My wife and I agree with each other that if we’re ever split up for whatever the reason, we’ll both be okay. We know that it will hurt us, and that there will be periods of mourning and grieving and loneliness if such a thing ever does happen, but we also know that we’ll move on with our lives and still do our best to contribute to the world in our own humble ways.
Whenever we hear one of those awful songs on the radio that sound more like addiction or neediness, we look at each other and say something like “how sad.” It seems that the concept of “romantic” love in our culture (and not just ours, I know from experience) has turned into something more akin to neediness, or even addiction. When you hear a song in which the singer claims “I don’t want to live without you,” or “How am I supposed to live without you,” or “Without you I am nothing,” what else are we supposed to think? The singers are not expressing a healthy love that benefits both partners; rather, they’re singing about their own inability to feel a strong, healthy love that doesn’t project their own needs upon another person.
As soon as someone tells another person “I can’t get by without you,” that person is making the other person responsible for his or her happiness. Is that a burden that you want to carry with you forever–making sure that another person is happy by staying with them no matter what the circumstances? As soon as I say that “You’re my reason for living,” I’m implying that if you dare to leave me, the chances are good that I’ll have to take my own life. (Of course, the truth of the matter is that these people usually transfer their need to someone or something else once their “only reason for living” leaves them.
Don Henley wrote a great song that caught me from the very first line: “I had a good life before you came/I had my friends and my freedom/I had my name.” The simplicity of the statement is beautiful, and the truth behind it truly exceptional in today’s music scene. The woman he’s singing to knows that she’s loved, but she’s not responsible for making him happy. He goes on to say that his love with her has given him strength he never knew that he had, and that he did have times of loneliness and sadness, but he doesn’t put the burden on her to keep him happy.
The seventies’ song “I Will Survive” also shows a more mature approach to a break-up: “Did you think I’d crumble/Did you think I’d lay down and die?/Oh no, not I/I will survive/As long as I know how to love/I know I will stay alive/I’ve got all my life to live/I’ve got all my love to give/And I’ll survive–I will survive.” There is pain in almost any ending of almost any relationship, but that pain can be dealt with, and we can move on and still make something of our lives.
Contrast that to Amaral’s “Sin Ti no Soy Nada” (“Without You I Am Nothing”), Michael Bolton’s “How Am I Supposed to Live without You?” (“How am I supposed to carry on/When all that I’ve been living for is gone”), Foreigner’s “I Don’t Want to Live without You,” Trisha Yearwood’s “If I Ain’t Got You,” or any other of hundreds of songs that make it sound as if without another person, the singer’s life means nothing.
It’s important to remember that “need” and “love” must exist independent of each other. Leonard Jacobson says this:
“We are deeply conditioned into a dependency upon each other. Most songs, novels, poems and movies glorify this love based on need. It is all about finding each other and falling in love. This wanting and needing each other is being constantly reinforced and conditioned into us. It is continually presented as acceptable and desirable behavior.
“At the end of the movie, the couple’s love triumphs and they walk off happily into the sunset. But they don’t show you the sequel where the couple have grown tired and fat, are bored and miserable, and are dependent upon and resentful towards each other. Nobody tells you that the key to fulfillment is not finding each other, but rather finding yourself. And you can never find yourself in the other.”
Yes, I buy Valentine’s Day cards for my wife. It usually takes a while, though, before I’m able to find one that says simply, “I love you and I’m glad you’re a part of my life.” I have to sift through so many others that say “I can’t imagine what my life would be like if you weren’t here,” because, truth to be told, I can imagine life without my wife. I love our life together, but my love of life is not dependent upon another person for its existence. I’ve told my wife that. And she’s told me the same thing.
That’s probably why our relationship continues to stay strong and grow…