This morning I was sitting on the beat-up wicker chair in my bedroom, tying my shoes. I looked across to the bed just as Little Richard tippy-toed over to cuddle up next to Mick, nestling his head on top of Mick’s upper back. Is it love? Or a show of fealty, acknowledging Mick’s dominance in their relationship?
I can’t read dogs’ minds, but I can tell you this – it’s always Rich seeking out Mick. Always. If Mick is curled up in the dog bed near my desk, eventually Rich will join him. Rich is the cuddler (lover) and Mick is cuddled (the beloved). They are pals, but not equals.
It seems to me that love is rarely equally given and received. Now, I haven’t been married for many, many years, so I’m only going to lightly touch on this topic in regard to marital love. It appears to me that the Lover vs. Beloved relationship isn’t static. Illness, retirement, empty nest – all kinds of life events can tip the seesaw of who is overtly loved/cared for versus being the one in a more supportive role.
How about parents and children? It’s my thought that in the best of circumstances, parents love and the children are beloved. I’m not saying kids (of any age) don’t love back. In fact, we all know of sad situations where an errant mother or father may be unconditionally loved by a child long after the parent’s behavior ceased to warrant that love or respect. Under less-than-ideal circumstances, the love between parents and children can be complicated, to say the least. Best case, it’s pretty balanced. But — when you are a parent, part of loving is hoping that your child will one day find a partner that she or he wholeheartedly loves – above all others. That includes Mom and Dad.
And between friends? I think this can be the most interesting dynamic of all. If I am fortunate to have many friends, does that dilute the amount of love that I can share with each? My thought is we can say we love our friends, but I’d say that one of the more important ways that we demonstrate that love is by spending time with them. Can someone be one of your dearest friends if you rarely spend time together?
I’m not saying that only face-to-face time counts. Certainly in our world of social media, free phone calls to anywhere in the U.S., and various modes of transportation that at least make it possible to get together (imagine being a pioneer woman leaving her best friend behind when she went West with her husband – likely to never set foot back home again), today it’s very possible for a long distance friend to remain a cherished pal with whom we regularly communicate.
It wasn’t that long ago, by the way, that good, old-fashioned letters were our lifelines to loved ones far away. When I went to Australia to teach in the 70’s, weekly letters to and from home were my only communication with family. Phone calls were so expensive, we spoke just on Christmas and on my birthday. I received letters from friends only very occasionally. We all were so busy with our young lives; that’s just how it was. Everyone was pleased to see me when I came home, and vice versa. But those friendships were pretty much on hold during the years I was gone.
Today, when I look at different degrees of closeness in my relationships with friends, I sometimes see the Lover vs. Beloved dynamic in play. For instance, as a single person with several very dear married friends, I see myself as the Lover. That’s because my friends with partners must (and hopefully want to) put their spouses first. I understand that completely and wish those I love to have happy, loving relationships with their husbands or other partner. I’d be a pretty lousy friend if I thought otherwise.
The consequence is that it is rarely, if ever, that my invitation to get together takes precedence over plans with a spouse. I’ve had friends who I feel very close to, and have known for years, who I have seen on a weekend fewer times than I can count on one hand. I think women may be more accommodating to husbands in this regard, but again, not being married myself, I’m not sure.
With more casual friends and acquaintances, it’s nice to get together when the opportunity arises. The love is there, but not as deep, you know? The effort to meet needs to be reciprocal, however. If one friend is always the one to suggest lunch or a movie or any activity, she may tire of nurturing the friendship if it seems that the effort is one-sided. To have a friend, you need to be a friend.
We all suck at that sometimes, don’t we? Good friends know when life is challenging and you need that extra nurturing for a while. Don’t drop a friend who seems uninterested in initiating plans unless you have a chat about it first. In my case, I sincerely enjoy the company of some wonderful people, but I’m an introvert. A homebody. If I have more than one or two things going on in a week, I begin to feel like a turtle, wanting to draw her head back into her quiet shell for a while. It’s not that I don’t love you. Promise.
You are beloved.
So. Lover vs. Beloved. Do you sometimes see those lines drawn in your relationships? Does it flow back and forth between you and your partner, friends, or family members?
And finally – does it matter?
10 thoughts on “Lover vs. Beloved”
I do think we see-saw back and forth in the loved/beloved role, both withas friends and lovers. Maybe sometimes, it’s the way different people express love that makes it seems otherwise. I think we need to learn how to understand the other’s love language (that may be different from ours), but I also think we need to push ourselves to learn how to speak another’s language and show love in their native tongue too! 😉 For example, it’s nice when a woman recognizes and appreciates that her husband expresses his love by shoveling the snow, and it’s equally lovely when he pushes himself to express that love in her language, with flowers or affection! ❤
Great piece, Kate!
Thanks so much, Lee! And what you said about expressing and recognizing love in each other’s language is so wise. Of course, not only do you live with your dear Jorge whose native language is Spanish (right?), but then there is the added male/female dynamic of expressions (i.e. flowers vs. snow removal!). I have a friend whose husband is VERY reticent. Learning how to interpret his expressions of love are key to her happiness (he’s most unlikely to declare it with words or flowers).
Great post. Very thought provoking. With regard to friends, I have 5 really close friends. 3 of them go back to my college days. As we live I. Different parts of the country we do t see one another often, yet we communicate several times a week. We have shared all of lives ups and downs and my love for them is never ending. One of my friendships is about 20 years old, and the other 12. These are the people I hold close and trust with anything and they are my people. They always have my back. I then have a bunch of hobby friends….friends specifically for doing things with, book club, movie friend, museum friend, etc….it’s a different sort of relationship. I love my husband and daughter, but when we’re apart, I don’t feel the constant need of communication….oddly, I just wrote about this today in regard to my daughter being away, and I wrote a tongue in cheek thing the other day when my husband was away
Thanks so much – and thank you for commenting! Another thing I didn’t get into are the friends who were once close, then we drifted apart for completely benign reasons, but have found our orbits crossing again. What bliss to rekindle those friendships!
Lovely post! I relate to the need to withdraw if there’s been too much socializing going on in my life. I need time to “brew.”
Thanks, Ellen – love: time to brew.
Very thought provoking indeed. To be loved or beloved. I was recently with a best friend from high school and we seldom keep in touch. Yet, we hadn’t lost a beat. It was quite special and I am sure that will be the case whenever we see each other.
I am so grateful for those old friends, too, Pam. Like the Girl Scout song – friends of silver and gold. All precious.
I feel like the give and take in a relationship mattered more to me when I was younger and I don’t seem to worry about it as much now. I have to admit, however, there are still times when I ‘keep score’ and it never makes me happy so I try to recognize when I’m doing it and stop before it gets out of hand. There are going to be times when one person does more but if it is always that way, it is hard to maintain the relationship over time. The dogs are adorable and it looks like their arrangement is working out great!
That’s true with me, too, Molly. I do think that as we get older (okay – I’M a lot older, but there you go!), I’m not keeping score so much (so to speak), either. I could go into a whole self esteem, or lack thereof, rant, and how that affects the Loved vs. Beloved dynamic, too. The dogs have a very amicable coexistence; can’t ask for more than that! 🙂