I thought that I was in love once. I even had a broken heart for three straight years afterwards as proof of concept. But it turns out I’d confused love with a strange brew of desire, ego, and being chosen.

I often confuse love with other things. Sometimes I think it exists in the return of men to my life after years of absence (why else would they come back?) Sometimes I mix it up with the release of hormones from too much time spent in someone else’s arms. Mostly, I confuse love with control.

Love as obedience. Love as domination. Love as a request that must be carried out. Love as a condition of completed action.

If you love me, you would…

  • lose ten pounds
  • straighten your hair
  • wear less/more clothing
  • not speak so loudly
  • not talk about that
  • do that thing in the bedroom that I like…

I grew up in churches that put much emphasis on the link between obedience and love: If you love me, you will keep my commandments (John 14:15). Children obey your parents in the Lord for this is right (Ephesians 6:1). Wives submit yourselves to your own husbands.. (Ephesians 5:23). Obedience and submission were the ways of showing your heart-felt commitment and love for God.

My father’s house only reinforced this. Love as control is the heirloom that my Father left me without ever meaning to. We use the words rigid and strict to describe our upbringing, but controlling would also be appropriate.

It’s no wonder then that my love shows up as small criticisms masked as helpful suggestions, always said with a smile : Maybe you should do this instead. (And should you take the path that I did not suggest, the full weight of my disappointment falls). It’s no wonder that love to me looks a lot like rules and religion. No wonder that love becomes trying to remake (or allowing myself to be remade) someone into the image that I would prefer, and not the image that God lovingly sculpted. Love then is, as bell hooks says,a process of “possessing, remaking and recasting.”

There’s a Youtube/Vine star dude who makes videos that perfectly demonstrate this remaking and recasting. He makes video after video where the punchline is him castigating or scolding his girlfriend for what she is wearing, where Love as Control is a used for laughs and retweets. I’d like to opt out of this type of Love.

Love has eluded me for decades now. I suspect it has much to do with self-recognition of this tendency to play puppeteer. What I desire now is a love that doesn’t simply imitate the prevailing power structures in microcosm. I desire a love that  comes without the need to remake or reshape — a love that let’s me be, that let’s me exist in the complexity of my brilliance and madness without seeking to change me. A love where I put down the reigns of control –a  liberating love where there is space for two people to exist simultaneously.A love where there is freedom from control.


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