If we love deeply we must also suffer deeply; for the price for the capacity for ecstatic love is anguish. And so it was with us to the end.
Helen Thomas, describing her difficult marriage to the poet Edward Thomas, killed at Arras in 1917
15th July 2016
Since I have been writing an advice column since 2005, I suppose people might think I know something about love. But as I grow older (a process accelerating at a disturbing speed) I realise that my feelings about love have changed and that I probably know less than I did in 1976, when I fell in love with the man I was to marry. Then ‘Love’ was passion and sex and a heady sharing of intelligence – and it was glorious.
Of course that great love changed, was modified, was damaged, evolved into friendship and ended in pain. Or maybe it never fully ended at all….
Never mind that, since then I have experienced other sorts of love, but I know that the sort of romantic love poor Helen Thomas describes is what most people long for. It has come to define what we mean by the word – so much so that if people feel a new relationship lacks the fireworks they tend to think he cannot be ‘Love.’ (Or should I mock and call it ‘Lurrrrve’?)
I have had problems letters, which complain of this perceived lack. Usually I write back and sing the praises of quiet love, of companionship, of friendship and mutual support. This is the kind of deep and lasting affection, which tends to a sick loved one, even unto death. Passion doesn’t do that, because passion is necessarily short- lived. It’s like a wonderful bloom that lasts a few days then droops and dies. And when passion ends the passionate ones are off….looking for the next buzz, the next thrill, the next ‘ecstatic love.’
And advice columnist knows all too well the high cost of thrills – and so do I personally, as a woman whose first long marriage paid the price (more than once) for the addictive need for passion. These days I mistrust it more and more. It breaks marriages and hearts and lives…And to be honest I am rather sick of the bright green grass on the other side of the fence which lures foolish souls into its bright, heady greenness. But of course, you will tell me I am disillusioned, after 11 years of dealing with problem letters….Of course..
Anyway, here is Edward Thomas writing his own version of their marriage. What would he wish for his wife? It seems to me that he would wish a different husband for her, since he knows he can never love her in the way she needs to be loved.