love does not exist – but that’s not a bad thing

February 14, 2009 at 5:15 am (Love, Spain)

“We fall in love when our imagination projects nonexistent perfection upon another person. One day, the fantasy evaporates and with it, love dies.”
– Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset

I learned more about love from a single sentence uttered to me when I was seventeen years old than I have from all my relationships, experiences, observations and studies to date combined. The summer of 2002 I was gearing up to move to Spain for a semester in the fall, and in order to get a taste of what was to come for me, I asked my parents if we could host a student from Spain for a month. In retrospect this was one of the best impulsive decisions I’ve ever made, since I wound up living with Paloma in Madrid after I very clearly did not get on well with the host family with whom I was placed.

I digress.

The adviser for the 30-some students who spent the summer of 2002 in Atascadero, California was a man named Julian (hoo-lee-AHN, not JOO-lee-en), and he was a close friend to my exchange student, Paloma. I liked spending time with Julian and Paloma because I could understand much of what they said in Spanish, having studied the language in high school for three years. One day as the group was touring the Santa Barbara Missions, I overheard Julian say to Paloma “no existe el amor”—love does not exist.

I was single at the time, but I had broken up with my high-school sweetheart only a few months earlier, and I was convinced that by the oh-so-knowledgeable age of seventeen I had known true love. I immediately began denying Julian’s claims, and I wrote him off as a cynic.

Several months later, after I moved to Madrid to live with Paloma when things went sour between myself and the aforementioned host family I initially lived with when I moved to Spain, I was spending the afternoon with Paloma and Julian, when once again Julian declared that love did not exist. At first I started to push back, but Julian stopped me and explained to me what he meant. To this day, I can tell you that not only is this one of the most beautiful concepts I’ve ever wrapped my head around, but hearing it explained in Spanish made it radiate with an essence that cannot describe to you unless you understand the language.

“Love does not exist,” explained Julian. Commitment exists, and loyalty exists. Trust, honor, patience, desire, compassion—all these things exist. They’re all specific and measurable, and they all contribute to the emotional health of any relationship between two people. But when you bundle them up and wrap a blanket called ‘love’ around them, they lose a certain amount of their value as qualities in their own right. It’s sad that the word ‘love’ is used to undermine the complex emotions that should exist between two lovers. People often forget or neglect some of these important feelings because they can simply say the words ‘I love you’ and evade any demand for proof of the sentiments that are perhaps lacking and consequently damaging to the relationship.

This is exactly why there needs to be some level of substance between two people when, as Ortega y Gasset so aptly posits, the unrealistic delusion of perfection subsides.

Now mind you, this was an involved conversation that lasted the duration of a paella de mariscos served with rioja. Still, these were the points Julian made that rang home to me. Ironically, his message does not stray far from the meaning of the song “More Than Words” by eighties one-hit-wonder band Extreme, which my high school sweetheart had put onto a mix tape for me and never once executed in his actions while we were together. Still, it took saffron-infused rice, a bottle of red wine and a cultural immersion in one of the most captivating countries in the world to make me realize that love—the abstraction that is love—does not exist. It is merely a concept.

Have I clung to this notion and required that every person I dated henceforth be true to the ideology that the emotions that love comprises are more important than the blanket, worthless word in and of itself? Absolutely not. Like so many women before me I have dated far too many horrible men and not enough good guys. But to be sure, the only man to whom I’ve said the words “I love you” since that day in Madrid that I spoke with Julian was, in fact, a great guy, and he did show me love instead of just saying empty words. Of this I fact I am very proud, and I hope that whatever lies in my future, I can maintain that any man whom I truly love treats me as though love does not exist.

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  1. Dardy said,

    ok this one was interesting. Not a concept foreign, but often forgotten. I did a word study on love while in 8th grade. (i know, I’m a bit nerdy). In our american culture, fast paced and nonchalant way we use love carelessly. The greeks have five different words for love. They are mean love of one kind or another but they are different words so they can differentiate when speaking. Eros: erotic or passionate love. Storge: emoting love or compassion, caring for another, affection. Philia: brotherly love Agape: Unconditional. The last one I feel we can aspire to but never achieve. I think as fallible human beings we are incapable of true unconditional love. Our Creator is a God of mysteries. We aren’t supposed to have it all worked out. It leaves us wanting. In need of heaven.

  2. ensorcelledontheside said,

    First of all, I should maybe have this blog post tattooed in teeny tiny letters on my forehead. Backwards.

    Second of all, now that I have read *two* of your blog posts I can officially declare you hilarious and awesome. My favorite part is that you consistently digress AND make relevant references to important pop culture classics of the 80s and 90s.

    You are so awesome that I am going to go ahead and propose. Oh wait…

  3. jesica said,

    yo se k el amor no exciste todos son iguales

  4. Luz said,

    Love is based on commitment, but that is rarely found in people nowadays.
    I´ve just finished with one relationship. My lover left me after one year and a half and I know he is dating with another woman, after he told me we would be together for ever…,marriage, have kids build a future together…bla bla bla….all that kind of things that now seem so false to me….it was really a dissapointing experience.
    It really makes you think love is a lie…

    • miguel ramos said,

      People have too many options now days and can not dedicate themselves to one thing or person.So if you (or anybody)had more than one person in your life, thats not love thats going from one place to another or one person to another. And lets not confuse sex and love because the 2 do not coexist with each other.Save sex for the one your in love with. Not with everyone you have been with.

    • vertuzzi said,

      Hi Luz,

      It’s true, because most people are selfish and hypocrites. I was in an almost 5 year relationships and was also dumped by this girl out of the blue. She never told me the reasons… It was a time though when I was really busy with my job, sports, etc. and didn’t have much time, but I think she could have been more patient, especially after everything that I had done for her when she was doing bad.

      But it’s not that love itself does not exist, it’s that most people cannot appreciate it.

  5. Jacobin Loyals said,

    love is this, this is love -The Script. shared it on my fb friends

  6. nala said,

    I personally think that love does exist but only,and I repeat only when u fall in love for the first time.My first love I gave everything I had to give, I went out of the ordinary to make the other person happy and show that person how much in love I was with. Then as time was passing I saw that unfortunately I wasn’t getting the same kind of affection, care, love that I was giving.In fact I wasn’t getting even half of it and thinking of the energy and sincere dedication I offered. More and more I was understanding that I was being used….more I gave and cared more used it made me feel, the other person was enjoying all this while I felt that it was my duty to keep it up.

    Now things have changed, I’m not the same….Deep within me I know love does not exist «PURE LOVE» that is! I feel bad at the same time because I know that I will ever more feel again the same way about someone.It’s like I was murdered from within, before that first time I thought that love is real and if you wanted bad enough you would find it!!!!!Now I sit back and see that it’s only self interest game….selfishness and trying to fool one another, who does it first is the player, the other one is the victim.

    So I stand by my theory when I say that love does exist, but only the first time you fell in love and it’s only a one way avenue….If you do fell in love with someone that has been through many relationship, you’re in for a bad ride and a painful ending. If this is the first time you fell in love I truly hope that it is the case for the person you’re in love with too.

  7. Hannah said,

    I am doing a project outside of school. It is about the existence of love. I have recently read a book, a sequel, called Clockwork Prince. It really made me wonder, is there such a thing called love? I also wonder, is it truly possible to die for someone you love? Is it possible? This blog has really helped me a lot and I exit this cite with much information gained.Thank you so much. You are amazing and very deep with your thoughts, like myself. Please email me so I can ask you a few questions, if you have the time. Thanks.

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