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What is Love? Ego or Sacrifice?

By Edited May 9, 2014 0 0

The querent on Mahalo.com asked, What is love? Ego or Sacrifice? The question was posed as if Ego and Sacrifice were two mutually exclusive statuses. I looked up "Ego" on dictionary.com and found the third definition to be the most likely the writer was referring to: conceit, self-importance. Infatuation is like that. So much of the feelings, the warmest, fuzziest most desirable feeling we associate with "love" are all about transference and projection.

We meet a beautiful woman and decide she therefore must be kind. She returns our phone calls and we decide the kindness has been confirmed. We notice after a couple of weeks that she can be a little self-absorbed, but we chose to ignore that information because it doesn't match the fantasy we have been building. We want to believe the poor kid is a regular Cinderella. Never mind that our parents are pointing out she doesn't come from a "good family." What snobs, we tell ourselves defensively. The next thing we know our sister is mentioning her blouse has come up missing, or perhaps an expensive perfume, but in the infatuation stage who can talk to us?

Most men are visual. If a woman is beautiful, to them, they are willing to let an awful lot slide. So she's poor, ill-educated, has no manners, is of a different religion etc etc. Love conquers all we tell ourselves. Women are less visual, but vulnerable just the same during the infatuation stage. If a man makes good money women are willing to overlook a lot of things. So he can't make conversation, doesn't care for your family, isn't interested in what you have to say – it will all work out later, women tell themselves.

And that is why we have so much divorce in this country. Seven years later, after a couple of kids have been born, no amount of beauty can carry a bad marriage. A man starts to notice if you can't cook, spend all his money with aplomb, put him down in front of his friends. He may stay, because he doesn't want to "visit" his own children, but he won't respect you. And what I call an "invisible" divorce starts to emerge. Women do the same thing, they quickly get used to the nice house, the yard work being done, the cars that run all that being taken for granted, if they never really loved their man, they start noticing everything that bothers them.

In an invisible divorce the partners have gotten so tired of being disrespected, of not being heard, in an effort to stem the fighting and preserve the finances two divergent paths roll out. Men find buddies to hang with, sports to watch, stop interacting with the family and emotionally shut down. It is not uncommon to find them using the long commute as an excuse to spend no time bonding with children or wife. I understand that commuting is a wearying prospect, tough on the body and the mind. My point is, a person who valued their family as a priority would move closer to their job, or change jobs and not use it as excuse to hide behind.

I knew a couple once where the husband left before dawn to "avoid" LA traffic, and then stayed after work at bar drinking until past 8pm to "avoid" traffic. Needless to say, watching an hour of TV with his wife when he got home was NOT interacting. They had a three bedroom home for just the two of them. I could find no reason for them to live so far from his work except that they LIKED their invisible divorce. She stayed home, spent money and ran around with girlfriends. At family gatherings he would barbeque the steaks then retire to his room to drink.

Which brings me to the second status, "Sacrifice." The querent asked if Love were Sacrifice, which was defined on dictionary.com as surrender, giving up. I would guess a person who stays in a dead marriage where little emotion is passed would get brownie points in a Christian society for making good on those vows. I have met more than one Christian in that martyr stage, many with alcoholic or drug addicted spouses, because the bible only justifies divorce if there is adultery. So these poor people stay, in really emotionally unhealthy situations often with precarious finances, and call it "love."

I wouldn't define love that way, in a queer way, it's almost back to "Ego" again. It's as if the battered spouse is getting off on being the "good" one, and so they stay in order to feel superior. That isn't love. Some people put their own needs to the side for the sake of their kids, and call it love as well. I think if you choosing, out of a clarity of mind that it brings you more joy to put your kid in music lessons than to buy yourself a weekly massage, then it is NOT a sacrifice. It is a conscious choice. If however, resentful and angry, you put your kid in music lessons while you pine for a massage, it MAY be a sacrifice and certainly is NOT love. Kids can tell when you feel contempt for them, and they don't like it. Chances are they won't do well in the lessons. They don't enjoy making their parents suffer. In the example, the child's love is pure.

In my opinion real love is altruistic. When you love someone, you don't wish to mess up their life. Like Humphrey Bogart at the end of Casablanca, you urge Ingrid Bergman to see the big picture. When you are infatuated, you want what you want, if that means having a messy affair and ending two marriages, you may well do that. I have seen people live happily ever after in such situations. More often though, I see two people slightly distrustful of each other, trying to "make it work" after having caused so much havoc.



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