We all have the potential to fall in love a thousand times in our lifetime. It’s easy. The first girl I ever loved was someone I knew in sixth grade. Her name was Missy; we talked about horses. The last girl I love will be someone I haven’t even met yet, probably. They all count. But there are certain people you love who do something else; they define how you classify what love is supposed to feel like. These are the most important people in your life, and you’ll meet maybe four or five of these people over the span of 80 years. But there’s still one more tier to all this; there is always one person you love who becomes that definition. It usually happens retrospectively, but it happens eventually. This is the person who unknowingly sets the template for what you will always love about other people, even if some of these loveable qualities are self-destructive and unreasonable. The person who defines your understanding of love is not inherently different than anyone else, and they’re often just the person you happen to meet the first time you really, really, want to love someone. But that person still wins. They win, and you lose. Because for the rest of your life, they will control how you feel about everyone else.
– Killing Yourself to Live: 85% of a True Story by Chuck Klosterman
I love this, despite wholeheartedly disagreeing with Chuck’s conclusion that there’s a winner here. There’s no control forfeited to your template person, and I’m not even sure the person who shapes your perception of love is all that responsible for anything but their (hopefully) admirable qualities…the rest is time, place, and your internal self.
More than once I’ve tried to articulate something like this to someone who’s either never been in love or thinks that real love is only real if it lasts forever and supersedes any other relationship you have in the future…as if falling in love is only proven by its permanence.
It feels to me like a combination of fears, this perspective. Fear that this idea of love allows for the love you have today (or might have tomorrow) to fall short of forever. Fear that your standards for love should be so high that only one experience should ultimately meet them, and the resulting fear that the only way to recognize and defend the one you want to last is to make (and attempt to live by) a cosmic ultimatum.
There’s nothing unromantic about the idea that you have and will love more than one person in your life. It doesn’t undermine your chances at that forever thing…it doesn’t undermine your forever thing if you have it today. Chewing on this also lets you release your past with people, shedding that lingering ‘maybe‘ about exes in favor of you, today.
It’s also helpful, I think…the battle of love is a tough one, and at times it can seem like one of life’s cruelest illusions.
At times it can seem like a drug you can’t quit.
At times it just works, and seems like the fresh air you’re breathing as you navigate your life…an ether of support and happiness blanketing your world. I think the point is that you can trust the good and the bad…breathe deeply at both ends of the spectrum and know it’s all part of the process that doesn’t have to be black or white, one or none…
The people who shape your perception of love are your heart’s teachers. Letting them go is hard. Seeing how important they were shouldn’t be.