Why does love so often involve pain? You love someone and they don't love you back. Pain. You love someone and they leave you. Pain. You love someone and they let you down. Pain. You love someone and they're in pain, so they hurt you. Pain.
It's not because love is "inherently painful." It's because people are free. They are free to feel a certain way, including not loving you. They are free to leave you by walking away, or by dying. They are free to be imperfect, make mistakes, and disappoint. They are free to feel pain.
If only they weren't free. If only they felt a certain way one day and felt it forever. Or, if only we could choose how they felt. And we could take away their faults and fickleness so that they never let us down or leave us. And we could take away their pain so they don't hurt us, their mortality so they won't die.
In a way, it sounds nice, the idea of having that control over someone else, someone that I love and whom I want to love me. Any insecurity I have about myself becomes irrelevant. Any fear of being abandoned, of being mistreated or taken for granted, of anything at all in that person's mind, suddenly disappears. No matter what I do, no matter who I am or become, they love me unconditionally, uncontrollably, monomaniacally. They know nothing else.
And I can imagine someone else having that kind of control over me. If I have a doubt, or a fear, or a sudden need to leave, they just take it away and replace it with the only thing I know, and the only thing I need to know: that I love them.
But on a certain level, either state of being—whether as the giver or the receiver—seems oddly frightening and even a little sad. It is often the complications and idiosyncrasies of a person that make them lovable, or at least interesting. Their passions and convictions and joys and pleasures, all of which are separate from me, are what draw me to them in the first place.
And I have realized something else: in those times in my life when I absolutely needed a person, and I could not possibly function without them, I was not altogether a very happy person. Happiness is not the fulfillment of a dependency; rather, it is lack of dependency itself due to emotional and personal fulfillment.
How truly happy, how emotionally and personally fulfilled, could a person be if someone else loving them was the only source of meaning in their lives? What kind of a life would that be?
As hard and painful as it is to love someone who does not love me back, it's fairly clear that if I could somehow force them to love me—if I could benevolently take away their lack of love and replace it with love—would I still love them? And more importantly, would I still love myself?
Would I still love myself for having done this deed? Or did I ever love myself at all if I was capable of doing that to someone? I don't know if it can be done benevolently. I don't know if I could live with myself, if I could ever forget, overlook, or minimize the depth of what I had done. Because what I've done is dehumanize them.
What I've done is take away their freedom—even their freedom to love themselves and to get fulfillment from what excites them, from what makes them happy—and replace it with love for me. What kind of a person would want to do that?
This is the power that so many men wish they had over women. But they don't, and they hate women for it. They are misogynists. But why are they this way? Because they don't believe anyone would accept them for their faults, their pathetic fears, their extreme senses of inadequacy, without being forced to. So they want to force and control and limit the freedoms of women.
Maybe they're right; maybe nobody would love them the way they are. Maybe they are shabby, bland, coarse, unimaginative, abusive, and brutal, and they simply don't want to work on themselves. In this way, they are not free either. They are stuck in their ways—useless and harmful, humans in name only—never to truly love themselves or anyone else, and responding only to the same punitive force that they wish they could inflict on women without consequence.
Such men, and such people in general, want to take away a woman's freedom so that she can't cultivate a personal identity, an identity separate from the man. She can't love herself because nothing in her life is her own, let alone fulfilled. Her feelings aren't her own, her dreams aren't her own, her desires aren't her own. He owns them, at least in his puny mind, until she kicks his ass to the curb or escapes some other way.
In short, love without freedom hurts everyone. I might even say that love without freedom is not love. It is ownership, dominance, control. It is antihuman.
It's impossible to control other people's feelings, their minds, their "hearts," if you will, and the more that I pretend and wish that it were possible, the more I lose my own freedom. My humanity for a sick fantasy? That is not a fair trade.
As much as I love someone, I know that I love freedom even more, mine and theirs. And I love them for their freedom, for what excites them, for what makes them happy, for what helps them love themselves. If I don't excite them, if I don't make them happy, if I can't help them love themselves by being with them, then I will do it by being apart from them. I will defend their freedom by leaving them alone, without anger, without malice, because it is their freedom that I love. And I can still love them from afar if that's how I feel. Why? Because I'm still free, too.
Of course, if a day comes when they tell me I can help them feel more free, feel safer, feel happier, or just raise them up, on terms that make them comfortable, I will do it because I love them. And I would do the same for you too, as long as you are respectful.
So if love seems inherently painful, it is only because freedom is. It is hard, but it is true. That's how we know that freedom—not someone else's admiration or devotion or interest or presence in our lives, and certainly not their obedience—is the only thing worth hurting and fighting for: because without freedom, love is impossible.