What's Love Got to Do with It?


I just finished Burn Bright, the latest in the Alpha and Omega series by Patricia Briggs.  It is a story about werewolves and the fae. It’s about good and evil. And love. Primarily, it’s about love. What does it mean to love someone? To cherish them? Do we take the good with the bad? Or do we ascribe to the cafeteria definition where we take what we like and try to leave or change the things that don’t work for us? 

Recently, my husband and I celebrated 25 years together. A celebration of the day we met; our “small a” anniversary, which was also the same day, two years later, that he proposed. It’s one of my favorite days. And while we celebrate our wedding anniversary -- our wedding was absolutely one of the highlights of my life to date -- the “small a” anniversary has a special place in my heart. 

So, the question of the day is, what’s love got to do with all of this? What does it mean to love someone so well that the love survives the many ups and the many downs of family life? Why have we worked when others have failed? 

At a recent writer’s workshop, the instructor asked, “Why do two people fall in love?” He meant in a story, like a novel or a screenplay. And there were a lot of answers including “chemistry,” and “lust,” and “compatibility,” and even, “because they are the characters I chose to write into my story.”  No, no, no. He shot each answer down. “There’s one reason and one reason only that two people fall in love and that is they see beneath the persona we present to the world to the authentic self under all of that.” Say what?

In Burn Bright, Charles and Anna succeed because they heal each other’s wounds. They also see each other’s true natures, the courage and vulnerabilities and strength that is the birthright of most of us. They see beneath the persona to the real person. And in seeing each other, they can accept each other; they can take the good with the bad and cherish each other. They very consciously cherish each other, in fact. 

Which led me to think about the word “cherish” as it relates to love. When we cherish another, we promise to be mindful and careful of the sore spots and the scars, both physical and emotional. It means we will protect each other against the cruelty of an insensitive world, and do our best to create a soft landing for the other every time we take flight. When we cherish our partners, we are the ones filing the flight plans, encouraging the other to soar, vowing to catch them if they should fall. 

Burn Bright also presents mates who do not do this for each other. Mates who punish and shame and belittle and discount. It’s easy to see when such incompatibility is highlighted so starkly and when it’s someone else’s relationship we’re judging. In my experience, partners who treat each other poorly seem to think such behavior is normal; sad. 

Equally sad are those who believe we can have the rose without the thorns, or the wit without its companion edge. The other side of the coin is always there, even if we hide it during the courtship or the good times. But perseverance is also pigheadedness in certain circumstances and caring can come out as controlling. A high sense of adventure and fearlessness can present as frightening risk-taking behavior, and protectiveness can become stifling jealousy. Relationships, like religion, are a mixed bag of positive and negative characteristics and the trick is to find one whose dark side doesn’t drive you away, and for whom our own shadows don’t overwhelm the partnership’s light. 

Relationships are filled with sticky wickets. We need to take care of ourselves, our partners and the partnership itself, which can seem like a third entity, only because it is. I may want to work on my book, and my husband might want to hang out with the boys, but our marriage demands that we take the dogs for a walk in the neighborhood or watch some mindless TV together, holding hands and playing footsie under the covers. Not lustful, necessarily, but loving and affectionate. 

To cherish another is to support their dreams and to work toward someone else’s goals and objectives with as much heat as if they were our own, even if the substance of the desire leaves us cold. To be cherished is to know that there’s someone out there doing the same for us, nudging, pushing or sometimes shoving us toward our dreams, pushing us off the ledge of our fears to leap into the unknown, secure in the knowledge that love will provide the safety net so that we will live to leap another day.   

Turns out the magic formula to a successful relationship is neither magical nor formulaic. It’s hard work. My husband and I are each other’s most enthusiastic cheerleaders. We are respectful, courteous and unfailingly polite. Sounds boring, but it’s not. We are largely considerate of each other’s needs and we often, but not always, put the other ahead of ourselves. And we both see beneath the personas we present to the world to the real person underneath it all. And we cherish the reality, and not a fantasy we would prefer in its stead. 

I love to read about fictional characters who love and cherish each other. It reminds me that I’m at least doing something right. And I’m delighted that my own experience is fueling my writing, imbuing my own characters with a reality that comes from, well, reality. Even when the fiction is fantasy and the personae dramatis feature werewolves and faeries, Patricia Briggs’ work has more truth than many other things these days.