“L, is for the way you look at me,
O, is for the only one I see,
V, is very very extraordinary
E, is even more than anyone that you adore….”
Love and divorce. Not quite the same as love and marriage. Go together more like an oxymoron.
An ingredient of divorce is often that love does not exist in the same way anymore. There may be a deep sense of caring, a love that is platonic, or based on an affection for your joint children, but love in the sense of deep unconditional passionate love – that has gone.
I was recently gifted the book ‘The Sky Is Everywhere’ (which I would thoroughly recommend). It is the story of a 17 year old girl whose sister has just died, and who now needs to negotiate the world as an only child. In the book, she falls in love. On the one side she has lost, and on the other found, love. As I finished the book I wondered whether I would ever find love again; it seems almost selfish to ask for it twice in one lifetime. Perhaps I should simply have been grateful to experience it once. It was a painful wondering, yet instantly I was struck with thoughts of the many who love me, and who I love deeply. While Lennie does experience romantic love, the book’s essential threads seemed to be love surviving death and dedicated, enduring love in the face of difficult circumstances.
As David laments Jonathan’s death in the Bible he exclaims “I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother: you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women.” (2 Samuel 1:26). In lamenting a lack of romantic attachment, I had missed the profound attachments that mean so much to me, and perhaps diminished them in context.
In divorce, love takes on a new depth. Unrequited. Agonising. Unconditional. Because in the midst of the broken vows and absent love, there is a deep love and commitment from others around you. The 2am texts, the late night visits, the postponing your own plans so you can sit on the sofa and hold your friend while they cry. It is the love of sacrifice that we see ultimately in Jesus – “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down oneʼs life for oneʼs friends.” (John 15:13)
In a room devoid of light, the illumination of a candle is significant. It is not as bright as a lightbulb, but that is immaterial; it is there, emitting light. And I would argue that the same is true of love in divorce. In the absence of romantic love, the many other loves are stronger: the loves that want to fight to protect you, those that want to comfort and encourage, the love that hurts because it would do anything to take the pain, even bear it itself.
Love makes divorce both bearable and unbearable. It is the absence of romantic love – too easily deemed the pinnacle of love – whilst surrounded by the love of choice, sacrifice, and no condition. Divorce is perhaps therefore, one of the best places we can know we are most truly loved.