BY TAMAR KEVONIAN
“Do you believe true love exists?” asked Aileen with her heavy Barsgahye (Persian Armenian) accent as she sat across from me at a candlelit table on a cool summer night. In her mid fifties, Aileen is immaculately turned out for the evening’s festivities. The conversation till then had been light and polite chit chat that is usual amongst people who had just met. That’s why I was started by her rather personal question.
“How do you define ‘true love?” I asked in return.
Aileen paused a moment, never having contemplated the thought that there may be other definitions of these two harmless sounding words which together have a power greater than their individual meanings.
The answers to the definition of true love can be as varied as there are waves in the ocean. A random sampling of answers to the question of “What is true love?” yielded the following:
“True love is when you put your partner’s interests above your own. It is when you will do anything to see them happy, even things that may go against what you believe. It is called sacrifice and true love is nothing without it.”
“To me, true love is something that is hard to explain. Sometimes people think that it is there. Some people know that it is there…”
“I think true love is when two people cannot help but spend a day without any contact whatsoever. They have to do it. They’ll suffer if they don’t have the person that they love. They love each other 110. Their love is never-ending for one another. They cannot have anyone better and they are perfect for each other.”
“There are so many more things that tie into ‘true love’ for me. There are so many things I’d write about, and I could go on and on, but I guess true love is, well, true love!”
“True love is the conviction to forgive the one whom you love…unconditionally.”
“When you’re away from her you think of her. When you’re with her you want to please her. When you laugh or cry you want to do it with her.”
“True love is when two people know each other’s imperfections, limitations, shortcomings, and flaws, and in spite of that they accept without hesitation and without hope for a change.”
“Do anything but without EXPECTATIONS !!!”
True love seems to be unconditional love, acceptance and sacrifice. It also seems to be obsessive, co-dependent and indefinable.
Aileen’s definition was not much different. Her words were “It’s unconditional and you don’t mind the other person’s faults.” She said this sitting next to her husband of over 30 years who was politely listening to the discussion with a badly veiled curiosity. After all, who doesn’t want to know their wives’ hidden thoughts about love, sex and everything else that makes a marriage?
“But that exists only in the movies,” I exclaimed when I heard her response. “Life is not a page out of Princess Bride or The Proposal,” I said referring to popular romantic movies. Isn’t it completely normal for the people we live with – be it our siblings, parents, spouses or roommates – to have annoying habits that occasionally drive us up the wall? Is it reasonable to expect that life should be like a fairy tale where everyone lives in harmony happily ever after?
Statistics on rising divorce rates clearly indicate that such a thing, apart from Walt Disney movies, does not exist. In the other extreme, disposable relationships are also disconcerting. A new reality television program, with billboards throughout the city, features a young woman with the tagline “You know this ring can come off,” an implication that a marriage is conditional and temporary, based on the whims of the ring wearer. This certainly goes against the above listed definitions of true love that include acceptance and unconditional love.
This dichotomy of existence, between fantasy and reality, of the definition of love and what is expected of a relationship, that has created a myriad of social ills such as divorce, fear of commitment, temporary relationships and the believe that one can “always do better” and why settle for anything less.
“There are no values in this country,” is Razmig’s constant complaint when talking about the epidemic of divorce. “They still have them in the Middle East,” he says in comparison. Perhaps. But upon closer inspection it is evident that the Middle East, Europe and all the points in between, are also experiencing rising divorce rates and many of the other relationship problems evident in our own backyard.
As children, fairy tales are necessary to help us acclimate to adult ideas, therefore the depictions of true love and happy endings help us learn about the themes of good and evil, of marriage and long term commitments. But now that we are adults, it is time to dispose of the childish notion of “happily ever after” and accept that life is a journey and the loving relationships in them make for a richer experience. There will be times when a spouse’s inability to put dirty socks in the hamper that is six inches away will be maddening or the obsessive worry about the floors cleanliness will make one long for a long walk on a very short pier but it doesn’t stop them from being the people we love.
Ultimately true love is about respect for another, cherishing their individuality, supporting their efforts, applauding their achievements, caring for their wounds while they heal and allowing room for them to grow into better human beings. And this takes a very long time.