Privilege Blog

We Get No Practice, Or, Saturday Morning at 9:42am

So it was Valentine’s Day yesterday and this morning I had a weird thought. It seems to me that we most commonly know we have fallen in love when we feel that we love someone more than ourselves and/or we will be lost if they leave us.

Yes? No?

Let’s say yes. If that’s right, isn’t it odd that so many of us fall in love before we’ve experienced what I believe to be the strongest versions of those feelings? We truly love our children more than ourselves. But most of us fall in love before we have had any children, some may never have them. We truly lose someone when they die. But many of us fall in love before anyone we truly love has gone.

I suppose this is an argument for love later in life, and an acknowledgment of the serendipity it must take to find true love early.

But that’s really all I have to say. Talk to me, if you have a minute and are so inclined.

Have a wonderful weekend.


20 Responses

  1. I suspect that those of us who both want and choose when to have children, as opposed to letting pregnancy happen willy nilly, often believe that children need two parents, and thus don’t decide to allow the children to come along before establishing a loving relationship with a spouse that will endure throughout and beyond the pregnancy. Hence the falling in love beforehand.

    I also sometimes think that if we could be aware beforehand of how very deeply we would be attached to our children, we would think at least twice before opening ourselves up to that. And, of course, during the biological window for women and the social window for men that encourages younger people to reproduce, it is not surprising that they do so before they have lived long enough to have lost someone dear to them (except maybe grandparents).

  2. Love is somewhat of a mystery–except when it comes to our children (and grandchildren). We love them selflessly unless we are suffering from a serious deficit in our own psychological makeup.

    As for romantic love, I’m not sure that any of us are experts–even those of us married for almost 50 years. It is hard to maintain a truly romantic love through thick and the really thin. But, I think there is another kind of love that can endure–a profound caring for someone you have shared your life with–that can transcend a lot of life’s buffeting about. Woe to the person who breaches and makes this kind of love not sustainable. That would be such a shame.

  3. Love, a beautiful mystery. I often contemplate love after an extremely wonderful marriage of 30 years and now, 6 years as a widow. My very much adored 19 year old grandson has his first, serious girlfriend. Although I believe he is genuine in his feelings, part of him chafes at her “intensity” of affection. I am sometimes torn in what advice to share as my romance was unusual(at least in my circles) and rare in its maturity. With time,love can transcend but is often weathered through storms & celebrations.

    1. @Arabella Williams, I am so sorry you lost your beloved husband. And I can imagine that figuring out how to impart some wisdom across generations like that could be a mystery in and of itself.

  4. Maybe I’m more selfish than you – what I remember about those early days of falling in love is how happy I was, how I couldn’t stop smiling. It wasn’t about feeling lost if he left, but rather about being found, being seen and understood and appreciated. I always hated the “you complete me” line in Jerry Maguire, but that almost describes it – the feeling of a puzzle piece having clicked into place. I often say that only when I fell in love did I finally understand what all those love songs and poems were about.
    I experienced love of children as a completely new kind of love – just as overwhelming, but much more selfless. So it doesn’t surprise me that, at least if you’re lucky, romantic love precedes maternal love.

  5. My adult son was supposed to marry but instead lives with a woman. At first this bothered me. Now I believe if you don’t plan on having children the impetus to marry is questionable. I probably would not share this with him because I’m uncertain of it.
    You are right about loving our children no matter what but other than this I’m not sure of anything concerning love.


  6. I think the sequence you list out is adaptive. You fall in romantic love with someone, it’s about hormones and physical attraction, if things go as they usually do you have children, who you love more than you love yourself.
    Love is a process. If we have children first and love them more than we love ourselves, as is human nature, there isn’t as much room for romantic love and your child rightly always comes first. That’s the way it should be, except that there are huge social and economic benefits from having a steady partner in parenting a child. And those children, who had some extra advantages prevail, and it all begins again with them.

    1. @RoseAG, I guess it is an effective process to put as many people as possible in a situation where they will perpetuate the species;).

  7. I think romantic/marital love and parental love are so different that I cannot write about them in the same entry. And there are those who believe that romantic love and marital love are so different from each other that they shouldn’t be discussed together either, except to compare and contrast.

    It could be said that romantic love consumes itself in an intense flame, whereas marital love comforts itself in front of a cosy fire – and if you’re lucky, you will move from the first to the second in a smooth continuum. Personally, I like them both, and enjoy keeping all the fires glowing together – so maybe I’m just really lucky to be able to experience both loves with one person (for 55 years, and counting). We’ve weathered births and deaths, fires and failures, joys and successes – but most important, we always remember why we fell in love in the first place, that “first fine careless rapture” (Browning) that brought us to the “now” of a shared lifetime.

    If you want to know about love, go to the poets – Shakespeare above all. His sonnets are a life lesson in love, in all its permutations. And so many of his plays explore the subject, in their different ways. (The King James Bible has some eloquent thoughts on love too, but not many people look there nowadays for advice on the tempest-tossing of the heart.)

    But best of all: it’s never too late for love – of whatever variety!

    1. Victoire – you write so beautifully, and often echo the chaotic thoughts in my mind and somehow put them down, so I can better understand what I was thinking.

      Lisa is right, a comment worthy of the poets….xo

  8. Such a beautiful post, and such a thoughtful and poetic comment from Victoire.

    I am not certain that I can add anything to this conversation. And yet it seems to me that we spend too much time in the separation of aspects of love, and less on the continuum, which is in fact not orderly. Romantic love is a romanticization of eros, and did we not develop this, even through literature. Not to say it does not exist, it does, but how much is actual emotion, feeling, and understanding, and how much is our expectation of what we should be feeling? And who says one comes before the other? i do not think it is necessarily so for all. It seems as we age we hopefully begin to see love for all its complexity, its non-linearity. It seems a loving relationship, with a spouse lets say, can incorporate all aspects of love, sometimes sequentially, sometimes simultaneously in a complicated mish-mash that we cannot begin to decipher. Love surprises us; it does not necessarily follow a defined pattern, or lose any aspect if one is open to the evolution of the relationship. The same for the love of our children. As a culture we assume it is a given than a mother will love her child, and conversely assume that a non-parent cannot experience that same love. But neither is true. And so I believe we must plunge ourselves in, naive and unknowing, in youth as well as in age, because what other choice do we have? We can define the terms, but then we are constrained by them. We are creatures that need connection, need love, but it is only as we mature that we see how tentative and fragile it is, how necessary, how elusive to pin down,and how precious.

  9. Sorry to be Banquo’s ghost but you have assumed heterosexuality & monogamy . These are not prerequisites for experiencing love of others – including children . More of our lives are culturally than biologically determined !

  10. Lisa –

    Your Valentine Day’s post, and the resulting comments, often focus on youthful, first-time love. Yet you concede that there might be a case for love later in life. Could it be you are addressing what I call GERIATRIC ADOLESCENCE……the mysterious, yet all-too-real condition I have have addressed in the dozen or so books that have become my favorite retirement project?

    By late-life the role of children in a relationship has lost its urgency, and the focus may turn to whether or not to allow a different sort of love into ones lonely life. Yet there too, few of us have had the practice that would help assure success.

    Still, as Victoire declares, “It’s never too late for love.”

  11. @Marsha, I was aware of the depth of love for children (intellectually at least) and that one of the reasons I delayed having them so long. Someone said it’s like having your heart walking around outside your body!

  12. “The particular charm of marriage is the duologue, the permanent conversation between two people who talk over everything and everyone till death breaks the record. It is this back-chat which, in the long run, makes a reciprocal equality more intoxicating than any form of servitude or domination.”

    Cyril Connolly, The Unquiet Grave

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