When people talk about love it is often in poetry and songs. I do it a lot through writing lately. So, I am going to write about how the songs are lies: you can buy me love.
Love isn’t about what you do, it’s about what you give.
We each pay for love with some resource. Some of us pay with our bodies: with our hugs and kisses, our soft touch, our slap on the butt, the high-five, and the held hand. Some pay with our service: the ride, the extra trip to the store, the computer check-up, showing devotion, and free work. Some pay with our words: the poems, the songs, the please, the thank-you, and the love words. Some pay with presence: the wave from the stands, the full attention, making space, and being there in body and spirit. Some of us just fork over some bills: I got you tickets to that thing you like, you would look nice in this, and I bought my wife a George Foreman Grill on our second date.(I did buy my wife a Foreman Grill)
But, we all pay. If we don’t pay our love goes away.
I guess that sounds really cynical, but it is sadly(?) true. Every interview I have performed for the 50 Love Project has boiled down to how the person pays for love, and how their love was bought and maintained. Some of the stories are sad; they are about how someone stopped paying the bill and love faded away.
We have talked about great dates, and broken down moments. We have talked about the a priori love of an infant you have just met and the enduring love of a partner that you can’t live with anymore. I have talked to people wearing collars (figurative and literal), and people holding leashes, deeply religious people, polyamorous people, monogamous people, and just a guy eating a hotdog at Costco in Oregon. And the theme is always there: the cost of love.
The stories are perhaps hardest when they involve loss. One of our interviews was with a man, Otto, who was disfellowshipped from the Jehovah’s Witness church. For him there were very powerful positive effects from his ex-communication. Among the many emotional moments that were required for him to find a new church that he loves, there were two other important stories of love—his ex-wife and his father.
Through the process of disfellowship Otto was offered support from his wife, to some degree understanding, and opportunity for repentance. Here he was faced with a many layered problem of what the lose of love for his wife’s community meant for their love. He had to make a hard decision about what was the most loving action, try to bring her out or make it easier for her to stay.
For decades Otto would have told you that the love of his father was anemic and strained. But, when Otto came to the point where his devotion as a Witness ended, where he no longer had love to express for the church, he in many ways saw how deeply his father has always loved him. During a crushing moment of losing the love of his church and leaving the love of his wife, Otto came to recognize the devotion of his father. Once Otto tested the limits of his expression of love, devotion, he saw what his father had paid for love.
In our interview Otto described this moment with his father as the single most loved he had ever felt, when he realized that his father didn’t have ego about who Otto is. As a Witness, as a husband, as a man, his father took him for what he was. Otto’s father had paid a frequent price by not being prideful in the face of conflict over the church that they didn’t share, over life decisions that were at odds.
The price that you have to pay for love is Ego and Pride.
Every resonant story of love that we have heard has involved people who don’t invest their ego into who their lover is. When we hear about what makes people feel loved, many of them are about times when they see that lack of fear and pride in how someone is there, what another person does.
Communication is often claimed as the heart of a successful relationship. To communicate well you will often have to overcome fear. Fear that you will hear something you don’t want to, or fear that you will be chastised, or fear that you may lose something in your openness. Communication can help us work out the particulars of of our expressive price of love: the right date, the right words, the right presence. But, the real cost of love as a feeling is not being too proud to ask for help, not being afraid to ask what your partner needs, not letting your ego define your child’s life.
The price of love is letting the ones you love be what they are without letting it be a reflection on you.