Advice From the Trenches

What is Love?: Love through the ages

I used to see love as a romantic epic, with a dazzling beauty who would take my breath away and cartoon birds that sang when she appeared. Later, I just wanted someone I could tolerate after a few hours. In my teens, I was really impacted by Hollywood’s view of love. It gave me unrealistic expectations. At 19 I fell madly in love with a classmate. I barely knew her! There is a big difference between a crush and a deeper, loving relationship.

Now, I realize that love is messy. You don’t always ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after. It’s more like driving into the sun in a beat up Ford Pinto with a windshield covered in dead bugs. Your significant other is sound asleep in the passenger seat but still slaps your hand when you try to change the radio station.

Yet, somehow, even that can be enough to give life purpose.

I recommend love be avoided at all costs.

However awesome it starts – even if it maintains that level of excellence – it is eventually doomed to turn suckless if for no other reason than one of you will die before the other.

As far as what I thought when I was younger, I don’t really remember. More likely, I had no idea what love is and still don’t.

The subject of love is something that has eluded me for more than 10 years since a devastating divorce. I ended up on antidepressants and multiple psych meds. The pharmaceuticals haven’t helped my drive to find someone – it’s tough to find a woman who wants to stick around once they learn about my medicated and cannabis-centric lifestyle. I find Valentine’s Day depressing. I have come to terms [with the idea] that I’m probably going to live my life alone.

When I was young, love meant finding a boyfriend who’d commit to marriage. My first husband and I worked hard to start a family and provide security and love for our children.

After my first marriage failed and my children became independent I felt betrayed and doubted my ability to love and be loved. I dug myself into a dark hole and left my church. But when I returned to Christianity, I was given a second chance to know love.

I’ve been with my present partner for 13 years and I’ve discovered a deeper meaning of love. It begins with the love of God, followed by mutual respect, give-and-take, and learning to listen and share our feelings daily. We provide love to each other to instill security, to be each other’s advocate, best companion, and cuddle buddy through thick and thin.

Life on Earth is short. I give thanks and appreciate every waking moment.

Be kind. Love surrounds us always.

In my 20s, love meant a perfect union with one special soul mate. She would have every positive quality I expected – beauty, brains, loyalty, and a shared vision for the future. I also expected that this love would be effortless. We’d want exactly the same things out of life. 

Most of my assumptions were dead wrong, but that didn’t stop me from searching for the exact same thing in my 30s. Some lessons take longer to learn. By my 40s, I’d been in and out of many relationships that ended badly. By now the “soulmate” concept seemed ludicrous. I realized I’d overlooked entire categories of people and I needed to be more aware of the energy of others. I’d missed many opportunities due to a lack of self-confidence.  

In my 50s, everything’s different. I value brains over bodies and compatibility over sex. Each day is a gift and nothing is guaranteed. Love is not a lightning bolt, it’s a conscious decision you make and re-make every day.

After 60, love is about health and mind. The physical is much less important. Love becomes a synchronization of simultaneous, impromptu expression that comes about naturally.

When I was a teenager, love was physical, probably due to physiological hormone level and puberty.  

As a teen I thought I would meet my husband, fall in love, get married, have children, and live happily ever after. I did find that and it was true for quite some time. But in my 30s tragedy changed everything.

My husband, with whom I was madly in love, was in the World Trade Center on 9/11. He returned home that day but he was never the same. I loved him so much that I hoped love would save him. Then one day in 2013 his pain was so great he took his own life. It took me many years to heal.

When I first found love after his death it was so amazing that it took a year to realize it wasn’t right for me. Now, in my 50s, I’m a very different person. After our breakup, I did some soul searching and realized that over the past 30 years I’d gone on my own journey, but I’d never developed the most important love of all – self-love. I’m working now at understanding love from another angle. Looking at my past, I realize that I never put my own needs first or really cared about myself. Learning to value myself is the purest love I’ve ever felt. I’m hoping now I will find a companion with similar awareness so we can travel life together with a more complete kind of love.

Back in the day I naively wanted grand romantic gestures and fairytale scenarios. I learned to adjust my expectations. Now, I appreciate quiet companionship and I find it’s sexy knowing the bills are paid.