So, my sissie and I were yapping the other day and during our conversation about her new LPN position, she said her boss had told her something she’d been thinking about a lot regarding love. Basically, it was how we are all given only 3 true-love relationship coins in our life, and because of that, they need to be used wisely and sparingly…with great care.
Wow. My first reaction was why the hell didn’t I hear this 40 freaking years ago, and my second (which I know you are all thinking so I’ll just put it out there 🙄) was “Son of a bitch…mine are definitely spent.” 😳
Hmmmmm. Is this true? Do we really have a finite number of times we can experience true, fulfilling, ‘real’ love with another, or can we actually have that time and time again in our lives? I think back to my past relationships and question how deep and meaningful that love really was, and whether or not I had experienced it with everyone I’d been with. I adore Robert Sternberg’s Triangular Theory of Love which states there are 3 aspects (sides) to love: passion (the sexual chemistry), intimacy (the emotional connection), and commitment (the cognitive decision to stay with the person long-term, through thick and thin). If you have all 3 of these components in your relationship, Sternberg says you are experiencing ‘consummate love’ which is what we all (well…most of us) strive for with our partners. Just having a couple of the sides represent different types of love…for example, passion plus intimacy is a romantic love without any commitment to weather the storms that might come along.
So, have I experienced this ‘true’ love in every relationship I’ve had? Is this idea of consummate love something like that of Maslow’s idea of self-actualization where it’s the ‘goal’ of life, but not necessarily something that everyone can achieve? Is having ‘just’ 2 sides of the triangle mean you haven’t had ‘true’ love? Can you feel ‘true love’ without having a solid 3? Can you be satisfied with having less than the 3? If you start out with just a couple of the ‘sides’, can you build the other with conscious work and determination? What if you feel the 3 sides, but your partner doesn’t? Does that negate the ‘true love’ in your own heart? Hmmmmm…
OK, so let’s take a look-see at my relationships (yes, this is going to take a while since Elizabeth Taylor and I are twins… 🙄). My first one was in high school when I didn’t know beans about what love really entailed. I ‘loved’ my boyfriend, but didn’t have any idea how to create something meaningful outside of high school ‘love’…writing my first name with his last name in my notebook and making out with him in my basement on ma’s nubby green 70’s love seat, praying she wouldn’t traipse down the stairs with a basket of laundry to start (by the way, she did do that at a very awkward time…cough cough…and if that doesn’t kill the mood, I don’t know what does. Thanks for that one, ma.). Does anybody in high school really have the experience and cognitive ability to love fully? I don’t think so. YES…I know high school sweethearts who have married and are still together, but I have a feeling their love matured a great deal from what it was solely in high school.
How about Hubby 1? I was besotted with him and was definitely in love with him, but still, at 21, pretty darn immature regarding the significance of marriage. We were WAY too young and had some really stupid beliefs like we could live on love, and not money. Obviously, that worked out well. With Hubby 2 though, I had all 3 sides of love. I actually consider him my first ‘real’ marriage. We had our son, raised him together for 13 years, built a couple of houses together, moved out of state together, and really got close to each other’s families. It was a much more mature love in which both of us had divorced and wanted to work to make this marriage the one that lasted. And #3? Another true love…and one that was different than that with my son’s pa, but still all encompassing.
So, the question you are probably shouting is “Then why the hell did they fail, dumbass?” (You don’t need to cuss at me, grasshoppers…you know ma doesn’t like that 🙄). The answer? Beats the fuck out of me. More on this later.
Now, with J? I had all 3 sides…bad. I definitely had the passion and intimacy going into the relationship, and the commitment grew quickly for me. In fact, my commitment was almost too much since it held on to him during situations when I should have let go (e.g. cheating). But, to be honest, that’s what commitment is, isn’t it? Holding on? Getting through the bad? Learning from it? OK…sounds good…but does that mean abusive behavior should be ignored because of commitment? Nope. Of course not. So with J? The biggest issue I think that was inherent in our partnership was his own ‘triangle’. I know he had intimacy with me because he shared so much of his childhood trauma and war experiences with me. But passion? Obviously not. And commitment? Uh huh. Unfortunately, as I readily found out, a relationship is only as strong as it’s perceived by the lesser invested member.
Now, why did the ‘real’ ones fail? Why did they end in divorces? Why didn’t the commitment we apparently had not win out? I think a lot of it had to do with me being bipolar. Let me rephrase that…me being a not yet diagnosed, untreated bipolar.
When I was in manic phases, I was high with so much impulsivity, poor decision making, and feeling so freaking good, I didn’t think anything bad could ever touch me. So why work on negative things in a relationship when I’m having just too much fun being up? Screw that. The result? I did things and said things during these times that contributed greatly to the erosion of the marriages, and at those times, could not even begin to see what the consequences of that were. Not real proud of that. And then when I was cycling through a depression? I didn’t have the energy, desire, or even the capability of knowing what was happening in the marriage…I was too deep down into my tunnel to see anything but that terrifying darkness those of you with depression can readily relate too.
So, what if I would have had more insight (or acceptance, since I knew something was very wrong) about being mentally ill? What if I had been treated at that time with meds and counseling (as I am today)? Would that have saved these marriages? Could I ‘blame’ being bipolar for being a pretty shitty wife at times? Is that fair?
Well yes…in a way it is. I literally can’t help what my brain is like…how it operates differently from others. I can’t control the cycles on my own. I can’t prevent myself from the emotional states and related behavior of being bipolar without meds (and meds don’t prevent the states…it just works to lessen them). Or can I? Do I sometimes use my ‘brain’ disease as an excuse? Or do I have more control than I might think? And, does anyone who is mentally ill know the answers to these questions in terms of their own experiences?
What if I had gotten help when I should have growing up (wait…let me rephrase that: what if I would have gotten the right help from a professional that wasn’t sexually abusive)? Would I have had more insight into my behavior, emotionality, and sensitivity? Would my spouses have (I sound like a freaking polygamist)? Would they have understood these issues better, and worked with me to handle being bipolar in the context of our marriages?
So, back to the 3 coins. Let’s say this is right and we have only these 3 coins to spend on love relationships. We’re given these coins at the start of pubes, and are told that’s it…you can’t have more. Would we be more careful in jumping into relationships? More understanding of what we are truly looking for instead of just ‘trying’ things out? Would we become more selective? I wonder if I would have made different decisions based on this. Even though everything was telling both of us that marriage #1 (sigh) was probably not a super idea, M and I did it anyway. Maybe I would have saved that coin instead. Using a coin on O’s dad was the best freaking coin I could have ever spent though. And #3? I think I would have spent that one too…we had 10 years that were definitely worth it and are still great friends to boot.
Now, what about J’s? Oh wow. This is a toughie. I definitely spent my last coin on him, and this relationship hurt me the most emotionally than any other one ever did. I know I was in ‘true’ love with him and thought he was my soul-mate (the only time I’ve ever said that about anyone). So, was the coin I spent worth it? Yep. If not for anything else, just the fact I was in his kids’ lives for 3 years.
Well…the problem is obviously this and what I’ve been thinking about: my 3 coins are spent. Used up. My piggy bank is empty. Does this mean, if the 3 coin idea is true, that I’m out of ‘loves’? Here’s what’s weird: I think I kind of am. Sometimes I think my heart has been broken and then glued together so many times that it’s just not up to the task of trying again. And even if it is up to the task, is my head? Will I ever invest the ‘commitment’ side into someone else again? Trust to do that? Or, can’t I help but invest that, no matter how bad of an investment it might be? (Like me investing in bitcoin, lost on that one 🙄). Maybe the banker in charge of the coins will have mercy on me…give me another one as a ‘tip’ so to speak. Hmmmmm…if that happens, I’ll tell you one thing…it’s staying in my pocket until I’m damn sure the money is going to be well spent.