you the difference. But if I say "I truly love my girlfriend" and can say "no, that is not true love," we are both right.

    Personally, I've always like Rilke's idea of love: “Love consists of this: two solitudes that meet, protect and greet each other.” The idea is that it's a connection built on total, mutual respect of another's individually (solitude), rather than around the idea that another person is meant to serve you, be that form of "service" making you feel great (physically, emotionally) or feeding you from a spoon after a stroke. Sure, those acts of service can be connected to love and extensions of it—the "protect" and "greet" part—but they can just as easily be connected to a million other things, many of them less savory.

    In terms of trying to define "true" love? I would be careful about reaching for certain tropes—together 50 years, together through thick and thin—because that risks skimming the surface. To create an apocalyptic future scenario in your imagination—in which you are bed-bound, etc.—and then define "love" as a woman who plays nurse, and then look for that woman by swiping right on a mobile app or paying for her martini? That is pretty self-absorbed, casting another human being as character in your saga. Zoom out a bit and it's not that different from saying you want love to consist of a certain body type, or a certain number of weekly orgasms, or a woman loving you because you earn x amount of money. It's transactional.

    What about the person inside that body, the person holding that spoon, the person bringing home that paycheck? If you don't respect that person all of the above is just artifice.

    I think "true love" is an idea that feels like a fact, meaning it requires almost zero brainpower to understand. "That is a pickup truck," you say to your wife. "Also, I love you." It's that simple because it's that "true," for you, for you two, and somewhere in your cells (the bone ones, not the brain ones) you have faith that she feels the same. Nothing is being extracted because it is just there. It may change shape here and there, it may ebb and flow at different frequencies in the two people over time, but its "truth" is not subject to debate.

    You do not question the existence of the sun on the coldest, cloudiest of day, because you don't see the purpose of the sun solely to warm you but to simply be the sun: powerful, mysterious, integral for life, impossible not to respect for being exactly what it is. Love, true love, is kind of like that, I think.

  11. #10
    Platinum Member Wiseman2's Avatar
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    Sorry to hear this. You're still hurting and that's ok. Any healthy woman that you date long enough to know, fall in love with and make a commitment with will be your love story. Try to stay away from sentimental stuff, unless it helps you work things out emotionally.
    Originally Posted by MirrorKnight
    I broke up with my girlfriend of 1.5 years a few weeks ago because I was unhappy in our relationship.

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