(In Love) What does that mean?

Valentine's day has me contemplating the word and its meaning. It has been painful to do, since I am in a place where I am re-assessing who was once, in my romantic mind, the person I considered to be “the love of my life”. What did I think that meant? And how do I feel now that this was clearly not true? Certainly I can’t hold on to that particular notion, or even believe in its existence any more. If I ever truly did.

I was the recipient of this particular sentiment just last week~

“You know… I haven’t been in love with you for many years”

These words were delivered, earnestly even, in a conversation held over the phone; the distance between us serving as a delicate buffer of the intentions behind them. They hung in the air only momentarily. I was startled. Although not so much by the fact that they were said, or even how they were said, but why they were. I surmised that they were meant to injure. Or maybe it was his way of taking one final, independent stand against me, a last-ditch effort at asserting autonomy. Or perhaps it was both.

We had been enmeshed, after all. It makes sense that he would want and even need to substantiate some sovereignty.

But these words have been rattling round my head ever since - I haven’t been in love with you for many years – and not in the way that some words do, where they sit and fester, taking up space where too much time and effort is spent extrapolating meaning from them. Meaning that threatens the psyche. No, these words are in there, processing, culling, asking me to analyze, construe, bring healing … they are begging me to unhinge them from their messenger so that I can unhinge myself from him.

The fact is, and I told him this, answering his words more readily than I would have liked after being completely caught off guard by the tone of their insistence… the fact is that I haven’t been either. In love with him, that is. Whatever that means.

I think we do ourselves a disservice by assuming that continuing to be “in love” with someone will sustain a relationship, or that its presence or absence should be noted. Or that such a thing as being “in love” actually even exists. For very long anyway. The feelings of being “in love” are hormonally induced. They are physiological. Being in love is determined by the brain flooding with chemicals, inducing a pleasant and stimulating reaction that we mistake for love. We like how this feels and so we want more. And when it goes away, as it invariably does, we miss it. We call this feeling falling in love, being in love, loving someone.

I was beyond surprised that someone I had shared almost my entire life with had come to believe that because he didn’t have those feelings any longer that he wasn’t in love with me. That the feelings of contentment and respect and the concept of commitment didn’t have any place in his relationship equation as they had been in mine for so many years. And this was a man who had told me just the night before -as we sat on a restaurant patio in the cool-crisp air and ate a nice meal and discussed our separate futures and how we could work collaboratively together to ensure their success- this was a man who said that he loved me. And that he always would. Yet, he wasn’t in love with me. “Hadn’t been for years”.

It hurt.

I suppose that was the point.

And so I am attempting to resist the urge to own that hurt, to assign the fact that I was un-in-loved to my character as an acute indication of my love-ability, or lack thereof. It’s difficult, I must say. I am, without question, in the most raw and vulnerable and strange emotional/psychological space that I have ever been. Ever. And while I recognize that I am here and that it is difficult, I also know that it is serving a purpose, to make me stronger and to give me a place from which to grow, to find wisdom, and develop a higher purpose.

And I also know that there would be no point in hurting me with words if there was no love attached to them to begin with.