St Valentine’s: What’s love got to do with it?

What’s love got to do with it?

Hurrah for the Patron Saint of Love – St Valentine! The official day for lovers everywhere! Book that table, buy that card – tell her you love her…

There’s a scene in the seminal Seventies movie, Love Story, where the leads – doomed lovers Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal – share a poignant exchange on her deathbed, where she utters the immortal line: “Love… means never having to say you’re sorry.”

Well, sorry love, but it’s been quite the opposite for me. It’s all too easy to take someone you profess to love for granted, particularly after the first flush of lust begins to fade; sleepy-to-urgent, early-morning sex is a distant memory, and certainly after a few years’ cohabitation.

Bad day at work? It’s not the dog or cat who gets it, but your ‘boo’, your ‘baby’, your sweetheart with whom you got jiggy only a few hours earlier. This thing called ‘love’ can diminish just as soon as it begins.

This thing called ‘love’
So what exactly is ‘love’ anyway? Meshing neuroses? A chemical reaction? Nature’s sneaky way of ensuring we continue the species? Or something completely intangible and inexplicable that could only be the meeting of soul mates? Until it all derails, of course.

We’ve all felt that very physical heartache when someone we love has left us. As Al Green sang so eloquently: ‘How can you mend a broken heart?’ Indeed. The pain is tangible; visceral even. And yes, people do die from broken hearts – although you‘ll never see it on an autopsy report. So it must be real, right?

Romancing the stone
The romantic notion of love, favoured by fans of Austen, Cartland and more contemporary chick-litters, is a powerful force. In fact, it’s a billion-dollar, heart-pounding, stomach-churning worldwide industry. However, many of the emotions we associate with ‘love’ temporarily blind us to our beloved’s irritating habits that emerge later. And this chemical reaction often has little to do with freeing someone and loving them just as they are. Instead, we seek to change, alter, sculpt and even grow to hate the object of our desire, simply because we dodesire them, ergo they have power over us. We are suddenly, painfully, aware of our vulnerability. What if they leave us? Possessiveness, insecurity, jealousy. How many couples do you know are soldiering on in complete denial? Having failed to take their respective exits, they remain resolutely tied to each other’s masts.

The real deal
In short, we’ve been sold up the Swanee with this whole romantic love lark. And despite singletons everywhere protesting their woe – or complete indifference – this Saturday, most of us would still welcome some regular love action, in its myriad forms. But what is ‘love’, actually?

Pure, unconditional love is something we feel for our children – as most emotionally healthy parents will recognise. But it’s quite another thing experiencing it for life, for a partner. So, what’s it all about then?

“Love explains love,” announced Rumi sagely – as only he can. And he has a point. It just is. Why try to explain something as inexplicable and intangible anyway?

Know thyself
In my experience, how we receive – and give love – very much depends on our relationship with our selves. And how much we love and honour ourselves. Without these vital ingredients, any external relationships will always be lacking.

As for our much-celebrated St Valentine, the guy had nothing to do with love. According to legend, he was Roman priest, beheaded on February 14th, and only associated with the day as his death coincided with the Roman festival of Lupercalia – a celebration of Pan (god of chaos and wine) and Juno (goddess of marriage). Sweet irony, dear bedfellows!

Happy Valentines!