Our marriage counselor asked me this week where I learned my capacity for love. It seems to me to be a double-edged sword of a skill. On one hand, I feel very lucky to know that I still love my husband enough to stay and build a happier and healthier partnership as long as we both continue to make progress. On the other, I think it might be easier if I loved a little less and was more self-protective. Our counselor separated the capacity to feel love and the capacity to give it freely, both of which I have in spades (hence my ease with playing the tambourine). But the question of where I learned these skills is an interesting one.
I grew up in an extremely happy household but I intuited from a very early age that my mother was not madly in love with my father. I think more than anything I sensed that she could not rely on him - that lack of trust makes true love elusive. So when I think about where I learned this capacity for love and where I created a story in my mind that true, deep love was my destiny, I can only come up with an answer of books, movies, and TV shows.
The media is another double-edged sword - providing fun fantasy escapes from our inevitably imperfect lives but also sowing ideas of possibility that doesn't exist in real life. Going back even to Shakespeare, comedies are categorized as such when they end in a wedding. That's the end. That's the happily ever after. Fairy tales, Disney movies, rom-coms -- they all end with a first kiss, a wedding, or an ambiguous shot of a couple heading off into the sunset. No one talks about splitting rent payments, delegating chores, and shouldering the emotional labor inherent in all long-term relationships. But we still watch, read, and become invested in these stories because they provide that glimmer of hope that maybe, with the right person, we too can have the fairy tale.
There is a reason that when I think of Grey's Anatomy, a show I only watched for a few seasons and that is primarily centered around sometimes horrifying medical drama, I remember Meredith's "pick me, choose me, love me" line first. It cuts to the center of what I believe to be the human experience - we all just want to be chosen, to be shown that we are worthy of great love, to be enough. I don't think I do everything right when it comes to my life and relationships, but I definitely don't think that diminishing my capacity for love is the answer.
So as I wrote yesterday, I'm working on increasing my capacity to accept love from others. While my husband works on his capacity to give love, I work on my capacity to receive. But I think it's an interesting question, where we've all learned our differing capacities to both give and receive love. Modeled relationships that serve as early templates, love stories displayed on screen and across pages, and even our own previous love stories that might not have worked out for one reason or another.
Wherever you're at in your own love story, I hope your weekend is filled with love of all kinds. Romantic love, friendship love, family love, dog love. Have a lovely Saturday.