I learned a lot about love when I was in my senior year of high school. I had fallen in love with a girl. That in itself would have been unremarkable. I have had crushes since second grade. As early as third grade, I even imagined my crush in a wedding gown, and for a while, that became my standard for evaluating my crushes — whether they looked good in a wedding gown or not. Anyway, falling in love was nothing new to me.
What made it different this time was that I had actually gathered up enough courage to tell her about it.
It was around this time, in English class, that we were discussing a short story called The Chaser by John Collier, about a young man in search of a love potion that he wanted to give to his lady love and buying it for a dollar.
In the middle of the lecture, our teacher asked, “Is love a will or an emotion?” A lively debate ensued. On the one hand, there were people who thought that love is an emotion — a fleeting thing given that people fall in and out of love all the time. If hashtags had been invented then, these would be the people saying #WalangForever (there is no “forever”).
On the other hand, there were people who thought that love is a will — that one makes a conscious decision to love another in spite of his or her shortcomings, in spite of the original rush and thrill being gone — like when couples grow old together and still love each other despite the wrinkles, the falling hair and missing teeth. This is the kind of love that says #MayForeverNga (“forever” exists indeed).
At that time, I heavily defended the second answer. Today, I tend to think it’s a bit of both, but still more of a decision than a feeling. The emotion is necessary for the initial spark, but it is the will and commitment that keeps the fire burning through the years.
Before I got married, a colleague of mine gave me a rather obscure but marvelously insightful book called The Mystery of Marriage by Mike Mason. It was a “pirated” version, meaning she photocopied her copy and gave me a bound version (though I don’t think she did it to save cash but more likely she couldn’t find an original version anywhere).
Of course, I would probably not agree with most of the book now but I still remember it fondly for the chapter on vows. It asserted that the vows were the be-all and end-all of marriage. When the attraction has faded, and things turn sour, and the shortcomings of your partner have been laid bare before you — when you at last stop seeing through love-tinted glasses — you are left with nothing holding your marriage together but your vow.
That is the essence of saying that love is both an emotion and a will.
Moreover, Mike offers this little gem: “To keep a vow, means not to keep from breaking it, but rather to devote the rest of one’s life to discovering what the vow means, and to be willing to change and to grow accordingly.”
By now you are probably wondering what happened to that girl to whom I had declared my love. Well, let me just reiterate what I said at the beginning — that I learned a lot about love that year, and that includes learning about how to deal with a broken heart.
Advanced Happy Valentine’s Day!