It's a simple statement, but profound.
After my son was born my ex accused me of loving our baby more than loving him. He'd often say that I spent more time with our baby than with him - ignoring the very real fact that newborns take an incredible amount of time, attention and energy. I'd try to reason with him - pointing out that my romantic love for my partner was entirely different than my maternal love for our child - but it never stuck. My ex's view of love was finite. Love was an exhaustible resource, there was only so much to go around, and I couldn't love both our child and him. It extended to our family and friends. Once, when a friend's son was in the hospital, I expressed my worry and fears for his surgery. "I can't care about another child now," my ex snapped at me. "I only have energy to care for my kid."
How can you not love this stinkerbutt?
It's a view of love that springs from abuse and narcissism and is, in my opinion, fundamentally flawed. Love is not finite.
It's not an exhaustible resource, though it may need replenishment. It can vary in its intensity, as anyone who's been in a long-term relationship will tell you. It can ebb and flow depending on the other's needs - my son needs less from me now than he did when he was an infant, a close friend needed more when going through a bad divorce but needs less now that things have (more or less) stabilized.
The fact that love is not finite doesn't mean that you can't set boundaries around it. Loving someone doesn't mean that you have to let them hurt you. This is something I've struggled with throughout my life. I wasn't raised with boundaries - my father expected to be able to walk into my room anytime he pleased, and twice broke down my bedroom door when I tried locking it. I didn't know how to articulate my boundaries because I didn't know what they were, or even that I was allowed to have any. Sometimes this has meant that I haven't been able to identify them until after the fact - oh, wow, that hurt, that's not good for me, I need to speak up and tell my partner that's not okay. That still doesn't mean I have the language to properly articulate those boundaries with tact and love (still learning).
It also doesn't mean that love can't end. Love that is based in abuse and control isn't love. Love that has been poisoned, or left to wither through neglect, can finally die. But I've found that the more true love I put out in the world - whether it's taking the time to talk to a friend who just lost her job, stopping in the midst of my busyness to read to my son for a half hour, or rolling down the car window and handing a bottle of water to a homeless person - the more comes back to me. It becomes a healthy, karmic cycle.
Dating post-divorce hasn't been easy for me - as I wrote about for Ravishly, dating post-abuse is incredibly hard. My kinda-sorta boyfriend from Massachusetts has his own share of issues relating to an ex-wife. I say 'kinda-sorta' because we're not together but not apart. The reasons are complicated. They relate to feelings of self-worth on both sides and some private things I'm not at liberty to share. I love him, and he loves me, but we may not end up together. For that reason, it's a harder parting than my divorce. Often, in society, we receive the message that loving someone has to look or end a certain way. School age rhymes of sitting in a tree and, "Here comes Dena with the baby carriage..." It doesn't, and it can still be real.
A lot of my life is in flux at the moment, though it should settle down soon. Holding this man with open hands and heart has been a lesson for me, and illumainating in all that I still have to learn and my continued struggles with self-worth. This week's mantra?
I am a powerful creator of love and I can create the love I need in my life.
Love isn't finite, but it can end, it can evolve, and if it no longer serves both parties it can be simultaneously left behind and carried with you. Left behind in that you're no longer with that person, but carried with you in the lessons it taught you and the love you still hold for them.