Loves You Madly

This floor has a lean
It gives to the side,
Where marbles and water
Roll and collide.
In the fashion of something
You think couldn’t fall,
The floor tricks your step,
Throws you to the wall,
Loves you madly
So madly
Loves you madly

— “Loves you Madly,” Joe Henry, Tiny Voices

There was something else about the book What Alice Forgot that really struck me and made me think, and that how madly in love with her husband she was. A recurring narrative in the book is her disbelief that she and her husband are getting a divorce, because they had been so “besotted” with each other at the start of their marriage.

One of the first things I thought while reading the book was: I wouldn’t be all that surprised if I found out that Mi.Vida and I were getting divorced. That might seem horrible to say, but it’s true. I’m a realist (or at least that is how I see it) about marriage and my relationship. I have seen incredible, strong, mutually loving relationships broken or worn down over time. I don’t just automatically assume mine will withstand the trials of parenting and long term commitment better than others have. I hope it will, but I know that things happen and marriages fail.

Having said that I’m willing to work hard for my marriage. I already have worked hard for it, and I believe we’ve come out of the last seven difficult years of disagreement, loss, struggle, transformation, more struggle and parenting stronger for all we’ve been through. We’ve been to the brink a few times, and we needed professional help to step away from it twice, but we’ve remained committed to each other. I think we have as much chance as any other couple to make it for the long haul.

And yet… I wouldn’t say we’re madly in love. I don’t think we’ve ever been madly in love. Is that an awful thing to say? Or is it awful that I married someone I wasn’t madly in love with?

I love my husband, please know that. I absolutely love him with all my heart. We’ve been through so much and I know he loves me and cares for me greatly. He respects me, he appreciates me, I would even say he cherishes me. And I do the same to him. But do we adore each other? Are we besotted? (That is a word that is specifically used in the book.)

I spent my late teen years and the first half of my twenties looking for a relationship, or rather, wondering why I couldn’t find a relationship. So when Mi.Vida showed some interest in me, I was quick to invest myself fully in the possibility of a meaningful connection. I loved him, absolutely, but I wasn’t madly in love with him. I had never been in another relationship so I made a lot of assumptions, about whether we were right for each other, and whether we loved each other enough.

I wanted us to be right for each other, I wanted us to love each other enough, because I was approaching my late twenties and more than anything (even more than a good marriage) I wanted children, and I was terrified I wouldn’t be able to have them. So I pushed. I pushed for us to commit to each other. I pushed for us to have children. We never had that honeymoon period where it was just us, committing to being with each other and our relationship. We dove head first into making it about adding someone else to our family.

We committed to each other by having children, or trying to. I will admit, it’s not the best way to do it (having said that I’m really glad we did because with MFI and DOR (at 33) we probably would have struggled a lot harder to have kids had we waited) and I think our relationship suffered for it (the loss and struggle didn’t help). The last few years have been hard, and while I think it has strengthened our commitment to each other, I don’t know what it’s done for the “love” we feel for each other.

So I wonder a lot, do we actually love each other enough? I think we do, but it’s hard to know. I think one thing that stands in our way is that we both express love, and feel love, in different ways. In fact, the way I need him to show me love is one of the things he’s least good at, and the way he needs me to show love is one of the things I’m least good at. It’s like we have to fight an uphill battle just to make sure the other person knows we love them.

My “love language” is physical touch but Mi.Vida didn’t grow up hugging much. He rarely touches me physically unless he “wants something” from me (or, even if he’s trying to simply show me physical affection, he ends up wanting something from me). This drives me crazy, because even when he does hug me or cuddle me I’m always waiting for him to take it to the next level. It’s like his love comes at a price.

Mi.Vida’s “love language” is quality time, which I’m crappy at because of my ADD. Sitting through a movie (especially some of the weird, independent films he picks) is a real challenge for me. I want to be folding laundry or doing SOMETHING while we sit there for two hours (at least most of the time). It’s hard for me to just sit still and watch something.

We’re trying to get better at these things. Mi.Vida is working on just lying next to me and holding me, without trying to take it to the next level. I asked if we could not watch TV while we eat but actually talk to each other and that has been really nice. The funny thing is, when we both get that from each other, we have the capacity to take it to the next level more, which means more sex and feeling closer as a couple. There is a way to make it work, but it takes, well, work.

I guess I assume that if we were madly in love with each other we wouldn’t have to work so hard, we would just know, organically, how much we loved each other. Or maybe after you have kids that mad love has to tone down its intensity, and eventually requires work? I honestly don’t know, I’ve never felt it before. I suppose I’m banking on the idea that while mad love might fizzle out, the slow steady burn of our love could stay lit for a long time, especially if we keep stoking it.

Have you ever been madly in love with anyone? Are you madly in love with the person you ended up? Do you think mad love has a greater, or lesser, chance of lasting?

10 responses

  1. Once upon a time, I was madly in love with someone.

    I loved him so much that it hurt, the way ocean air hurts your lungs when you breathe too deeply. I loved him so much that, even now, something inside me twists when I see someone who walks the way he used to walk, head up, shoulders back.

    I’ve never felt anything as powerful as that love, not before then, and certainly not since.

    And if I had three wishes, all of them would be that we’d never met.

  2. I don’t think I was madly in love with K when we were dating. I felt that we got along well, and I couldn’t imagine ever not getting along well (little did I know!), so he was probably right for me. But I would say that yes, absolutely, I’ve been madly in love with him for many years now. Throughout all the struggles we’ve had, recently and earlier, I used to say I would know it was time to divorce if we ever stopped loving each other, but really I can’t imagine that we ever would. We’ve had struggles that have made me so, so miserable, as you know, but it still just wrenches my heart out to think of not being with him. When I’m home, I’m always waiting for him to arrive, even if things really are easier without him. If he tells me he’s working late, or he wants to go see a friend, I feel this strong sense of “don’t leave me!!” even if I actually would enjoy the time alone. Even if I’m mad at him. We clash a lot, yes. But I think it’s a “can’t live with him, can’t live without him” sort of thing.

    I don’t know that I’d be surprised if I woke up 10 years from now and we were divorced. Probably not – there’s so much conflict in our relationship. But if I woke up and didn’t love him anymore, *that* would shock me.

    I don’t know if that makes any sense.

  3. “Besotted” kind of makes me snicker. I’m in love with my husband — no doubt — but neither of us are “romantics” and I can’t say that we were ever besotted 🙂 Also THANK YOU for saying that about MV’s love language. Sometimes I just cringe when DH touches me when I’m not in the mood b/c I know it only means one thing!

  4. I think there are different types of being “in love.”

    The young, crazy Romeo & Juliet love, where you think you will die without the other person. That’s usually hormonal and rarely lasts.

    The obsessive, “bad love” that comes when you love someone more than they love you. I don’t think pop music would exist without “bad love.”

    Then there’s the traditional “falling in love” sensation, where you meet someone, you feel like you were hit by lightning and you connect on every level. It doesn’t last but it’s chemistry and biology and romance.

    So – that last one happened to me and Darcy. But that doesn’t mean that it makes marriage easy. It’s just a beginning. That chemistry doesn’t necessarily ever expire, but it ebbs and flows.

    I am a romantic, and I needed to have that foundation to marry someone. But lots of people are realists and don’t. I don’t judge those who married stable good people to start a family, and I hope others don’t judge me because I needed to marry a man I couldn’t live without.

  5. I have been lucky enough to fall in love or what I thought was love at least once before. I lived with a man from the time I was 19 until I was 22. That relationship fell apart spectacularly and badly and I truly believe it wasn’t until I met G that I recovered. Like J… G and I too had a wonderful amazing love at first sight type of connection but it hasn’t made marriage any easier. And in fact when we first met we went our separate ways and he married and had a child… I couldn’t help though thinking about this post and the wonderful self-awareness you have here I thought about the people historically whose marriages were arranged for them and came out with really truly loving solid fantastic functioning marriages (this is the kind of thing I probably pick up in reading biographies etc.) after a time of getting to know one another essentially.

    I do think that “romantic love” can be a trick or a trap that sabotages the real work of partnership.

    Thanks as always for the thought provoking post,


  6. Hmm. I’d agree with J’s assessment of the types of love totally. In my case I fell in love with the spouse at first sight. Something shifted in my consciousness when I heard that voice, then at that very first sight I had this certainty that I’d just seen the person I’d love above all others. After our first conversation (in which I was sold a t-shirt I probably didn’t need and have now lost) I was sure that gut reaction was right as I’ve never been sure about anything else. We got to know each other as friends, then started dating, and a few weeks later decided to get married (about 2 years after we met so some time being engaged). I think we spent some time in there being besotted after that but I’d say it’s a number of hours together that people go through that and since we lived far apart those hours took months to complete. Since about year 3 together we have had to make an effort to keep our relationship strong and I think it’s work to maintain a relationship no matter how it starts. We have friends who got together just after us in a similar sappy beginning who are splitting up now and I don’t think much is different besides that we committed to making us work and putting in the work to make the relationship work. We have the joint children project where they don’t and we got married and they didn’t. I also think that for us, especially given that we were so young relatively speaking when we got married, one thing that has helped us is knowing that each of us is bound to grow and change and that our relationship needs to be allowed to change with us. So unless a relationship allows people within it to change and the people in it are willing to work to maintain it, no spectacular beginning ensures success. There are moments now where I have glimpses of the passion and fiery love that was so common when we were newly together and that’s a nice bonus in reminding me why we are together but it’s the daily affirmations of our relationship that keep it together.

  7. I kept this page open because I wanted to read everyone’s comments! I have fallen really deeply in love at least one, and I was sort of surprised, after reading Saskia’s comment, that if I had three wishes, none of them would involve him. I have come further than I realized! I am single right now, but I don’t know that besotted is what I am looking for. Part of me thinks that maybe the besotting was because the broken parts of me called to the broken parts in him, and we were perfectly designed to be terrible for one another. But fundamentally, I would be happier with someone who provided a little more comfort and a little less crazy.

  8. Honestly, no, I don’t think Charlie and I have ever been madly in love, but we do love each other at a slow burn level that works for us. I was madly in love with a man once just before him, but I was scared of it at the same time because it would have involved moving across the world and radically changing my life, and I let that go. Sometimes I wonder what happened to him and what would have happened to us, but usually I’m happy with the path my life took instead. I think maybe that’s why I really don’t think there’s just one person out there for us to love. I’ve never felt that way.

  9. “besotted” makes me giggle, too. I’m way too practical to ever be “besotted”. But I did fall in love with G when we were dating. Not by any means at first sight, but over time. There were some really heady days in the first year of our relationship. Like you, though, I was also at an age and stage to settle down, so I made a lot of things work that may have been deal-breakers earlier in life. Its really hard to remember those days where I missed him when we weren’t together and just found so much comfort and happiness in each other—its hard to rekindle those feelings with all the rest of life that crowds in—but somehow I do know its still there.

  10. I had a very passionate relationship after college and I was so madly in love with him that I was willing to look past a number of things that would have doomed our relationship later on. Unlike Saskia, I’m glad that I met him and dated him because it was a learning experience.

    I’m not sure that my husband and I are besotted types. We fell in love with each other fairly soon after meeting each other, but it’s not a madly, passionate type of love. I happen to think that’s a good thing because how can a couple sustain mad, passionate love for each other over years and years?

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