I’ve been told that love is all you need. It sounds good. I wish it were true. But it’s not true. And it’s a dangerous untruth, at least in my mind. I’ve gone down many a bad road and made many a wrong turn under the misapprehension that love is enough. I’ve stayed in relationships well past their expiration dates and performed many heroic feats of attempted salvation in the hopes of convincing a beloved that love will save the day. Only, sometimes it can’t. Or it won’t. Either way, the disappointment of discovering that love does not conquer all can be absolutely devastating.
Why am I thinking such depressing thoughts, you may wonder. Well, I’m still contemplating the experience of reading the entirety of the Vampire Academy series in one fell swoop. It was an utterly marvelous adventure in which I lost myself for hours on end in a thoroughly compelling world filled with characters I cared about and loved to spend time with. Thinking all the while that I was so grateful to have discovered (along with millions of other fans) another truly outstanding series and author.
Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed this series immensely. I found myself forgoing other activities to be able to read instead. And I always like it when a series actually has a beginning, a middle and an end, rather than going on ad infinitum like some series I could name. Nothing good ever comes from a never-ending story. At least not in reality. But, having said that, Ms. Mead left quite a number of loose ends dangling like participles at the end of a poorly-constructed sentence. Not generally considered good form. I had a lot of questions, personally, which I won’t list here, lest you haven’t yet read the books. But suffice it to say, there was quite a bit of Batman’s utility belt going on toward the end–you know what I mean–miraculous coincidences, deus ex machine, everything tied up neatly in a bow. And you know how I feel about that. I’m opposed, for the record.
And, in case you need a spoiler alert, here you go–spoiler alert–Rose and Dimitri get their HEA (I know, you are totally surprised!). But I have to say, I had a bit of a problem with it and here’s why: Richelle Mead got it right the first time, when toward the middle of the series things fall apart between our erstwhile hero and heroine. And while I was sad that things were going south for them, and that I was only going to get one stinking, tepid sex scene after three or four books–oops, did I say that out loud?!–I loved the way that Richelle Mead described the absolutely heart-breaking, gut wrenching phenomenon of knowing someone loves you and also knowing that it doesn’t matter, that it’s not all going to be OK, and that despite true love, the two of you are not going to go riding off into the sunset together.
Has this ever happened to you? If not, count yourself among the fortunate. I think I read too many historical romances as a teen; you know, the kind where the hero and heroine hate each other for most of the book or have some other compelling reason to keep them apart, despite their palpable attraction to each other? But it always works out in the end for these fantasy lovers, and, in fiction, love usually does conquer all. And while I’m not a child of the sixties, I liked the Beatles as much as anyone, and I absolutely believed love is all you need and all you need is love. So when I dated a series of completely unsuitable men who I absolutely believed in my heart of hearts loved me, I held onto those relationships with everything I had because I thought that love would prevail, if I could just persevere.
But, here’s another spoiler alert, this time, of the real life variety: love doesn’t always prevail. My problem, it turned out, was that I was listening to too much Beatles and not enough Rolling Stones. I should have paid attention when Mick Jagger sang, “Angie, I still love you baby, everywhere I look I see your eyes.” But the song is still about him breaking up with her. And I hated that part of it, and secretly berated Mick for leaving his love. Because if he loved her, why was he leaving her? I really didn’t get it. And, on top of my tendency to perseverate to Angie, I had a bad habit of listening to Guns and Roses Don’t Cry over and over again, until my roommate wanted to throw herself out of the nearest window (which was 39 stories above street level, so you can imagine her annoyance). It’s harder to let go when you know that love isn’t the problem. At least it was for me.
I’ve been in at least two, maybe three relationships where the man I was with was in love with me–and acknowledged it– but didn’t like that he felt that way so he punished me for it. Twisted? Upsetting? You bet. Truth? Absolutely. In fact, this is exactly like the situation between Rose and Dimitri at one point in the series, and I celebrated the author’s foray into authenticity.
But then Richelle lost her nerve. She cheated. Like a light bulb going off, Dimitri “realizes” that true love must endure, so he gets over himself and throws himself wholeheartedly into the relationship with Rose and they get their HEA after all.
I think this could lead to the creation of dangerous expectations concerning romantic liaisons for some individuals. This is not usually what happens in real life. In real life, when someone can’t accept love, it’s usually because they are emotionally damaged in some way (in the way Dimitri is damaged, in fact), and it is only rarely that another’s love can overcome that (at least not without massive therapy for the damaged person). But how many times have we told ourselves that if we can just love our beloved a little more, hold on a little longer, it will all be OK? How many times have we made excuses for the other, dismissing hurtful behavior, rationalizing that he didn’t mean it? Yup, I thought so.
Abandon this trope–it doesn’t work. Love is marvelous and unquestionably necessary for relationships to work. But it is not the only requirement. Respect, trust, and compatibly are equally important for the long-term success of any romantic alliance. I wish someone would write a song about that. I’d hit the repeat button and settle in for a long listen.