Can love conquer all no matter what the problem?
'Love conquers all things; let us too surrender to love,' Omnia vincit Amor: et nos cedamus amori, is the well known Latin phrase, pronounced by the ancient Roman poet Virgil; and was the subject of a painting by the old master Caravaggio; a song by Deep Purple and stated in the Bible by the Apostle Paul in the first book of Corinthians, chapter 13:
7, It (Love) bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8, Love never fails.
Wouldn't we all love that to be true and see that great power of love manifested in our own love lives, overcoming all hitches, glitches, problems and heart aches. Is it true? Can love really face down any troubles and beat them into insignificance? Can love, that valiant and mighty force truly be our all-conquering hero, stamping its dominating rule over any impediment?
Nowadays we tend to see love as a transitory affair, put under the microscope of scientific research and stripped of its armour and strength. Science says it's no more than a puny biological set of hormones, linking to a new set of hormonal influences with each deepening stage of our body's love chemistry. We see the loving couples around us fall at the wayside, separating, divorcing, hating, when problems block their path, the same couples who loved and lived for each other's smiles in recent memory. But did they really love, or were they duped into accepting an insubstantial counterfeit emotion?
Hazel, newly divorced, explains, "Bobby and I fell in love very quickly, a whirlwind romance really. We got married four months after first meeting. It was so romantic, every girl's dream, he swept me off my feet. Then we settled down to real life together, and that's when all the problems started. Living together as a couple was hard, we ran out of things to talk about, I dreaded holidays because we'd be alone and I had to think of things to discuss. Money became a problem, he thought I was too extravagant, we'd row. We didn't want to do the same things in our spare time, I found out he'd just been fitting in with me when we were dating but he couldn't be bothered once we were hitched. We just didn't get along when closely confined by our marriage and four walls. We ended up wanting to kill each other over stupid little things like, my forgetting to keep the fridge stocked with his favourite beer. And then I hated his friends, and so it went on. In the end we were like strangers sharing a house. Love died really quickly and turned to dislike and irritation," Hazel recounts glumly.
Newly divorced Hazel
Do you think you really loved each other in the beginning I ask her? Hazel sighs, "Well, we thought we did. But looking back, no, I think we fell in love, great attraction, which are almost the same things. But obviously the problem with falling in love is, it's just the start, but it's so intoxicating you think it is actual love because it knocks you off your feet. But you have to go all the way down the road, letting it grow into love, not just infatuation, which is pretty feeble stuff really."
Exactly, that first flush is nothing more than the first shoots of love, it's got to grow and keep growing and it's roots deepening and then we have that celebrated prize, true love. It seems that people often confuse romance and love. Romantic feelings are easily inspired and lead people into presuming that real love is growing in their hearts, whereas true love may not wear a romantic face all the time. But what of those who do enjoy real love, does it, can it, conquer all for them?
Jo and Tony have been married for 5 years. Jo sits close beside Tony on their sofa, holding his hand and squeezing it tightly, as she tells me: "Our marriage was new, finding it's legs, learning to get along, happy and then this lightening bolt struck. Tony was getting depressed, I put it down to me, you know it had to be my fault, a reflection on our marriage, so I was unhappy. I couldn't drag him out of his moods, so we went to the doctors, Tony agreed eventually after 2 years of mood swings, black depressions, pulling away from me, shutting me out in actual fact. Anyway, after tests and many doctors, he was confirmed as having Bipolar Disorder," Jo pauses, and the couple snuggle even closer together on the sofa, Tony gazing at her lovingly as she continues. "Bipolar is a disease of the brain, a big shock for us both. It's hard, it's always hard to find out there's an aspect to the one you love that you hadn't known about, something dark and out of your reference of knowledge and out of your control. But the medication has helped, the doctors have too, they've been very supportive and I did join an Internet support group for families of those with Bipolar."
Jo and Tony
How did Tony's condition impact on their love for each other I ask? Tony turns to me, "I love Jo very much, but for a while, I couldn't show it, I don't think I was even totally aware of it. I didn't want her to know what I suspected, that I had a big problem that I'd hidden successfully for years from everyone. I thought she'd leave me, I couldn't cope, so I shut her out, offence being best defense."
Jo nods, "Yes you did, you really did, my Tony seemed to vanish, there was nothing for me to hold onto. Except I had this intuition that something was wrong that wasn't to do with me, my mind told me that logically it wasn't emanating from our relationship, it was plainly depression of some sort. I read up about it and came to understand that it was not my fault. That had been my greatest fear you see, that I was to blame, that I was causing Tony all this misery, that I'd somehow dug him into this black hole and that he didn't want our marriage anymore, which was why he was so unhappy. " Tony leans over and kisses Jo's forehead.
Jo flashes a twinkling smile at Tony and resumes, "If anything, in a way, I love Tony more, although at this time I got nothing from him, no real affection, it was like a wall was dividing us, I couldn't forget the man he had been and I still loved that man very much, pined for him in a way, I was scared to lose him permanently. But I've now learnt to handle it when Tony does have an episode; I now know the signs of one coming on. It's like being on a ship at sea with him, a lot of the time it's smooth crystal seas and sunsets but we've been taught to recognise when a storm is brewing and we hold onto each other tighter, and we weather it."
Why do you weather it, wouldn't it be easier just to end your marriage? Both Tony and Jo gape at me horrified and offended, as I knew they would be, but still I ask. Tony breathes deeply, glares at me, his posture has become rigid with irritation, "We love each other and if you love each other and aren't enough of a jerk to want to lose that, you get through - together - whatever happens!" That's telling me! Jo adds, " Tony's illness has deepened the bonds between us, " she turns her face to Tony, " I think we love each other more than ever don't you?" "Definitely," Tony answers softly, smiling into Jo's eyes with a look that's both so loving and tender, I feel I'm intruding.
When renowned novelist, Iris Murdoch, developed Alzheimer's disease, her husband John Bayley, loved and cared for her throughout her years of suffering. His love didn't falter.
Sarah, who is recently become engaged to her partner of 5 years, meets me in a pub with her new fiance, Vince. I spot them sitting at a table, kissing like teenagers in full view of the crowded bar. Sarah was alone for two years while her partner was staying at Her Majesty's pleasure at a secluded and select resort, that didn't allow him to leave until his term was up.
Why did you stay with Vince once he was sentenced, I ask Sarah? "Some people thought I was doing that awful Tammy Wynette thing, 'stand by your man,' right, but that makes it sound like a cliché, it was more than that. If you love your man, you don't bog off just because he's been a naughty boy. You stay, love doesn't click on and off like a TV!" Did she see it as a sacrifice worth making? "Course I did! Love is rare, real love and you don't give up on it because the daft sod's got himself banged up. You always knew he was a daft sod, so why stop loving him now?" Vince squirms and looks uncomfy at his fiancé's glowing description of him.
"Sarah knows I love her," Vince looks into Sarah's eyes as he speaks, "and she knew that I'd do anything for her, which is why I've gone straight for a year now." Has there relationship improved as a result of the former impediment? Sarah and Vince both nod, " Yeah, it really has," Sarah says turning to him for confirmation, “it’s stronger, much stronger; we can deal with anything now. It's like we came across a big hurdle, and we could've fallen but we chose to keep on going and we won the prize now. We're more secure, I think, and it's all deeper, I know I feel more for Vince now than I did when I was first in love with him." Vince smiles happily, "yeah, it's true, I think we've fallen in love again really, " he says proudly.
Sarah and Vince happy together
As for magic, can it help us protect the first feeble stirrings of falling in love, until it flowers into deep, strong growth that binds forever?
Victoria, a wife of 30 years and white witch confides, "My husband was never an easy man to begin with, always used to lose his temper quickly, blew up whenever we had something we couldn't cope with as a couple, like his sudden redundancy. So I've made sure that our marriage is secure by casting my own loves spells for us. Love spells to protect our relationship from any obstacles. I cast one when something crops up but in general do a refresher spell every few months," Victoria smiles knowingly. "We've had some very difficult times, but our marriage is stronger than ever, we're both very content together. It's not magic alone that has kept us happy, it can't do everything, but when a couple do love each other, you want to make sure nothing unforeseen causes problems for you and it hasn't since I’ve used my skills, both as a witch and wife,” Victoria too smiles proudly.
Vince, Victoria, Jo and Tony all have a lot to be proud of, as does everyone who has the fortitude and guts to see love through. Nothing worthwhile is easy, if we are ambitious to find real, lasting love, we must expect to face many challenges. Those that want easy love are misguided, they will only find fools' gold, that turns to dust and divorce in their hands. Love, as these couples have shown, is more like the mythical Arthurian' knights' challenges to find the Holy Grail, it takes nerve, courage and stamina; the prizes go only to the brave. 'He who dares wins,' 'Give and you shall receive,' so many phrases, all telling us the same thing, to the victor, the valiant, the spoils. The heady, lasting pleasures of real love, await only those who dare. Love does conquer us all; if we're weak and give up on it easily, it will burn us; if we have the will to fight any tribulation for those we love and to nurture that precious gift our whole lives through, the bountiful and deeply fulfilling rewards are there for the taking. As we have seen, wimps need not apply because life will always throw major obstacles in the path of true love at some point during our relationships. Love is like a trial by fire, it shows who are the wimps and who are the worthy. So are you brave and strong enough to take the love challenge?