Love hurts?

Foreigner by Cat StevensI’m always pointing out the fallacy of adages — a watched pot does boil, for example, and you can judge a book by its cover. (I do it all the time.) Pop music tends to spread a lot of faulty “truths” around as well, most of them having to do with love. As I’ve said before, this matters.

As impressionable teens being schooled in love by pop music (because, god knows, our parents weren’t talking to us about it), we got some bad advice and learned some bad lessons. It’s remarkable how durable some of those lessons can be. Love is blind, higher than a mountain, thicker than water, alive, a rose, like a heatwave, like oxygen, the drug… Perhaps the worst love lesson we get: “Love Hurts.”

It was first recorded by the Everly Brothers in 1960, then Roy Orbison, but people around my age all know it as the top 10 hit by Nazareth. “Love Hurts” is a great song. The drama! Apparently, it was the biggest hit ever in Norway. (Oh, the things you learn on Wikipedia!) I and countless other teens coming of age around the time of the Bicentennial ached to have a love so grand that it hurt.

So many people I know still cling to this idea, a corollary to that other maddening maxim, “relationships are really hard work”: if there’s no pain, if it doesn’t break your heart, it isn’t (or wasn’t) love. I felt the same way for a long time. I’ve cried 96 tears. But guess what? If it hurts, it’s not love.

What is it, then, you ask? Good question. It’s self-cherishing attachment, that grasping we do…which is pretty much the opposite of love. I didn’t come up with that myself; it was pointed out in a great talk I went to last week. So simple and so profound, it bears repeating: attachment is the opposite of love.

Think about the last time you felt hurt by love. What hurt? The fact that you weren’t going to be getting something from the other person anymore, right? Yes, that hurts. But it ain’t love. That, my friend, in a nutshell, is attachment.

Love is...all aroundIf you love someone, set them free,” we started hearing at the dawn of the 1970s (around the time of Love Story and Love is… cartoons), and Sting sang a decade and a half later. Corny as it sounds, that aphorism comes a lot closer to the truth. Love is wanting the other person to be happy. Period.

Usually, when we’re “in love,” we’re doing some combination of grasping and really loving; it’s rarely 100% one or the other. At least that’s what I’ve been doing. I still catch myself doing it. I’ve loved, sure, but I can’t say I’ve ever truly loved all the way, selflessly. How do I know? It always hurts when it ends. Maybe the next one won’t.


11 thoughts on “Love hurts?

  1. I’m afraid I can think of scenarios where an overly simplistic view of love with regard to attachment and pain is dangerous.

    There are situations where attachment is appropriate. Such as a child to its parents. I’ve worked with abused children, and what hurt them more than the abuse of the parents was that they loved them and only wanted what God and Mother Nature put in their genetic code: to look to the one who birthed them for succor and safety, despite the abuse, and this is the purest form of love, a child’s love.

    Yes, it includes attachment, because in nature, that’s how any species survives, through attachments to parents, tribes, packs, herds, colonies, hives. It’s how we are all made.

    To accept at face value the dogma that any feeling one perceives as love that hurts cannot be love is a failure to look deeper than dogma. The perspective, “If it hurts, it’s not love” may not always be true.

    I’m sure they’ll map the gene some day, if they haven’t already. It is through love with attachments that animals and mankind have stood against natural disasters and recovered since the beginning of time. Invasions, plagues ~ without the attachments of love, no one would have had the courage to hold their ground in the name of love, at the risk of their own lives. And there was a lot of hurt to pay for these courageous, loving attachments.

    Oh, I can see how a narcissistic attachment that “hurt” would not necessarily be love. But my opinion is that your thesis is a case of over-generalization. The love to which you seem to refer is a narrow construct of literary creation. Beautiful, lyrical, but pure ego and emotion, and these days, fetishized by our global culture.

    If I’d never seen a child with cigarette burns all over his body, hurrying to finish a gift in a flurry of innocent excitement and desire to please the parent on their way to visit – the very one who put those scars all over him – asking me, big smile: “Is mommy here yet? Is she almost here? When will she be here?” ~ while waiting proudly by the door, gift in hand, ready to give all the art and creativity his little heart and soul can contain – waiting for the monster and her (or his) love, and full of love for that monstrous person who tortures him – if I’d never seen this living nightmare, over and over, always the same, I might have considered your zen philosophy as holding more water than not.

    But I have seen such horrors. Of course the worst case scenarios being when the monsters didn’t bother to show up. There was more attachment and more love and more pain than I’d seen in my lifetime thus far, there before me in one, tiny, helpless person who just wanted to please his mommy. Or daddy. And his reward? More torture, the cruelty of denying the child the attachment to the only person he’s ever loved and in his heart can’t live without, as sad as it may be. He begins to die inside for lack of love, and the safety of attachment. He can’t logic it out that his attachments aren’t safe. He can only hear what his genes, his instincts tell him. Love mommy.

    We’ve all seen examples of wild carnivorous animals adopting orphaned babies of a different species they normally would have viewed as sustenance. They have a strong instinct to nurture. Yes, some animals eat their young, but not one bite at a time over years, the way human parental carnivores do.

    You will not find the human in the animal, but always the animal in the human. Those of us who torture, are aberrations of our species. Animals are devoted to their young, mate for life, mourn their dead. They kill to eat, or protect the group. Not for sport. Did you see “March of the Penguins?” Then I hope you know what I am saying. We could learn a lot from them, and they – not a thing from us. We are destroying them and their habitats, on land and in rivers and seas.

    Attachment is survival is love. Or can be, as in the animal kingdom. Since we are animals, we have a shot. But I believe we would be better off to indulge less in the romantic construct of “in love,” (not that we can’t enjoy that part of life, just not put it first and foremost), and focus more on the broader concept of love. Agape.

    Through physics, spiritual experience, faith, instinct, agape – we know we are all connected, all one, sentient, breathing entity, with the earth and the stars and the stone and every creature on the planet and beyond. If we acknowledge this truth, we may survive as a species. I hope we will before it’s too late.

    But we live in a world with monsters in our midst, and therefore, I wish you’d consider the kind of love and attachment a child feels for what his instincts tell him – despite what he’s endured – is the person who is there to nurture and keep him safe, the first face he ever saw, the one he loves and to whom he’s attached no matter what that monster does. It’s in his genetic code. He’s been imprinted. He is entirely innocent and blameless for his attachment and for his pain. For him, love hurts, and he is guilty of nothing but having been born.

  2. Thanks for your thoughtful comments, Pamela. I think we are in agreement and talking about the same things. Clearly, attachment and love are intertwined, and there can be no doubt attachment serves a necessary, biological function for children who require it for their survival. I’m more interested here in how the two things remain intertwined in adults, how we replay our childhood imprinting, long after it serves an evolutionary purpose; and how adults’ inability to distinguish between love and attachment — particularly in romantic relationships — seems to cause a lot of unnecessary suffering.

    Thank you also for the important work you are doing in the world. Namaste.

    • Hello Dave.

      I think you have a very sweet spirit, judging from how you write. And you’re obviously an educated, talented writer and I enjoy reading you a great deal! Perhaps it is merely that we are at different stages of life?

      I have been with the same man for 34 years, married 32. I do understand some things about love and attachment and the pitfalls, lol. But still just scratching the surface.

      You seem young and these are issues that may complicate your life for years to come. Enjoyably, perhaps at times not so very. But what an adventure you have to look forward to! I hope you will embrace every moment.

      I think I misread you. You seemed to me to be coming from a position I could only describe as almost religiously detached. Of course I can’t know that, and forgive me please if it sounds insulting. It is not meant to be. I am seeking to understand you, that’s all. I have great respect for you and your opinions and the generosity of your willingness to share them.

      Now, from your answer, I see your comments in a whole new light, and that I am wrong. You are talking about psychology, not mysticism or religion. And there, I do agree with what you say almost entirely. It helps no one to intentionally or accidentally replay his childhood woundings. But we are assuming there is always choice involved.

      Through experiments with brain imaging, it’s been shown that to the brain, trauma remains in the present. No longer psychology, but physiology, biology, endocrinology etc. Damage done stays done, and it takes miracles akin to a paralytic running a marathon for a trauma victim’s brain to return to it’s pre-traumatized state. Everything has changed, including hormone levels, adrenal responses, more than I am capable of grasping or sharing. I just find it fascinating.

      So, as I said, I agree with almost everything you say about romantic love. The only conclusion, right or wrong, that I’ve drawn from what I’ve seen with abused kids and read concerning people with varying degrees of PTSD, (more common than we are aware of due to the stigma attached), is that the suffering may actually be necessary for some people .Necessary, in the sense that they cant choose not to suffer.

      Regarding the majority of people you will probably meet, however, your conclusions will prove to be on the money, and you will benefit from your well honed insights.

      As unfortunately long-winded as I am, (sorry!), the one point I truly wanted to make about love and pain and attachment, was that I believe we are all attached to each other and to the farthest galaxy in the Universe. To God, to whatever you think of as Divine. Even if it is Love itself. We are one. And in such a system, when one hurts, we all feel at least a little twinge, don’t you think?

      It’s been a pleasure to receive your wisdom, and be allowed to share my reflections on a topic of such depth and interest. Have a wonderful life, Dave! You deserve it. It was lovely to meet you. Peace.

  3. Pingback: What is love? | I can't believe Dave X Robb doesn't have a blog

  4. I’m beginning to come around to the following lyric by Rick Nelson: “Seems you can’t please everyone, so you’ve got to please yourself.” Love is out there, and there is a person who is ready and willing to take it.

    I’m going through a divorce (it’s OK…I’ll be a lot better once it’s over) and while I won’t say that we fell out of love — I will always love her — she loved other things differently. But there’s a certain point where it is true that you need to set them free. In our case, once I realized we were traveling in different directions, it was time to go in our separate ways.

    And there are a number of songs about that, too, if you’re willing to dig into those.

    But it comes down to looking out for #1. Learn to love on your own terms, and those negative influences are better if they just move on.

    • Good luck, Chris — I’m sure it’s a hard time you’re going through, but you seem to have a good perspective on it all: doing what you need to do, while still loving her.

  5. Pingback: Love is in the air | I can't believe Dave X Robb doesn't have a blog

  6. Pingback: 100 posts | I can't believe Dave X Robb doesn't have a blog

  7. Pingback: Love according to Bread | I can't believe Dave X Robb doesn't have a blog

  8. Pingback: Panacea | I can't believe Dave X Robb doesn't have a blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s