I am neither a psychologist nor a love guru. Yet, I stood there at a corner, on a gloomy afternoon, in front of a woman whose eyes were still wet from tears, inaudibly asking for some answer.
She's a woman of faith, a sweet mom to two kids, a faithful wife to an infidel husband, a very dear friend of mine. We didn't quite see each other for a while, due to conflict in our schedule, but we have a had a lot of time to talk our hearts out in the past. I felt more obliged to answer her last question, after she intimated to me while I have my lunch, that she just got confused.
I am to be blamed for her confusion, but I encouraged her that such state of confusion, is good as she is starting to think, to question, to challenge her beliefs and to assess her feelings. It's a moment so critical for her to understand her life situation and be in control again, by rewriting her life-script and not just acting based on someone's script. I feel for her, and I can't just let go of our conversation without a word.
Breaking down in tears, signals to me that she's broken and beaten, not physically but emotionally. It is her faith in the Church she's clinging into. My point of view is rather eclectic, from an empowering feminist stand point for her to stand strong and decide to separate from the cause of her anxiety - her husband, to a rather practical advise of coming into terms of letting go of her anxiety over the financial difficulty it would cost her and her children should he separate from him, and holding on to the littlest love she still has for him.
I sense she's not happy, not happy at all, although she would throw smiles at me when I would divert our chat to jokes. I could not insist what I think is right, for only her can determine her direction. She agreed though, when I told that she has many options and she must choose from them, and make her decision. She told me that I sounded like the Monsignor she confided when I told her that she could cling on love no matter how little that is left.
The parable of Mustard seed was running in my head at that time. I was thinking that love is as powerful as faith that can move mountains, and that God is love. Then she asked, like a child so innocent, but yearning for an answer. She asked softly: "When do you know if it is still love and not dependence?"
I said I don't know, but knowing how our conversation went at lunchtime, and how her teary eyes mirror what's in her heart, I felt obliged to grope for a helpful answer. I could only think of what St. Paul taught about love: "Love is patient, love is kind... it rejoices in the truth, it does not wrong... love never ends." I could not in verbatime recall what St. Paul wrote in his letter to the Corinthians, to wit:
“Love is patient, love is kind, love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way, it is not irritable or resentful, it does not rejoice in wrong doing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes in all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. (I Corinthians 13:4-8, New Revised Standard)”
Yet, i guess what I said sufficed to answer her question. That as love for St. Paul in his teaching is universal to apply in any relationship where people are tucked by their ideation of "love". I asked, "is it love if you are becoming impatient to the person you think you love, and to the situation you are within?" We are not patient when we are anxious. I furthered, "if love is kind, then you will have to be kind to the other person, and he is kind to you, you to yourself. Any abuse could make you angry, and afterwards you will turn that anger to yourself, and to others, or even to your children."
I continued, "any form of abuse is wrong, how then you allow for something wrong to go on?" Then I said, "love rejoices in the truth, and the truth is you are problematic, you are anxious, because things are wrong, which you didn't expect". The last thought I could say to encourage her, is that "love endures, if you want to hold on to because you still have the littlest love for him, then go on and let it flourish as you bear with what love brings".
Honestly, I told her that she should check on what she feels and what she thinks. She's like any woman, vulnerable to how a man could play with power and control, with his resources, with his money or brute force. Her case is just different, her felt abuse is emotional and psychological, nothing physical. She's contradiction of the man she loved or loves, who does not remain faithful to his wife nor his religious belief (should he still have). As such, she has anchored her life to person who has the resources, she and her children would definitely need to survive.
It is not love that binds two people if they are co-dependent on each other. That has to be other things, material things, security, comfort, privileges and perks, but never love. Love is freely given and respects freedom from two independent individuals who developed interdependence. The couple being interdependent, generously shares their time, is sensitive of each others feelings and emotions and resolves issues to keep their relationship. There's equality and sharing of responsibilities as each empowers another. There is understanding of their weaknesses, and forgiveness is brought by that understanding. As there is commitment, there is a sense of responsibility to remain faithful and so love endures.
I cannot fathom love, no one can. St. Paul's writings only illuminates that great mystery in love. We only understand it, when we love, but never could we speak about it when we don't have even a little of it in our hearts. Has my friend grown overly dependent on her husband? I could answer that, but she can best answer it for herself. Is it love or dependence? I know she knows.