I Just Like Loving Her

With one very notable exception, I don’t think I’ve ever gotten over any of the women I’ve fallen in love with. And I’ve fallen in love with a lot of them.

The vast majority of these loves weren’t reciprocated, so there was a lot of unrequited longing. Mostly it was that way until I graduated college. After college I conscientiously started just waiting to see what women liked me before even thinking about wanting them, which has made things generally more productive and easier on my heart. There have only been a few unrequited crushes since then, ones that in the past would have overwhelmed me with futile longing for months or years, but I shrewdly tamped them down, made them deep admirations, and spared myself the broken hearts.

This last love wasn’t unrequited. It was mistimed. She wanted me first and she loved me first and then about the time she stopped, I started really loving her.

I’m almost over the heartbreak. It took a long four months, which was relatively long given how short our friendship and relationship really were. I no longer think about her everyday. I rarely ever feel that searing pain in my chest anymore. I no longer analyze everything that went down between us or desperately imagine ways to try to convince her to give us another shot. I don’t try to hold on to friendship in hopes that it can become a relationship again. We have severed contact so I can get over the relationship. Instead I think about other people and I think a lot about the present and the future. I’m okay without her.

I scrupulously remind myself daily of my “no expectations and no futile attachments” policy and adhere to it strictly. I focus, with no demands, only on wanting and savoring whatever good things will surprise me each day and waste no energies wanting to have her (or any other unavailable good things) while I know I cannot. Emotionally, I am moving on.

The one thing I don’t do, though, is try to not love her. I am getting over the hurt. I am resigning to the reality that I’ll never have her back. I am thinking about her less and less often. But I am not stopping loving her. I realize that I rather adamantly don’t even want to do that at all. I don’t resist those thoughts in which I just adore every thing about her with no objectivity whatsoever. Those thoughts hurt less and less the more I realize that I don’t have to have her to love her. I don’t have to put my hopes in getting her back to enjoy immensely remembering her.

A friend of a friend once described romantic love as being mesmerized with another person’s uniqueness. It relatively rarely happens that your brain reorganizes everything to interpret someone as wonderful all the way down to their flaws. It is rare we get to appreciate anyone that thoroughly and with so much enchantment. It’s, honestly, a terribly neat thing that I just love experiencing. I love loving. It’s an invigorating, enthralling, and richly appreciative way to think and feel about someone or something. As Nietzsche once put it, “we love life, not because we are used to living, but because we are used to loving”. That describes my love of life, if no one else’s.

So, I never stop loving any of the women I loved. I rarely think about most of them. I almost never think of getting back with them. I don’t pine for them. My love for them never disrupts my next relationships or makes me love a new person with any less rapturous infatuation or commitment. But I’ll always love them. I love loving them. I love remembering them and what they meant to me. I love having people who when I think about them, I can find their uniqueness still mesmerizing in a way that never completely wears off. I love that there are people that I can think about and always have this twinge of fascination, however muted with time and distance.

I never know if people are serious when they insist to their new lovers that their past lovers mean nothing to them; that they’re just buried in the past. Besides the awful and abusive ones–and I have one such for whom I feel no love but only blankness–I could never imagine doing that.

So, I’m almost over the relationship. I’m almost over the break up. But I don’t think I’ll ever be over her. And I don’t want to be. I don’t see what’s to gain in that.

Your Thoughts?

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • Kodie

    The stupid brain chemicals have never really done me any favors. I think I still love this one guy who turned out to be wrong, and it’s stupid but I felt a long time ago that we were meant to be, then we took such a long time to get together. We wrote letters for 6 and a half years before we got together. It is quite unfortunate that he had a psychotic break with reality, not joking or exaggerating. I really tried to stick with him but he was a shell. And his mother was in charge of his life and wanted me out, and I took custody of all the letters between us. Last year, I was going to read them again and shred them, but they’re really good. I forgot he was so smart and good and loved me once, after all that shattered the relationship. Before and since, well I can’t say. I had one good guy in college who broke up with me because of distance, but he still dedicated his Master’s Thesis to me. It doesn’t really make up for things, but everyone else… well there’s another one, but he was really bad and I loved him the most. He’s dead now, and he never loved me, but I love so much about him. He was the most life-affirming alive living person that I ever knew. And imagine that he freakin’ died. At least he lived after me with the woman he truly loved. I imagine him as the character in my life with the most potential for disastrous passion, but he calmed down and settled with his real heart. Nice to find out he had one. He also taught me how to put on a shirt upside-down when it’s inside-out. So I think of the rest fondly when I remember that some of the things I know how to do are due to them. The last guy I thought I loved was a disaster, for example, but I think of him every time I drive around Boston and how I know my way around now even if I’m lost, how to orient myself, and take shortcuts. Plus we had more fun adventures than I’d had in a while. How can the same person be so selfish and patriarchal? I think I haven’t had a lot of relationships and I like to be pretty well single for a while between dudes, so when I fall, I think it’s these stupid chemicals but if maybe I can think: I may get some use out of this while it lasts, is that what love is?

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/camelswithhammers/ Daniel Fincke

      There’s no reason to feel fooled by the chemicals. There’s a false belief we have that it only makes sense to love someone if it is permanent or perfect. It’s just good to love. It’s funny what you say about the letters, part of coming to terms with this last relationship was rereading our instant message correspondance and, like you said, remembering that there was something there and I wasn’t completely out of my mind to feel the way I did and become so invested in her. It feels that way in the aftermath sometimes, you worry you were deluded. But you weren’t, it was love. There really is a difference.

    • Kodie

      I’m mostly upset about the chemicals from the last guy I went out with. I was immediately stricken and being with him made me a different person, a worse person. That’s abuse. He wanted a housewife, and I am not, and he thought he was my last best chance, and I failed the “test”. I told him when we broke up that I would rather go deaf than ever hear his voice again, and I would rather be single the rest of my life than end up with a guy like him, and I mean it. But it hurt anyway. This loser hates my guts. What will I do if I run into him at the store. All that pain for what, I can drive around Boston and not get lost. That’s what maps are for. I really love being single. I love not worrying about someone who doesn’t care about me for me anyway, and I love not having to care if they will leave suddenly and without warning and without the courtesy to do it in person with their own mouth. I should not try to fall in love with someone whose sister will break up with me for him. I’d like a grown-up man please, or nobody. I need to be able to reason with these chemicals and see a bad thing coming a mile away and avert that, not run straight into it. You can’t imagine how much I love the most to come home and be by myself and eat what I want and not do the dishes right away and sleep with the light on if I want. I could use a hand with the chores sometimes, but I don’t need a roommate – I’ve figured it out that living with anyone is not for me. I guess I could love them if they lived somewhere else. I would consider it.

  • http://thediscerningchristian.wordpress.com/ Chris

    I have a failed engagement in my past, and I had to come to terms with it in a similar fashion. I realized there was nothing I could do to make her love me, but simultaneously there was nothing I could do to stop loving her. Instead, I resolved to forget her — not in the sense of being unable to remember what occurred, but in the more existential sense. She slowly drifted into the same category as the Queen of England and some dude named Pierre in France whom I’ve never met: I just never think about them.

    She was, for me, existentially absent from my mind. Even in recalling her, having allowed her to drift away, I can’t feel what I did, because I have forgotten her, who she really was. Now she exists in my head mostly as a set of propositions about the past. I remained in love with her, but as it concerned my mind, she slowly ceased to exist.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/camelswithhammers/ Daniel Fincke

      Poignant. That’s very much what happened with the one woman who proved horrible to me. But I dispatched her down the memory hole far more quickly than that.

  • http://starkreal.blogspot.com/ Todd

    I can’t imagine no longer loving any of the women I’ve loved. I don’t how common that experience is though. By that I don’t mean that I constantly think of them all by any means. I mean that when something reminds me of one of them, I remember the best things about them and with loving feelings. I never seem to change my perception of them to a cold or distant one, I just stopped obsessing over them when they were no longer in my life. I’ve been happily married for 29 years now and still think very warmly of all the women that were in my life. It may be relevant that my transitions were never hostile, and always had some ambivalence. Some were more regretful or tragic than thers but I never went through the nasty breakup scenario which is perhaps where people most end up reversing their attitudes toward people they love?

  • http://eschaton2012.ca Eamon Knight

    I must be amazingly lucky. I started dating this girl in our final year of high school. We stuck it out for four years of undergrad in different cities. We got married one week after I wrote my final exam of fourth year.

    That was almost 33 years go. And here we still are, and looking good for the duration.

    Our older son however, was not so lucky. He started dating a girl in their *first* year of high school. They moved in together during college, and for a few years after graduation. They reminded us of, well, us, and we loved her as a daughter.

    Then she dumped him, after 13 years together. We don’t know all the reasons, because we keep our noses out of our kids’ personal lives. But it sucks, mostly for him of course, but also for us.

  • Gaylene Wetzel

    Oh, you sound like such a sweetie, kinda like my husband of, well, a lotta years. All the best!

  • http://marniemaclean.com Marnie

    I feel like the term “love” is too broad in a lot of ways. Infatuations or even deep caring I’ve had for someone who never reciprocated, is a totally different feeling than the first few months of being with someone who reciprocated my feelings and both those feelings are entirely different still than the feeling I have, being with someone for over a decade who has a mutual affection for me. These can all be really strong and meaningful experiences but they are not the same.

    It would be weird for me to use the same word to describe how I feel for someone I used to date and never want to date again, that I use to describe the feeling I have for the guy I’ve been with for 12 years. I do not, however, regret my past relationships, and I want those people to be happy. Neither of us is uncharitable in how we talk about our past partners. Some were good matches and some were poor matches, but all were people who changed us and made us who we are today and that seems to have worked out well for us in the end.

  • Darren

    Very nice.

    I have never stopped loving anyone, either. There have been many infatuations, and most of those have faded to nothing, save sometimes a bittersweet aftertaste after many long years gone.

    But where I actually loved? That love abides.

  • Smashed-Potatoe

    This almost, almost made me cry, plus it’s really well written.
    I know it’s not the right place, but please answer my message as the good friend you were/are.

  • joan

    thanks for this post. it expresses , almost, something that i have felt for a few years. eloquently.
    a man i loved for almost 2 years quite abruptly broke from me. i was 48 at the time, had left a marriage of 25 years or so a few years prior, and he was my first true love after. i was just feeling a peace with him. he expressed the same.
    this was the first time a man had broken my heart, and it blew my mind. it made me question my rational mind. my judgement of others. but it was not me that was irrational. it was the choice made.
    and yes, i continue to have love for him. tho this happened now over 2 years ago, i don’t want to not have that love. in a way, it would disrespect the love that was shared. i feel that fully, and whether he now reciprocates is irrelevant. my respect for the time of our love would not allow me to not love him.
    to not love him would belittle us. would disregard us. not sure if i am clearly explaining my thoughts…
    i –choose– to remember the love. that is my choice.

  • http://brucegerencser.net Bruce Gerencser

    I dated a lot in high school. When I went to college I thought, God, studying for the ministry, and girls. :) I had every intention of continuing my dating habit, but then…I met Polly. I am not sure I understand it…but here we are, married 35 years. We are very different people. I am an opinionated, temperamental, talk-to-anyone kind of person. Polly is an introverted, shy, quiet type of person. I was the only guy she dated. Somehow it works and I am glad it does.

    Let me know when someone REALLY gets love figured out. :)

  • http://wateringgoodseeds.tumblr.com Shira

    I just saw this quote go by (on tumblr, of course) and it reminded me of this post:

    “For a long time, she held a special place in my heart. I kept this special place just for her, like a “Reserved” sign on a quiet corner table in a restaurant. Despite the fact that I was sure I’d never see her again.”
    — Haruki Murakami – South of the Border, West of the Sun (via murakamistuff)

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/camelswithhammers/ Daniel Fincke

      I love it.

  • Phil

    I think most of the stereotypical dysfunctional things in marriage, like men not communicating, not acting loving, and cheating on their wives, happen because women, not men, choose their mates. Women, ask yourselves: How many men flirt with you between each new relationship you begin? Perhaps a thousand? That means the average man must flirt with a thousand women before finding one who responds. And that means you are, on average, somewhere in the middle of your man’s top 1000 list. A woman who sees a man of her social class and level of attractiveness, and desires him, has a reasonable chance of dating him. A man throws out lures habitually, on a daily basis, and takes whatever bites. The dirty secret all men keep from all women is that the women we marry are almost never the ones we wanted.

    • joan

      a wild secret to keep. tho what you say is really a pseudo-fact, you may have a truth there!
      ~~so, do you mean that when a -i’ll say ‘behavior’ – not supportive of a monogamous relationship is displayed by a man, the blame ultimately rests on the original bad choice of the woman?
      i might agree with that, actually…;)
      what say you of an abrupt ending of a relationship, with no apparent antecedent?
      you know what? it probably also reflects the same damn thing.