Continuing our look at love in popular culture, there is a near ubiquitous phrase with interesting – and often unforseen – connotations: “True love.” It is a phrase we tend to not even think about, but simple use (perhaps followed by “Is what brings us together today.” But I digress). But it is always a worthwhile activity to come to know our terms and what they say about our thoughts.
At its heart, I find the idea of true love to be very problematic and, in the end, utterly wrong. The issue is that if we speak of ‘true’ love, we also must speak of ‘untrue,’ or ‘false’ love. But by its very definition, false love is not love. To exist, love demands truth.
Perhaps some of the time what is happening is we use this phrase to distinguish between actual love and, say, lust. In that case we would be using ‘true love’ in response to our societies degradation of the word love. But even should this be the case, we are only contributing to that view and by predicating ‘true’ onto love we are using societies view of love as the base.
More often, what is meant by true love is something lasting, something deep, as opposed to a temporary, fleeting feeling. And herein lies a second, and in many ways greater danger (if not simply horrific): namely the idea that love, of any stripe, can be temporary.
Imagine, if you will, a wedding where the couples promise to love and cherish each other for about three years, give or take, perhaps with option of first refusal. The whole thing would be a farce. At the heart of love (of all sorts, but it shows particularly well in romantic love’s echoing of divine love) is a permanence, a commitment demanded. No one enters a friendship, an honest relationship, with the intent of getting out at some point later. “You’re so much fun to be around but I intend to let this relationship die” is a clear sign there wasn’t much there to begin with.
To refer to others as having True Love is to try and give ourselves a pass, to say that, while it’s all well and good they’ll love each other forever, I just don’t have that option with this person. Therefore I won’t try. And therein lies the self-fulfilling prophecy. True Love kills marriage.