Does true love really conquer all?
The romantic in me wants to answer “yes” – but the realist remains unconvinced. Love is a powerful thing, but can it conquer incompatibility? Can it overcome dreams and beliefs that are at odds with one another? Can it overcome a difference in lifestyle? Suppose he wants to settle down and start a family in his hometown, and she is committed to human rights work that requires global travel.
What happens then?
The easy answer is that one partner must sacrifice for the other – but how much are we willing to pay for love? Are we willing to trade in our dreams and ambitions? Should we be willing to compromise our values? Do we surrender our very happiness?
What happens when the obstacles are darker? There are many people who fall deeply in love with someone who is not only wrong for them, but damaging. The person you love may be abusive. They may suffer from an addiction or mental illness that you can not tolerate. They may simply bring out the worst in you.
The truth is sad, but it is real. Love is not the only thing it takes to make a relationship work. Sometimes, two people will love one another with their whole hearts, and still they will need to let go.
This does not mean that their love wasn’t real. It certainly doesn’t make their relationship a waste of time. We can learn and grow and gain so much from loving someone without needing them to be our last. Love, in itself, is the most worthwhile thing you can do with your time and energy. Just because you don’t end up with somebody doesn’t mean you should never have allowed yourself to fall for them.
The trouble, of course, comes in the moment of separation. Love changes us. “You can’t just make yourself matter and then die, Alaska, because now I am irretrievably different,” wrote John Green in
Letting go is a painful thing. Thankfully, we grow from pain, even more profoundly than we do from love. Break-ups are hard, but they are valuable. “Ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation,” wrote Kahlil Gibran. Sometimes we learn more about love – and more about ourselves – from loss than from the act of loving.
As Martina McBride sang, “You can love someone with all your heart, for all the right reasons, and in a moment they can choose to walk away. Love them anyway.” Choosing to love is a brave thing. It is especially so when you aren’t sure whether or not your love will survive. Love them anyway. You are sure to become better for having risked it.