All you need is love, love is all you need.
This line famously sung by The Beatles might be responsible for a lot of heartache the world over. The romantic ideal takes hold at a subconscious level and lonely hearts seek their one true love to live out their happily ever after.
So far, my everlasting lover is a no-show. Instead I’ve spent years bearing witness to other peoples love stories and wonder what makes love work between long term partners. Examples from my own life include my parents, grandparents’ and parents of friends, each couple taken for granted as a permanent unit, their single years happening before my arrival on this planet. Their happily ever-afters were different to the Disney fairy tales. In my family instead of magic carpet rides with catchy singalongs there were long road trips through vast grazing land punctuated by arguments over the radio: Enya or the cricket broadcast. There were no winners in that car. My eyes have seen the good and the bad and I’ve come to recognize their is a huge difference between the ideals of love filtered to us through culture, and the actual feelings and expressions of this sought after emotion between real people.
Does love last forever?
Let’s visit the future briefly. I’m picturing myself after 60 years of marriage, shrivelled and tucked-up in a nursing home. My husband or wife lives in the room down the hall. Every day we sit together in our plush armchairs to play bridge. The nurses can’t get over how cute we are. Meanwhile, my mind relives the heady early days, the turbulent years raising kids and the freedom of our golden years. Our love has managed to last through all that life so that in old age my heart glows and tingles at their kind heart.
In another scenario, we are still playing bridge together in a battle of one-upmanship that is at least three decades old. There is tutting, eye-rolling and determination to win. Visiting relatives are hardly surprised yet highly annoyed that this fight is still going strong.
The first scenario feels notebookish and the inner cynic wins out with the alternative scenario. In some ways the companionship, the lasting band that excites a battle of wills is better than not being bothered at all. Imagine an old age watching reruns of millennial classics like ‘Neighbours’ rather than making eye-contact with your partner. If I have to subject myself to the rite of passage that is ‘dating’ for this kind of future, I’m not convinced it is worth the pain.
So what does it take for love to last forever?
Is love even enough?
On interviewing other people on this oft-sung-about topic, even the most romantic, loved-up among them admitted than you need more than love to make a relationship last. Jess, the romantic, said you needed eight qualities to prop up a relationship for the long term….she called it the Octopus of love (it sounds odd but listen to what she has to say in the podcast below). No-one answered yes, absolutely and unequivocally.
Love is not enough to stop people from hurting each other, in fact, there are people who believe love is a justifiable reason to murder their partners or children. Love is not enough to stop us from leaving each other. Love is not enough to stop us from traipsing mud through the house. It is a wonder that love as a concept survives at all.
In the English language there is a single word ‘love.’ It is an elegant word used to signify all the depths and the different kinds of love that exist. There are as many ways to love another person as there are breeds of dogs. One person speaks of love like a Jack Russell and another as an Alsatian. There is so much space for misunderstanding. Perhaps this is the problem with love, the word for it is spread too thin.