Recently, I was listening to This American Life. For those of you who don’t listen to This American Life (no judgment but what is WRONG with you!??), every week they choose a theme and put together different stories on that theme. This episode’s theme was break ups. The first story revolved around the particular perfection that are breakup songs. It involved Phil Collins and was really everything that is wonderful about the type of storytelling on This American Life.
Specifically, I learned the story behind one of my favorite songs – breakup or otherwise – of all time Bonnie Raitt’s I Can’t Make You Love Me.
Written by Mike Reid and Allen Shamblin, the idea from the song came after Reid read a newspaper story about a man who had shot up his ex-girlfriend’s car. At his sentencing, the judge asked the man if he had learned anything to which the man responded, "I learned, Your Honor, that you can't make a woman love you if she don't.”
Hearing that story with Bonnie Raitt’s mournful voice in the background, I burst into tears.
Now, I haven’t experienced a breakup in almost 15 years. Don’t get me wrong. It was a bad breakup. It involved betrayal on a scale my 19-year-old heart could barely comprehend. I still remember the pain of wanting someone to love you when THEY JUST DON’T.
However, that was not why I was crying.
I was crying because I wake up every morning to a man who does chose to love me. This is a man who is legally obligated to me and my children but whose heart holds no obligation at all. I forget that sometimes. I take it for granted.
As a mother, the love I feel for my children can outshine everything else. It’s so raw and instinctual and powerful, and yet, in a way, a little less special. I don’t choose to love my children. I just do. I have no control over it.
But I choose to love this man and he chooses to love me and when the reality of that hits me sometimes, it feels like the biggest damn miracle I’ve ever witnessed.
When Nicholas and I lost our baby, I expected my girlfriends to provide the most solace. Not because I expected less from Nicholas but because I just thought as mothers they might understand my pain in a way he couldn’t. And they did provide a huge amount of emotional support but over and over again it was Nicholas that kept me moving forward.
It feels unfair. It just so happens that the same 19-year-old heart that had been shattered by betrayal lucked into Nicholas’s possession only a few months later. I knew at that point what love wasn’t but really had no idea what love or marriage or companionship really WAS. I have friends that are still looking. I have friends that trust their hearts to people who chose someone else.
But here I am with a man who does choose to love me.
I know that could change. Life is hard and marriage is harder but for now I’m going to be grateful for my little miracle.
I can’t make him love me, he just does.