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The Rationalization of Love and Our Palatable Truths

Posted by on October 2, 2008

Language has been constructed and reconstructed since the beginning of time as a means for humans to communicate with one another and also a medium for our brains to think through and manage problems.

It’s my belief that we can only grasp a situation fully if we have the mental capacity to form the thoughts and the words around the presented concepts, otherwise we pull from what limited information we have and often make poor judgments.  Language also allows us to engage in semantic arguments with ourselves for the purpose of rationalization.  When we wish to save ourselves from the truth of a matter we use words as a cushion to sometimes avoid pain and reality.

One popular saying that gets tossed around like the Olsen twins in a wind storm is the, “I love her/him but I am not IN love with her/him”


This saying has recently come to mind because I heard a girl describe her current relationship in this fashion and then went even further to add, “I mean, I know I love him, I just can’t feel it”.  I really felt bad for this person as this is obviously a stressful subject in her life at the moment, but I did nearly laugh out loud at the latter comment.  It just amazes me at how often we (myself included) speak without even listening to what we’re saying at times.  No one is immune to the autopilot mouth syndrome but when it comes to love and relationships, the rationalization factor can reach the stratosphere.

If we really break it down, what is the difference between loving someone and being IN love with someone?  When you take the time to think about it, a completely different conversation must begin regarding the categorization of love, or perhaps the different stages. In any case, it would certainly result in a better working definition than the juxtaposition of  love, and IN love.

The word love itself has become diluted into a million categories for the purpose of defining language and our emotions. Platonic love, friendship love, family love, brotherly love, the love for an object or a feeling, the love for a song, and my personal favourite… ‘Luv’, the granddaddy of semantic love.  You will see people substitute “from” at the end of letters with ‘Luv’ to heroically take that imaginary defining step between “from” and “Luv.”  Our varieties of definitive love become a way for us to show affection without having to step too far out of our comfort zone.

But within language lies rationalization. Nobody wants to face the truth until there is no other option. No one wants to admit that they are in a relationship with a girl they love like their sister or mother because that’s not an acceptable thought; especially when you come to realize that and you have to get into bed with the person later that evening (Calling Dr. Freud, Dr. Freud to the office please).  So it’s merely easier to say, well “I really do love her, I’m just not IN love with her”.

Love has so many faces and facets that it has been twisted to fit into more situations than two acrobats from Cirque du Soleil working their way through the Kama sutra.

I’ve had a past relationship that was overflowing with rationalization, even from before we became exclusive there were so many red flags and warning signs.  Friends and I still recall all the cons that were associated with this girl pre-relationship, but since she was always around, she was “nice enough” and I felt it was time to grow up (whatever that means) and get a girlfriend, voila King Rationalization.  Even after a year when I was very unhappy and tried to end things, she lobbied the court to keep the relationship going and again I said to myself, “Self, she’s a nice girl and she’s probably right, you’re probably just scared of commitment. Be a man (whatever that means) and stick it out” Three years and a messy whirlwind breakup later, we were both forced to face the harsh realities we had been running from through language and utter denial.

There is a saying I heard once upon a time, and though I am sure to butcher it I will try to recreate it:

“Anger and sadness can subsist forever in confusion and deceit, but it cannot survive in the truth.” I very much believe in this.  Once you look at the truth you are forced to see life as it is, not how it might be. Within confusion breeds the possibility of change and surprise, but within truth is meaning and acceptance.

In my opinion, “I love him, but I am not in love with him” is the equivalent of giving your love life the silent treatment. It is a suspension of any real action in favour of the status quo.  The sentence itself has little meaning and is much more fashion than function.  It does nothing but prolong us from taking action, addressing the problem(s) or moving towards the difficult decisions that are now inevitable.

I’ve always taken love as a very special mystery, and one that should not be sullied and confused with semantics, categories, and triple meanings.  It takes away some of the magic.  I wish we could speak in definitive terms.  Speak to our experiences and frustrations so to face reality, take it from someone who didn’t.

Dealing with issues head on does not mean your relationship is automatically doomed, but it’s easier to cure a cancer when you’re not pretending it’s a cold. When we speak to facts and situations that exist and can be evaluated through language the answer becomes clear and all that is left to do is take action. Yes, the hardest part.

The word love used to be held as a member of royalty within the English language, that only if you were lucky enough, be honored to sit with the Queen. Somewhere along the way we decided to turn love into the court jester.   In my opinion, for someone to say, “I love her, but I’m not IN love with her” denigrates the beauty behind the mystery of love, and further more gives precedent to others to do the same.  I feel we’re all capable of better.

What Do You Think?

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