The one great love

Say what you want about us men. But we can be very sentimental. Especially when we talk about the one, true, mostly unrequited love. If we ever talk about it at all and don’t just carry the pain silently and secretly throughout our lives through every other relationship, proudly claiming it’s long gone (after all, we don’t want the current woman to feel like she’s number two!).

Whether we talk about it or not, she exists, the eternal number one. She lives in our past and the only men who contradict me now are with her or at best have married her.

“Don’t tell your mother …”

… that’s probably how a rarely intimate male conversation with his father would begin when it comes to the one great love. “… But I didn’t marry the greatest love in my life.” Immediately, an obvious question suggests itself, “Why not?!” The answer is always the same: “It was complicated… We broke up and married someone else.” The gaze wanders and becomes nostalgic: “Don’t get me wrong, I love your mother like no other woman in the world, but I’ve never loved as intensely as I did when I was young.”

Deep, desperate, sometimes personality-altering feelings probably seem to get in the way of a functioning relationship. How can it be that our hearts and memories remain attached to a single woman for a lifetime, even though we men are not exactly considered monogamous?

I think it’s in our head

We romanticize in our memories. We forget the bad, miss the good and transfigure the past. Everything becomes nostalgia.

In my memory, there is also this woman. The woman with whom I imagine to drop everything to run away with her as soon as she rings my doorbell. Although (or just because) she broke my heart a long time ago. Quite romantic and also quite transfigured. At some point I realized that this woman in my memories and dreams didn’t exist. She was never real. The person was, her scent and her smile, that was all real, but the rest, her character, I perceived wrong. I ignored certain things and glorified them in retrospect. That’s probably why it didn’t work out with us. And I can be glad about that.

But the thought of this love is still real

Whether the woman existed like that or not: the memory of the feelings, sweet as well as bitter, is real and also somewhat the fear that it could never become like that again with another.

But then I have only myself to blame, because for love you need courage. A lot of courage. We must not forget, early love is more uncompromising, inexperienced, even fearless and therefore with a full heart. Through bad experiences we unlearn this youthful recklessness a little, though not completely.

He who is afraid has already lost

You do need a dash of masochism and a little readiness for self-sacrifice for love, because you can never demand something in return for everything you do. It must come of its own accord. Otherwise everything slips very quickly into dissatisfaction and reproach.

A very good friend told me a short time ago: “If you like someone, then look at their friends very closely. If you get along with them and they also become your friends, then keep them, because love will eventually diminish and then only friendship will remain. If there is no friendship, then nothing remains.”

Much more important than the chemistry in our heads that makes our hearts go into our throats and our blood rush to our laps seems to be the respect and friendship we feel for our partner. At least in the long run.

A monument

Now, is it bad to carry around this one eternal number one and keep thinking about her in our new relationship? I don’t think so.

I believe that everyone has such a person in their life. Whether man or woman. And I believe that it is good never to forget such a person, because after all it is a proof of having really loved him honestly and sincerely and having learned from him forever. So it is only fair to offer an eternal place in our hearts out of gratitude for this sweet and bitter time.

Matthias Starte is an author and filmmaker. Born in the north, at home in Munich. His favorite thing to do is eat bacon cheeseburgers, drink Spezi with it and talk to other vinyl snobs about interviews with Questlove. He is currently working on his feature film debut and writes this column about love and relationships.

Image source: Pixaby atCC 0

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