What Love Is

I was watching this movie called, “What Love is”, which is basically a dialogue between several characters about relationships and love. It’s a movie that has a stage-play feel to it, but uses the characters to confront and explore various love issues. It caught me because it starts out with the main character getting his heart broken and launches into a group of men discussing relationships and love. Later, women discuss relationships as well.

At one point, Sal (the womanizer) and Ken (the married one) go back and forth talking about love and being hurt. Sal admits that he is a womanizer because he is afraid of being hurt by a woman. Ken goads Sal into revealing that he didn’t start out that way. Sal was a former romantic. As a kid, he was the one to give girls flowers and candy to catch their attention. Sal was the one with the biggest heart and the one that wears his heart on his sleeve. Sal says that no man is born a womanizer that they become one after being rejected by the first woman that they love. They give their heart to a woman and she breaks it. They spend the years after that trying to avoid the same pain by never allowing another woman to get close. I thought this was an interesting and honest description of the womanizer. There are not many men that would admit it, but womanizing is a form of protection against being vulnerable. I also understood that men do start out open and willing to give their heart and wanting to romance a woman, but changes after giving it to a woman and suffering rejection.

What surprised me is how long this hurt can go on? A man can mourn the first woman he loved forever and forsake all women that come after her. I felt sad to think that fear could be so strong that a man could live the rest of his life trying to avoid love. But, I have seen it with my very own eyes in several friends and family members so I know that it exists. Women are capable of it as well. This forced me to think differently about relationships. When people are trying to find love as a young person,  some people don’t know what love looks like or  don’t know how to believe in it. People are carrying that hurt from relationship to relationship. Searching for love is difficult because everyone is trying not to get hurt. It takes time for those walls to come down and to be willing to risk being hurt. For some people, it never does. Being in a relationship with someone doesn’t mean you are loving that person. Sometimes, you are doing what is necessary to have someone around, but you are still protecting yourself from being hurt.  Sometimes, the first person that hurt you keeps you imprisoned in that fear of being hurt. If you want to love, you have to forgive that person that couldn’t love you the way you needed. Maybe, he or she didn’t know love or even know how to believe in it.

The movie continues and Sal asks Ken how can he deal with his wife. He says that Ken’s wife is too demanding and calls her a “ball-buster”. Ken tells the men that he was very much like Sal before he met his wife. She is the one that taught him about monogamy. She is the one that taught him about love. Ken told Sal that what he sees as demanding, Ken sees as passionate. He said that Sal might look at it as Ken “has to pick up his wife from the airport.” Ken looks at it as he gets to pick her up. Ken says that it’s all in how you look at the relationship. Ken feels fortunate to have someone so great in his life. Sal chided Ken that they don’t see him as much anymore and that his wife would be there any minute to come get him. Ken responded it was because his wife was his best friend and he would rather spend more time with her than anyone, including Sal.

While these characters were archetypes, I found the exchange refreshing. I’m not a man so I don’t know if men ever get into discussion this deep, but I think everyone should. Often, men and women are afraid to delve deep into their individual fears. We are afraid to have these types of discussions within our own minds. We would rather make the other person wrong than to admit that we are afraid of being hurt. The women in the movie have a similar conversation to discuss how we lie to ourselves and lie to each other in relationships. We lie out of fear that if the other person sees who we really are that they may change their mind and choose not to love us. We are all afraid that someone will see what we hate most about ourselves and that is why relationships don’t last.

The thing is that what we hate most about ourselves is something that was given to us. That thing we hide deep down inside is not something we were born with. We were born into this world innocent. At some point, similar to when Adam and Eve ate the apple, someone told us what we were not. Our insecurities are given to us by someone else. We punish ourselves for this deep dark thing that we believe about ourselves. We use addictions, toxic relationships and failure to prove to ourselves that what we believe is true. We have to prove that thing wrong and love ourselves. If you love yourself, you won’t allow someone that rejected you at twenty years-old to keep you single and alone at fifty years-old. Until you release yourself from that prison, you can’t love anyone or anything else that way that it deserves and you can never feel the love that you deserve.

This is what I learned from this movie today. I can’t say that the movie was so great, but it sparked these thoughts and understandings in me. So I can say that the dialogue is worth a view.

“You can accept or reject the way you are treated by other people, but until you heal the wounds of your past, you will continue to bleed. You can bandage the bleeding with food, with alcohol, with drugs, with work, with cigarettes, with sex, but eventually, it will all ooze through and stain your life. You must find the strength to open the wounds, stick your hands inside, pull out the core of the pain that is holding you in your past, the memories, and make peace with them.”   —Iyanla Vanzant