Love Means...

If you finish that sentence with "never having to say you're sorry" then you're either of a "certain age" (as I am) or you are a sap (like me) or both.  For those of you who are neither, the line comes from the 1970s best-selling novel and subsequent film Love Story. (Although the script was written first and the novel was written after, but published before the movie was released.)  I don't think I'm giving away any plot points when I say it's about boy meets girl, they fall in love, they marry and she dies. (After all the first line heard in the movie is "What can you say about a 25-year-old girl who died? That she was beautiful and brilliant? That she loved Mozart and Bach? The Beatles? And me?")

The quote has been often mocked and overused.  On the surface it does seem silly and vapid.  But watching the movie last night (an occasional pre-Valentine's Day ritual for me), I got to thinking about the phrase.  So let me take a moment to pull you out of the moment where a tearful Ali McGraw says to an apologetic Ryan O'Neal, "Love means never having to say you're sorry" and into some deeper thought. I think the phrase can be seen as two sides of the "love coin" as it were.  It applies to the person who needs to make any apology AND to the person who is receiving the apology. 

When I think about being the person who is being apologized too, I realize that "love" does mean you don't have to say you're sorry.  Case in point; I love my son.  There are plenty of times he has done something "wrong" or "bad" (what kid doesn't?).  While I hope he realizes and apologizes for whatever it is that he has done, he truly doesn't HAVE to.  My love for him is not predicated on his apology. 

When he was young one of my favorite books to read to him was Debi Gliori's "No Matter What" in which Small worries that his mommy fox will not always love him.  In thee book there are lines like:  "If I were a grumpy grizzly bear, would you still love me, would you still care?"  Of course every question is answered and ends with the assurance that his mommy will love him “no matter what."  This is something that I try to reinforce even to this day.  Love doesn't change because someone is a grumpy grizzly bear or a squishy bug.  Love doesn't change because of distance or time.  Real love is everlasting and unchanging.  If you truly love someone, be it child, partner or otherwise, they don't HAVE to say they are sorry because Love IS Love.  

As for the person who is making the apology, it's not a matter of HAVING to say you are sorry, but NEEDING to say you are sorry.  If someone loves you, and you love them back, an apology is not going to change that love.  But a true apology IS going to reinforce that.  When I do something to hurt the one I love, I feel the NEED to say I am sorry because I love that person.  It's not something that I have to do like getting dressed or brushing my teeth, but something that is deeply rooted inside of me.    Additionally, I don't just NEED to say I'm sorry, I NEED to ACT.  Words of apology are not words of love if they are not followed with action, whether it be giving that person a hug, changing the way you behave or react, etc.  There is an implication behind the phrase:  Love means never having to say you're sorry.  It means you that if you love someone you truly have to BE Sorry.

On this Valentine's Day, remember when it comes to love, there are two sides to the coin. Apologies don't have to be said; when it comes to love, forgiveness is part of the act of loving. Love is Love.  But if you truly love someone apologies do NEED to be said and acted on.  Love means truly BEING sorry when you've hurt someone you love.  


Neither is particularly easy.  But love means acceptance.  Love means compromise.  Love is not hearts and flowers, but support and understanding.  Love isn't cards and chocolates.  Love is cleaning the bathroom after your partner has been sick or staying up all night to hold a feverish child.  Love is not just a word. Love is a verb.  Love is an act.  Act on love because "love means never having to say you're sorry."

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