“True Love”

Here’s a philosophical question for you. Which of the following would you rather hear your partner say about you:

  • if you changed your views completely, stood for the opposite of what you do now, or your personality changed significantly, I’d still love you above all others.
  • if you changed your views completely, stood for the opposite of what you do now, or your personality changed significantly, I might not still love you above all others.

On first glance, the former sounds more romantic, more indicative of “true love”. But I reckon actually the second is deeper and more touching. Because the first is that the person basically loves, what, your name? What you look like? If they still love you above all others even if you become, essentially, a completely different person, does that not mean that their love now isn’t really for who you actually are?

Option 1: you can rely on this partner to be there for you regardless, because there’s nothing you could do that would cause her to stop “loving” you.

Option 2: you know that your partner actually loves you, not other stuff about you.

I think I’d prefer to hear the second one. I’d prefer my partner loved me for who I am, and if I abandoned that, if I became someone else, it would cause her to reassess.

41 responses to ““True Love”

  1. The first statement still allows a person to grow and change with time, that the love is for the person/soul, in my opinion it conveys a trust of character and an intimacy of familiarity (that or the heights of lust/infatuation).
    The second sounds more like contingent love, it constrains the person to perhaps grow in a manner identical else at least acceptable to the other.

    For example if someone fell in love with a professional athlete that could no longer train or perform, would that mean in the second case that their partners love could be diminished in such circumstances.

    The problem with the first is if it’s meant as a romantic gesture rather than as earnest expression of feelings.
    Those partners that stay together in the face of permanent injury, especially those injuries that make communication difficult, both amaze and inspire me.

  2. I’m more talking about things that change the person themselves, not external things. It’d be sad to “love” only someone’s sporting prowess, or their attractive face – for one thing, those things are pretty temporary.

    You do want to grow with the person, and not constrain them to the way they were at the time you fell in love with them. Not much point living a life where you’re the same at 60 as you were at 30, and the intervening 30 years have taught you nothing. But there’s development as a person and there’s becoming a completely different person.

    I suppose that’s an entirely legitimate reason for marriages to break down, no fault of anyone – both people grow, but they grow in a way where they don’t work as a couple any more. There’s nothing wrong with the person who’s changed, but there’s also nothing wrong with the person who doesn’t love that person the way they loved them when they were someone else. If that makes sense.

    A relationship where you both grow and develop together and still love each other for that growth, not in spite of it – because you have grown too – would be ideal, but also hard to plan for. Because you can’t predict how you’re going to change, let alone how your partner’s going to change.

    I guess my point is that simply to declare you “love” person X regardless of who they are or what they do, I have my doubts over whether that’s “love” or just bloody-mindedness.

  3. I think there are many facets to love and it’s hard to reduce it, particularly in the case of hypotheticals. I’m not sure if you’re putting this forward as a metaphor for political parties or not.

    First things first: a relationship isn’t a political partnership. I have plenty of friends, some of them close ones, with different political views to mine, and I’m sure I could accomodate these in a relationship as well – within reason of course. If my partner believed in equality, in social justice, etc. – then I could accept if she has different priorities and views on how to achieve these things, and that she might vote differently to me. That’s the essence of intellectual pluralism that is in its turn an essential part of human rights. To treat things otherwise is a sort of mindless tribalism that makes no accomodation for the fact that in actuality, as opposed to what is often presented, different political ‘teams/tribes’ have divergent ideologies and priorities, and a narrowly-construed vote is less important than an overall political culture/direction.

    Now, to treat ‘relationship’ explicitly as a metaphor for electoral support of a particular party. If one partner ‘agrees with me’ but doesn’t propose to have the kind of relationship I want (say, government as opposed to being a minor party) then it’s not going to work out, and it’s really immaterial that we ‘think the same’ because other things are more important. People are allowed to have priorities. Let’s say I wanted a monogomous partnership and the other partner didn’t agree, for example. Then it would matter less to me that we ‘stood for’ the same thing.

  4. Splatterbottom

    This is a challenging issue to encounter on a Monday morning.

    My theory is that love, the romantic euphoric thingy, is a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder. The difference here is that whereas OCD is usually seen as a cause for concern, love is seen as a glorious state to be in. We are usually happy for our friends when they are in this grand state of delusion that has them genuinely believing that the object of their desires is the most wonderful person in the world, that every glance or smile or touch or the very presence of the other person induces a state of ecstatic bliss. However, the initial irrational euphoric blast settles down and over the years, in a successful relationship, there is a calmer appreciation of one’s great good fortune in being able to share their life with a wonderful person who cares deeply for them.

    Inevitably there will be differences in a relationship, and how these are dealt with doubtless depends on the basis of the relationship. Someone committed to the traditional vows: “to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part” is not going to lightly terminate a relationship. If the main focus of our relationship is the having and raising of children then the couple may see the relationship as providing them with a common enterprise and may work hard to avoid the damage to the children that follows from parental disharmony and separation.

    Mutual support and enrichment usually comes as a by-product of successfully carrying out the common project of raising a family. If, on the other hand, enrichment of each other’s lives is the primary goal of the relationship then when, for whatever reason, that is absent from the relationship the parties may decide to terminate it.

    Personally, I don’t think something as trivial as a change of political beliefs would be a reason to terminate a relationship. Then again, I suppose if the relationship was founded on the pursuit of a common political view of the world there might be trouble if one party radically changed their beliefs. Or if shared religious values were central to each partner in the relationship and one converted to another religion with a diametrically opposed way of understanding the world then this might cause a rethink by the couple.

    In the end a good relationship is about kindness and friendship, about each party putting the other first and helping them to be happy in life. This is a form of altruistic behaviour, which in itself is a great source of human happiness.

    Every act of kindness is a little bit of love we leave behind.

  5. Just for the record, I wasn’t talking about political beliefs!

  6. Wisdom Like Silence

    I’d have to agree that the former statement is the more romantic, accepting and loving proclamation of love “I love you no matter”. The second sounds rather controlling and conditional. “I love you, if…”

  7. I’d go option two, grounded as it is in what seems to me to be the experience of personal interaction; at least it’s not floating in the cloud cukoo land of unconditional adoration like option one.

  8. Wisdom Like Silence

    Love ain’t s’posed to be grounded! Otherwise it’s just plain old regard.

  9. You are right, bloody mindedness does not equal love. Proclamations also do not equal love. The truth of teh matter is, even if you say option 1. you carry out option 2. And it does not happen in one fell swoop either, as the change, the growing apart happens slowly, so does the dwindling love.

    What you really want is to be more careful about how you express yourself. ie. I will TRY to love you no matter how you change.. or I hope we will grow and change together.. or maybe we will change, but right now I want to love you forever. My partner and I share the understanding that we would probably not last a lifetime, but if we did it would be due to a lifetime of daily reaffirmations (or weekly or monthly, got to give teh benefit of doubt sometimes ;), not a lifetime of being bound contractually.

    It is possible to be honest, accurate and romantic 😉

  10. I find it impossible to imagine being involved with anyone without similar beliefs, attitudes & tastes. It’s bad enough having to work, or otherwise spend time, with people with unpleasant views or attitudes – and I’m not overly thrilled at having to share a country or planet with many of them – but that is the point about a tolerant society, we shut up for the common weal and split asap.

  11. narcoticmusing

    The former is more romantic because love is not meant to be a rational arms length transaction. Love is irrational. I agree with SB that it is a form of madness of the most magnificent kind. As if, the capacity for the human mind to become insane, the lack of controls that might prevent such a thing, are so in order to enable love to occur.

    The latter is not romantic to me – it would limit disagreement and look at every difference of opinion as an argument. It would spoil healthy debate. It boils love down to a series of transactions. This may define many relationships, but certainly not the one I share with my true love – whom, btw I just celebrated our 13 year wedding anniversary with last Monday 🙂

    Love is not about give and take. Sure balance is important however it is about thinking of the other person first, rather than a balance sheet of debts and credits. So balance is a long term perspective, not short. Nor is any element of the relationship.

    Looking at loving relationships outside your most intimate partner, this also, for me at least, holds true. I do not give of myself in expectation of reward or that they will give next time. When I need help, my friends are there, because I am there when they need help. But it is not a debt / credit it is a sheer willingness to be there because that is what love is.

    All that said, you can throw it all away because love is what love is to that particular couple. I cannot be caged so readily as to alternatives.

  12. The former is more romantic because love is not meant to be a rational arms length transaction.

    But is it? It’s completely independent of everything that makes that person them. What exactly does that kind of “love” mean?

  13. narcoticmusing

    I suppose the issue I take with your ultimatum is that first, there is only two choices and you defined them based on your idea of what makes a person them

    I would reject that love is at all that straight forward. Again, that is for me. For others, love may be that straight forward. But a person at 40 may not be by your definition the same ‘them’ that they were at 20 due to personal growth or extenuating circumstances. For some, that is going to be ok because it will depend on a range of other matters, for others it will be enough to move on.

    I don’t think views and opinions are what makes a person ‘them’, which is why I have an issue with your definition. Your definition seems to imply that if you don’t like a person’s opinion compared to when you first met them then you can no longer maintain a relationship. That is sometimes true, but it is sometimes not true. Why? Love is not that simple.

  14. Wisdom Like Silence

    If your love doesn’t grow with the person as they change, then it’s not love.

  15. I think my use of the word “views” may have confused things. I didn’t mean political views or opinions in particular, I meant personality and approach to the world.

    Clearly there has to be room for growth, but there also needs to be acknowledgement that not all possibilities of that growth will leave the couple still compatible as partners.

  16. Wisdom Like Silence

    It means that you fell in love with an archetype, not the actual person, and cannot love outside that parametre.

  17. “Love ain’t s’posed to be grounded! Otherwise it’s just plain old regard”

    IMHO if love is not grounded in reality then its merely short lived obsession or lust, or both, or worse, long term self dellusion.

    “He was great when we were dating, and now he’s changed and he beats me up when I piss him off, but hey, that’s all my fault, and I still love him, and I can’t live without him.”

  18. Unconditional love is a parent/child thing and is not suitable for adult relationships with other adults.

    Anyone who thinks their affection for a romantic partner is not conditional on that partner’s personality is being willfully naive. Who among us can truly say they would continue loving their partner if they found out that person was, say, a secret rapist?

    The real world asks us all to behave as adults and to deal with life as we find it, not as we wish it was. And in the real world people fall out of love all the time for a variety of reasons – none of which are inherently invalid.

    Nonetheless at the end of the day if you’re judging the two comments purely on romantic content then clearly the former statement is superior. It’s totally unrealistic and moronic when you really think about it – but rationality has never been a prerequisite of romance.

  19. narcoticmusing

    Mondo i think you confuse love with accept / respect. I happen to know a person who was exactly in the position you speak of (married to a secret rapist). She left him of course but the hardest part about the entire thing was that she never stopped loving him – that was what made the ordeal so awful for her.

    Eric – way to belittle and demean victims of domestic violence. Considering it is the number one preventable cause of death and hospitalisation of women in Australia, I put it to you that your ignorant comparison of it is at best misguided and offensive at worst, it is a case of ignorant victim blaming.

    I do agree however with you that there is a need for love to be grounded by reality but that should not be translated as intolerance for change, which the latter statement appears to imply for me.

  20. “Eric – way to belittle and demean victims of domestic violence.” Well that is not my intention, in fact quite the reverse. I find it difficult to see how my statement could be seen in such a light. I apologise unresevervedly should others with larger brains than narcotic also feel I have overstepped the mark here.

    My point, such as it is, is that option one reeks of self dellusion – I love you no matter what – which is one of the well documented and noted phenomena surrounding domestic violence. Once that dellusion is shattered then many women are able to leave a violent situation and seek help. Until that point they suffer the pressures of the riddiculous romantic notions society places on women and on relationships generally – love no matter what. Its bollocks and it causes hurt.

    Hope that spells it out for you narcotic.

  21. I know I’m skirting along the edge of the ‘no true Scottsman’ fallacy here narc but I would venture to suggest that the ‘love’ felt by your friend (for their rapist husband) falls short of genuine romantic love.

    Obviously I know nothing about the situation and am merely speculating wildly, but I think what you describe may be more akin to the love felt by a parent for a wayward child – an unconditional affection based on a shared history or a belief that you are responsible for the other person’s life.

    But at the end of the day I guess love means something different to everyone and cannot be objectively defined. I can’t remember the movie this comes from but I think the line is something like:

    “What’s the difference between believing you are in love, and actually being in love?”

  22. Wisdom Like Silence

    If you think you’re in love, you’re in love. – Admiral Adama

  23. narcoticmusing

    Eric, I accept it was not your intention to belittle victims of domestic violence but your ignorance and ‘the woman should’ type attitude on this matter continues the belittling. I apologise for my aggressive resposne, but I deal with this pretty regularly and it is this sort of ignorance that causes a lot of problems in helping women move on; treating abusive men/women; gaining support/funding. It places the onus on women and brands them a failure if they do not leave on their own impetus. It says, why should we (the public) help if she won’t help herself? It says, she is just delusional. It says nothing about the abuser and everything about the abusee and validates the abuse as just a ‘cost’ of loving this person.

    Once that dellusion is shattered then many women are able to leave a violent situation and seek help. That is simply not the case in the majority of cases in my experience nor from what I have read in the literature on domestic violence. And again, it places all the blame on the victim that it is up to her to have an ephiony and do something.

    A ‘battered’ woman (or man for that matter) doesn’t leave her violent partner because she stops loving them or decides that she can only love him if he stops hitting her. That is complete nonsense. If they leave, they leave DESPITE still loving him. Just as he hits her* DESPITE still loving her (notwithstanding that objectively we may not view his behaviour as expressive of love, that doesn’t mean it is not to him).

    Again, I apologise for my initial aggressive response Eric, your post was just the exact ignorant stereotype that causes so much harm in this space that it frustrated me. I hope I have explained why I found it frustrating.
    *Not trying to exclude relationships where women are violent here btw.

  24. narcoticmusing

    Mondo, I put to you that love is not a switch that can be turned on or off. As such, an event or act – even a horrible one – cannot just flick that switch. That is why affairs are so painful. That is why abuse is so painful. The love remains. You may decide you cannot be with that person but you do so despite loving them. Otherwise you never really loved them in the first place.

  25. “the woman should’ type attitude on this matter continues the belittling.”


    I am squarely and forthrightly NOT putting the emphasis on “the woman” at all. In fact I am stating the reverse. Nowhere at all have I written: “the woman should”..you have made that up for yourself.

    Notions of romantic love, forced onto citizens of all kids – but particularly women – through the cultural and behavioral conditioning of a patriarchal and capitalistic society produce an erratic and self delusional outcome in many many of us. The extreme results of which are manifestly obvious in a whole range of violent behavior. Romantic love is a myth, myths have outcomes.

    This following paragraph from narcotic maintains and reinforces the myth.

    “A ‘battered’ woman (or man for that matter) doesn’t leave her violent partner because she stops loving them or decides that she can only love him if he stops hitting her….”

    That while someone is beating you and staving you to death, you can still “love” them. The ruling classes have been saying that for a very very long time indeed.

    Having worked very closely over many many years with those recovering from domestic and family violence I speak from experience dear narcotic,as well as from a position of recognising published scholarship on the subject.

    Violence is caused by many things. And there are as many solutions as there are forms of abuse. I am not in any way trying to be definitive. But I do recognise the influences brought to bear on women by notions of romantic love, all of these influences, IMHO, historically, favour men.

    “This is the essence of so-called romance, which is rape embellished with meaningful looks. Night is the time of romance. Men, like their adored vampires, go a-courting. Men, like vampires, hunt. Night licenses so-called romance and romance boils down to rape: forced entry into the domicile which is sometimes the home, always the body and what some call the soul.” Andrea Dworkin

  26. Wisdom Like Silence

    Well done everyone for dragging this pretty philosophical and actually brilliant post by Jeremy into the same quagmire we fall into every day. A chance to forget all the horrible things in the world we normally focus on and talk about love. Completely ruined by everyone’s facile desire to tell other people off for not thinking the way they do, because evidence/experience/thisoneladyitalkedtowhoseemedreallydowntoearth.
    One thing you should all realise is that your definition of love, whatever colourful euphamisms and adjectives you desire to attach, romantic, ‘real’, ‘true’, is not THE definition of love OR even anyone elses definition of love.
    This isn’t a debate for fuck’s sake.
    No one is wrong, everyone is right, and no one is more right than anyone else.

  27. narcoticmusing

    Sorry Eric, I was referring to your repeated references to women engaging in self delusion as the basis for them staying with their partner, which places the blame squarly on them for staying as well as labelling them as flawed (deluded). From my experience/observation, these sort of labels condemn women and make it difficult for them to make constructive decisions, in a similar way to how you described the social conditioning prior to entering relationships.

    Perhaps you and I are just coming at this from a different angle and likely agree more than we disagree. Perhaps, as Wisdom pointed out, it is merely our concepts of love that we disagree on that tarnishes our ability to discuss this properly.

    Nevertheless, I agree with the rest of your post(s) notwithstanding that I still disagree with your concept that one must stop loving someone in order to leave them – if that was the threshold no abusive relationships would end. Simultaneously on the other end, how would anyone who is abusive or have a problem ever be able to get support.

  28. Wisdom Like Silence

    Discussion is the aim, just stop telling eachother how wrong the other one is.

  29. The self delusion works both ways man/woman woman/man man/man woman/woman. Romance in and of itself, IMHO, is in fact the delusion.

    “references to women engaging in self delusion as the basis for them staying with their partner, which places the blame squarly on them for staying as well as labelling them as flawed (deluded)…”.

    Simply saying someone (man/woman) in a relationship is self delusional is not apportioning blame, or pointing out a flaw in them. You are the only one using those words narc.

    I intend no such thing.

    Self delusion is how some, particularly relationship related societal conditioning works long term, narcotic, I am not blaming anyone, least of all women, for being deluded by the cultural machine of patriarchal capitalism into thinking romantic love actually exists.

    Please understand – not blame – not flaws – but in the case of romantic love a condition specifically designed by men, to oppress and control women.

    This phenomena, this condition is evident in many ways.

    In domestic violence situations – one partner, may well believe that he/she loves the other, even when beating her/him half to death. IMHO this person is clearly, by anything other than the barbaric norm enforced by a barbaric culturalisation, completely and totally insane.

  30. Splatterbottom

    Wisdom you make good points here. Sometimes it is better just to say your piece and listen to the views of others.

  31. Wisdom Like Silence

    Spread love, parti-matri-paro-chial, true, false, real, unreal, insane, sane, capitalist, consumerist, communist, facist, enormous, tiny, big love.

  32. I don’t think this is an either or thing.

    Although the second option is better – cos it allows for doubt.

    “I might not still love you” is different to definitely would or wouldn’t still love you (above all others.) Cos … your views and what you stand for are not the same as “you”. Nor is your “personality”. They may be a significant part of what makes you (especially from your own POV,) but they aren’t everything. For one thing looks are a part of attraction, tho again., like personality they aren’t all of it.

    There are all sorts of things … for example, you may have a stroke or other serious brain injury and it may completely change everything about you – but your partner might still love you cos .. well you’re still you. And in the case of a personality changing brain issue you’ve just suffered a terrible situation – hardly there sort of thing that’d make someone who loves you abandon you and everything you had together beforehand.

    Also in some ways the second option is a vindication of who we are as we are – a little pat on the back to say “You’re Ok really” when in our life outside our relationship we might cop a lot of flack about who we are after all. its a vote of confidence in the way we turned out. Of course thats a good thing, but … well the things we like about ourselves might not actually be the best things about ourselves.

    I think (well I’m pretty sure) my wife loves me despite my flaws, or even because of them to a certain extent. (what are flaws anyway? – what seems a flaw now might not in the future, or it might) A part of love is being able to forgive the things about the person you love that shit you to tears. This isn’t an easy thing either, cos those things are often tiny, but assume greater size as a relationship lasts longer. not because they become a bigger part of the other person, but cos they become a bigger part of what you notice.

    I honestly don’t know which of Jeremy’s two options I prefer, cos in some ways I can see the merits of both.

  33. Romantic love is a delusion created by “the cultural machine of patriarchal capitalism”?

    Don’t get me wrong Eric – I understand where you’re coming from – but you’re leaving me for dead in the competition over who can be more cynical!!

  34. mondo: I don’t think it is cynical at all.

    I am quite convinced that love is real, essential and yes…beautiful.

    Romance on the other hand I believe to be a socio/political construct, yes.

  35. Wisdom Like Silence

    How so Eric?

  36. Sorry to be nosey but is there a reason the question was asked in the first place?

  37. Romance is a patriarchal concept designed to subjugate women via emotional distraction and the compulsive purchasing of shoes.

  38. or something along those lines . . . .

  39. Returned man – no, I just think it’s an interesting question.

  40. Spread love, parti-matri-paro-chial, true, false, real, unreal, insane, sane, capitalist, consumerist, communist, fascist, enormous, tiny, big love.

    Wisdom is channeling John Lennon.

  41. Wisdom Like Silence

    The NWO are sneaky bastards aren’t they?

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