Richard Armitage, again and again

[This post was developed from a piece I cut out of the first draft of my confessions about Armitage desire. Push play on soundtrack for this post:

Stars, “Hold On When You Get Love and Let Go When You Give It,” from The North (2012)

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I’ve been thinking, lately, of all the ways we humans get taught not to love. On a daily basis.

It seems odd. Why would we teach people not to love? But we do.

I’ve thought long and hard over the years about how “health” is the metaphor that’s replaced “salvation” in modern life, and it seems fitting in this sense that love, a central religious notion, thus also be retooled for our own times in terms of what is healthy. If human relationships are constituted by different kinds of love, the world seems to be telling us these days, then we must watch out for “unhealthy” variations of that love. Bad love is a serious threat to our well-being, and you can read about it all over. Women shouldn’t “love too much.” Co-dependency is a kind of love that damages not only the lover, but also the beloved. Don’t get obsessed; obsessive love frightens away its object and can cause you to feel suicidal. Be careful, because loving your children wrong can ruin their entire lives. Don’t co-sleep, don’t attachment parent, Ferberize your baby rather than picking her up immediately if she cries, don’t make your decision about when to wean about the emotional bonds created by breastfeeding. Or, with equal force: co-sleep, breastfeed on demand, wait till your child self-weans, don’t leave your baby to “cry it out,” always respond attentively to your child’s demands. As a non-parent, I wonder how parents deal with it; once you have a baby, it seems, everything you do, every way you love your child, is an occasion for fault-finding by someone.

Those are all the grand failures of love that we risk, but just as every health problem is not terminal, every love problem is not pathological. All the lesser versions of “unhealth” then come into play. Don’t extend your generosity to people who aren’t going to deserve it. Hang onto your virginity until you can exchange it for a pseudo-permanent commitment. Or: If you’re interested in someone, don’t be the first to admit it or don’t admit it at all. Hold on to your power, hold on to your self-respect. If the emotion is not reciprocated, you might be embarrassed. If you are rejected, if your love is unrequited, you will be humiliated. “Tis better to have loved and lost, then never to have loved at all” is not a risk many people want to take, as often as they might quote the aphorism.

In one of the most intelligent observations he’s made about human character in an interview, I feel, Richard Armitage commented on this problem in June of 2008, when interviewed for BBCA about Guy of Gisborne with questions from fans.

Armitage said he didn’t know if Guy could “love someone in the truest sense.” One of the things I love about this answer is that while this question points to the discourse about “unhealthy” love I discussed above — as the fan question appears to force Armitage to choose between the options of “obsession or desire” and “love in the truest sense” — his answer turns the discussion in a different direction entirely. The reason he doesn’t know, Armitage states, is “because I don’t think he’s experienced much love in return, so when the little bits of it do come towards him, I think he grabs onto it really hard.”

If Guy is a pathological lover in the way the question implies — Armitage says, and note that he leaves desire out of his answer to focus on obsession — then because Guy has not had enough love himself. Not because Guy loves too much; not because Guy has been loved too much or in the wrong way. But because he has not been loved in response to what he’s given. Because he’s parched. Because he doesn’t know how to do it and ends up coming up with a litany of reasons (money, power) he should be loved; because he doesn’t know how to do it and takes advice on gift-giving and thus gives gifts that are stolen from others, or gifts that are out of all proportion. He loves in all the wrong ways because he has not experienced sufficient love himself to love well in initiation or in return.

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“Whyever not?” Monet (Richard Armitage) replies, when admonished by Manet that he can’t celebrate the sale of a painting every single time, in episode 2 of The Impressionists. Source: RichardArmitageNet.com

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I love this answer. Because it makes me hope that Richard Armitage has loved and been loved, or that his observations about these reciprocations are rich enough to keep giving us interesting characterizations of love in roles to come. (Though it’s not the theme of this post, it’s quite striking how many nuances he can bring to the experience and indication of love in his roles.) But also, because it makes me wonder — what if we stopped asking ourselves all the questions about “unhealthy” love and just — loved? I’m not saying there are no styles of love that are problematic, or that the experience of love is entirely devoid of ethical dilemmas — but I am saying, somehow I suspect that the worry over “bad” love is a much wider phenomenon than actual instances of it. So, I ask: what if we stopped worrying and just put love first? What if we provided our love, projected it into the universe — so that there was just enough for everyone?

What if we just gave our love away to whoever needed it? Because I’m starting to think that “unhealthy” love is so often related in modern discourses to something like payoff. Don’t invest your love in someone who will never change; don’t give your agape indiscriminately, to those won’t ever be capable of meriting it, but save it for those who are “worthy”; don’t appear to eager because you’ll scare your beloved and he will run away and thus not love you back; don’t pick up your baby at night because she will just expect you to do it again tomorrow night and the night after that.

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Loving the unworthy object anyway? Carol Boulton (Sarah Smart) and John Standring (Richard Armitage) after their wedding in episode 3 of Sparkhouse. Source: RichardArmitageNet.com

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This theme applies to fandom insofar as the love of a fan is more or less one-sided — the fan loves, and the object feels how s/he feels but is not obliged to reciprocate. The imbalance in the act of love means that the payoff accrues solely to the fan/lover. Because the payoff is not something that others can see or integrate into their systems of exchnge; it is therefore non-existent and potentially embarrassing. So the fandom tint of “unhealthy love” that we talk about from time to time involves the extent to which “crazy” fans are the source of their own humiliation. Fandom, seen from the perspective of the world, is told: don’t make yourself a source of ridicule, even if the entire commercial structure of distribution of fan information is set up to commodify your emotions in order to generate that effect and profit from it! Stop admitting that you feel intensely. Against that, I argued last April that desire is not humiliating, but ennobling — as evidence of one’s capacity to feel.

It’s against this background that I am starting to understand that the fact that Armitage’s pictures and performances continue to animate me has a utility that I didn’t realize before. They have this effect even when there’s no reliable news for weeks; twelve hours away and a look at a picture can elevate my mood again. Now: One level of the effect is certainly the hormone and neurotransmitter surge generated by the pleasurable experience of looking at him and remembering the many pleasurable emotions associated with him in the past. But this is not unconnected to the performance of love, the doing of love as an act, insofar as, I believe, and Armitage seems to suggest about Guy, that the experience of being loved in turn makes us able to love. It makes us stop thinking that love is a scarce commodity, to be guarded and saved, or something that we have to fence around with pain in order to prevent our own humiliation or disgrace, but something to be flung out into the universe with spendthrift profligacy.

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Loving in the absence of hope of a payoff: Mr. Thornton (Richard Armitage) decides to protect Margaret from the consequences of her lies in episode 3 of North & South. Source: RichardArmitageNet.com

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So if the experience of watching Armitage desire things makes me desire not as much Armitage himself, as it makes me desire to desire, then the fact that I desire him almost every time I see him has a bigger implication in the sense of definitions of “healthy” or acceptable kinds of love. That’s the (confusing?) conceptual statement — the practical substance of it is:

I think that the experience of fandom, and of desiring Richard Armitage specifically, is teaching me about the potential depths of all of my energy for love — and also letting me learn to experience that love as legitimate. To be ennobled by it and not embarrassed — to let go of love when I give it. To push it out there, because as long as there is enough love circulating, I will be loved enough and thus I will be able to keep on loving.

That’s the only way I can explain this insistent response to him over all this time, surging out of me, growing like fire, that lies at the basis of the flow I experience outside of religious settings.

Richard Armitage, somehow your face, your picture, the images of you, the pictures of your performances — they can take, they can accept, they can absorb all of the love I feel surging out of myself, the huge and frightening rush of insistent emotion that you so often evoke.

Against the fear that I have to hide the energy of love that I feel because I fear that no one will ever want all the things that I am, that no one can take the force of all the love that I can bring to bear, I can desire you and your image can accept all that desire and help me learn to push it out all over the place. Love, I now see, in its true ignorance of punishment, in the very unconsciousness of anything but the experience of love itself, does, indeed, cast out fear.

Loving, desiring you allows me to practice loving and desiring with all the depth that the calculating world would like to forbid me — for whatever reason. Writing about desire is as much an act of desire as desiring; it’s a response to desire as potent as orgasm. In loving you, I learn to love like there really are no risks. In loving you, I learn to accept myself as a lover, and — in turn — as someone worthy of love.

~ by Servetus on October 9, 2012.

80 Responses to “Richard Armitage, again and again”

  1. Really beautiful, Serv. I love reading about the continuation of your journey of discovery. I, too, hope that Richard has indeed experienced the nourishing, nurturing, reciprocal love we all need.
    Somehow, I think he has.

    Re Guy, I have mentioned before, and I really have to write this post at some point, of the simliarities between Guy and my father, who was someone who was so parched for love, who craved it, and just didn’t always know how to go about showing his emotions. My dad could be harsh and volatile, he could be clumsy and ham-handed at times.

    But inside there was a person worthy of love, capable of chvalry and sacrifice. It took me years to finally understand him, but thank goodness I did while he was still alive and knew how much I did appreciate him.

    It’s one of the reasons Ladywriter is so protective of Guy in Sloth Fiction. I am trying to make up for what Guy lacked–and what my daddy lacked.

    Thanks again for a beautiful, thought-provoking post.

    And thank you, Richard Armitage, but what you unwittingly do for so many of us on a daily basis.

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    • He really “absorbs” a lot — but I also think he’s capable of it. That capacity (to accept love) is something to write about, further on down the line, as well.

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  2. It was beautiful ,(((Servetus))):* I love that, thank you!

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    • Aaaaw (blushes), thanks.

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      • I forgot to add that I listened to this song at least 10 time in row,thanks.

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        • I’m glad you liked it — it’s been very inspiring to me (I won’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to it).

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          • loaded the song on my mp3player yesterday and can’t get enough of it…i love “sing ’cause you don’t know how to say it”. couldn’t resist to comment on your beautiful post ^^’ thanks for sharing.

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            • LOL. Thanks for commenting. I love that line, too. If you like this song, there’s another good one on this album called “Theory of Relativity.” Actually, there’s only one song on this album I *don’t* like.

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              • thanks, sounds good, will get it & look at the other songs. I guess I will go on listening much more to the other song though ‘^^. So addicted to that melody, rythm, emotion. I hardly have songs I can listen to for days but this one will be a very big one on repeat, maybe even the biggest. When I listen to it I feel like I’m ok the way I am. >^___^<

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                • well put. Me too, because it concedes the faults of the singer but insists that the singer will keep on loving anyway.

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        • the line that gets me is “take the weakest thing in you / and beat the bastards with it.” Love makes us weak, but it also makes us strong.

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  3. Beautifully expressed.

    As someone who has loved strongly, steadfastly, not concerned about whether it was “right” or the person deserving, I have to say yes, it can hurt like hell, but it is always worth it, never wasted. Je ne regrette rien. Even if all you’ve received in return is very little, it can be enough to teach you how to give and not hold back.

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    • I am starting to think that the repression of certain aspects of intense love out of fear, while it may have positive external outcomes, has very negative internal ones. It seems that many of us just want to know we’re normal — but by storing this stuff inside out of fear, we constantly confirm for ourselves that we are not — and thus become susceptible to fear mongering by those around us.

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      • Perhaps because I was told I was not normal and rejected very early, I felt I had little to lose that way. I tried “normal” and it sucked. The fear that stayed with me is fear of loss, from whatever cause, because it is inevitable and it is agony.

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        • I think one advantage of trying this out in fandom is that we’re doing it independently of people with whom we have strong familial bonds. it may be a bit easier for some of us to see how the problem of the disapproving other works in this setting than it is in our original ones.

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          • It definitely beats long-term therapy for cost-effectiveness.

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            • I have to laugh.

              Actually, my last therapist was great. I learned a lot from her. She was also expensive from my perspective ($140/hour). I still think a lot about what she said and some insights she had about my problems have been applied in this blog. However, it’s clear that the blog has been more productive than the therapy was. I don’t know if that’s because she laid the groundwork, or because I am more anonymous thus potentially flexible here than I was in the therapeutic chair.

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  4. Oh, Servetus, I love your post about love. It is so true. We have a saying here: Love grows when you share it. So in principle, love must be there unlimited, we just need to access it and give it space to let it grow.
    But we think too much about little fights about position and reputation, which makes love stangely a battle and not a generous gift, what it truely is.
    Thank you for this wonderful and heartwarming article !!!

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    • The problem is getting someone to start. Love isn’t love till you give it away, as we sang as children. But who initiates the giving?

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      • How do you enable people who have been “trained” as you outline above to break the cycle? It’s so scary to expose oneself in that way – especially to the neophyte who doesn’t yet know that he/she can and will live to love again (if you allow yourself) Or even to the veteran who just CAN’T endure the risk again?

        How do I encourage my children to put it out there…KNOWING that they will inevitably suffer because of it, when my job is to protect them. Or have we begun, as in other areas, to protect them too much? To unintentionally “parch” them in order to protect them from potentially dangerous love.

        Thought provoking stuff! Thanks!

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        • To some extent, I’m trying to mimic in this writing (and others like it) something I’m seeing in the writing of two people I know — one is my buddy Didion writing about feminism, and another is the press critic Jay Rosen writing about the myth of symmetry in political reporting.

          Here’s Didion on the question of what feminism means, for example: http://feminema.wordpress.com/2012/06/22/lets-blame-feminism-version-984026-the-atlantic-magazine/
          or here’s Rosen, in a now-famous piece, “The View from Nowhere,” which shows how the press resigns its obligation to be critical and thus ends up saying nothing in a situation where it could do a great deal: http://archive.pressthink.org/2003/09/18/jennings.html

          What I see in this style of writing is the willingness to identify a particular point of critique that seems essentially accurate from the ethical standpoint of the writer without the obligation to provide either an answer to objections or a normative prescription — because I’ve discovered in my own academic writing that the need to respond to caveats, worries, potential objections (all of which I am certainly smart enough to identify ahead of time) eventually saps the energy for the original point. So in that sense, I want to say, first, it’s enough to articulate the desirability of loving with profligacy without responding to all the potential objections to it, which are many and obvious, or to articulate a program for doing so.

          But you raise an important problem and I don’t want to minimize it. I do want to keep thinking about it.

          All I can say is that I’m starting to realize that the technique of embarrassing children, or the child I was, anyway, over their extreme and immoderate loves has had a lot of negative consequences for me, one of which is my assumption that no one wants the love I have to give — so that in the case of rejection (by anyone who becomes the object of the variations of that love — not just a potential romantic partner, but other objects of loving action), I feel not only rejected or unappreciated (which is bad enough), but also responsible and / or guilty for having been the idiot. In essence I think that fandom is a way of living out love, practicing that in a situation where rejection or underappreciation are impossible or at least really unlikely.

          And I’m starting to think that telling other people not to feel something is not really protection against the feeling itself. It is only creating the potential that they will have additional things to feel bad about. I do think that we practice love and that we have to be hurt to get better at it. But the possibility of practicing it is in fact only possible on the assumption that there’s enough love to go around, so that if we mess it up, eventually we might find it again despite the pain we feel. (I am very much in that situation of being someone who would rather avoid the risk entirely, incidentally.)

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          • I didn’t intend to be confrontational at all…more thinking out loud (or in type) I find so much validity in what you are saying. It mirrors many of my own experiences. I was pretty lucky in my own upbringing that my parents didn’t actively repress those responses in me, but I certainly have been inherently cautious most of my life when it came to extending myself (more so in romantic relationships than friendships – ie, why would he want ME, when he could have HER)….walked away from relationships rather than “aggressively” pursue someone because I might look desperate or stupid.

            I’m beginning to believe that the best approach that I can take with my children is to let them experience life as they will and be there to support whatever the outcome is. It seems that most of the prophylactic measures parents take to protect their children only serve to cripple them in some other way.

            I love that you are able to articulate these things so beautifully…it makes me think about things much more cohesively than I have up until now – hence the open ended questions 🙂

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      • Hello Servetus, just was following your further discussion here and somehow got the idea, that love often becomes problematic or ‘obsessive’, as in our attempt to understand the other side we love, we might start to try and controle it and might try to make it into something we understand. (You know of my hesitancy to give our understanding of others a too wide spectrum.)
        What I often see in couples who, after a hot and sworn unending love get a separation is, that the result they created and when the mysteries dissolve, are not what they love any longer.
        We don’t accept the feeling of love in a free and accepting way, but in a controlling way, where we want to get the upper hand over our emotions and the object we love, to make the feeling permanent and guarantee our continuing happiness, while at the same time killing our feelings with exactly those attempts. But love is acceptance and a ‘G#dly’ offer of freedom of choice and a momentary glimpse of heaven.
        I very much like RA’s expression, that Guy is grabbing those rare moments and trying to hold fast.

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        • I think that’s a really apt comment, cdoart (I’m reminded about something you said about the culture of condemnation on FB that was similarly astute). I suppose it’s because this kind of immoderate love is frightening? We want to control it because it scares us? And maybe, as you say, because it might go away?

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          • Yes, I think, love is beyond measure, beyond being controllable and certainly frightening in its absoluteness. It is so wonderful, when we feel it, that we don’t want to let lose or be without it ever again, but want a guarantee to always have it. (The marriage vows in a way are telltale about that and in my opinion not the best way to lead into the renewed giving and daily necessary new decision for the partnership, which continuously is needed on both sides for a good and lasting love.)
            As in most cases, we easier see the other side and want to control them, instead of ourselves, where we could do something with trust and encouragement to let the love grow. Instead, we try to force the object of our love to love us back.
            That is not to say, that all love and given love works out and is reciprocated. We don’t live in paradise, but still, given love is never in vain, even when the recipient might be unworthy. It still shows our clear mind and cappability to love, even when others reciprocate with ulterior motives and betrayal. That is their faulty part, not the part of the loving side, though the realisation of that betrayal hurts enormously and unfortunately the one who is caring.
            (Seem to have lost my point somewhere on the way ;o)

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            • nice point about the marriage vows. They’re supposed to be about our own promises, of course, but they don’t end up being about that.

              And yeah, not all love is reciprocated — maybe Marian would never love Guy. But maybe there would some other love he received that could make up for that.

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  5. Lovely! And to quote Shakespeare (and Marianne Dashwood in “Sense & Sensibility”):

    “Love is not love which alters, when alteration finds. Nor bends with the remover to remove. Oh no, it is an ever fixed mark that looks on tempests, and is never shaken.”

    Cheers! Grati ;->

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    • Interesting to quote Marianne Dashwood in this context. Because Jane Austen wrote her as someone who learns the hard way that unconditional and uninhibited love doesn’t pay off.

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      • It may not “pay off”, but that is not always a deterrent, perhaps hardly ever.

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        • Imagine that, if people only loved if they were certain their love would “pay off”… Also to expect unconditional love to “pay off” isn’t that a contradiction in itself? Sorry I know there must be a better way to express what I mean to say but I’m too tired to find it.

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          • I would agree that in romantic situations unconditionality has different valences than in (say) family relationships. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s irrelevant to those situations, either.

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        • There’s the rub — right? Love is an emotion that is then channeled into social notions about payoff (I am tempted to say, like everything else in capitalism) but that doesn’t stop it being what it is? It only channels it elsewhere; and if it never reaches its goal, maybe eventually it dies.

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          • In my experience, love only dies when it’s beaten to a bloody pulp by heinous betrayal. Agape is not for wusses.

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            • Extremely well put.

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            • Does it die, or does it transform into something else entirely I wonder?

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              • premature send…look at the heinous things that are done by and to people who have been attached at some point by love. Surely this can’t be defined as love anymore…can it?

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                • yeah, I think this is another reasonable objection to what I am saying: some lovers really *are* obsessive. So we either have to redefine “love” so it doesn’t include that, or say that obsession is permissible. My point is that for most people the fear of obsession is more damaging to them and for others than the actually (rare) incidences of obsession they might engage in. As long as obsession is defined as dangerous, the risk that definitions of it will expand until very little loving behavior is not reflective of obsession is obvious. (If you don’t believe me, look how much the latest DSM is going to expand notions of pathological behaviors in children.) Sometimes I read these definitions of healthy love and they seem to imply that if you really are in love you should be detached enough that it won’t bother you at all if your beloved rejects you. To me that both seems to be not really love, and also to deny the typical experience of certain kinds of emotions.

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                  • I think that I must be defining these things separately in my head, because I’m all in favor of loving without fear. The risk of potential obsession at a future date would be among the last consideration I would be concerned with when choosing a lover. I may be thinking about it too simplistically, but to me, the obsessor (I think I made this word up) was never truly a lover…that is, I may have truly loved him, but he was only ever obsessed. (does that make sense)

                    I would agree that we are potentially crippled by the fear of “what if” There is a huge instance of what you referred as “fear mongering” in the media –Snapped, Deadly Women, ad nauseum. I don’t know how people even date if they take all that as a caveat!

                    “…if you really are in love you should be detached enough…” *huh?* This sentiment seems like a complete non sequitur to me to. How can you love some one and be untouched if that someone rejects you? Seems like a pretty neutered notion “love” to me. Why bother?

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                    • I especially wonder now that these instances of “you are at fault in your own rape” are being featured so nationally and intensively in the U.S. media.

                      re: detachment, I agree, but this was the juxtaposition I was reading about last night:

                      “Love: Loving detachment (healthy concern about partner, while letting go.)

                      Toxic love: Fusion (being obsessed with each other’s problems and feelings.) ”

                      I would be the first to agree that you shouldn’t confuse yourself with your lover. On the other hand, it’s not clear to me what “concern … while letting go” actually would mean in practice.

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                    • Sounds like trendy pop speak to me. In the first instance, it would seem that just because your lover is, for example, clinically depressed, you don’t have to climb in there and be depressed, too — especially when the only way you can help the beloved is to be there, not depressed but strong and comforting. In the second instance, “toxicity” only seems to occur when neither boundaries nor respect for the beloved exists, a condition that isn’t love in the first place.

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                    • well, and there we are again on the redefinition side. But for example we would be in severe trouble if parents really *did* detach from their children.

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                    • True, but I believe that good parenting teaches empathy, respect for others and oneself, boundaries, compassion, reasoning and critical thinking, and ethics in the context of unconditional love. One need not *detach*, and in fact, one must not to teach these things. But neither does one throw a hissy just because one’s child does, or join the anger, or dive into the abyss rather than reaching out to pull a child back from the edge.

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                    • But: the flip side of this is that most people are not the beneficiaries of “good parenting” in every regard. I think my mother was a great parent but her marital relationship is really problematic, to say the least. After this summer, I understand a lot better exactly why the major romantic relationships in my life have played out in the ways they have. (I might have to publish a lot more about that than I really want to, to make my position intelligible). So I ask — why are the actions of the less-well parented, as they try to work out their loves which are tinged with these failures of the past, so threatening? Is it possible that a more generous attitude toward love would eventually encompass, absorb, modify these “wrong” loves?

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                    • I think a more generous attitude would help. As someone lucky to survive what parenting I got, I realized over time that my loves were marred by old wounds, but I don’t think of them as “wrong.” I loved strongly and steadfastly, sometimes to my detriment. Was I “wrong” to do this, even though I could not have done otherwise? It seems a moot point at this juncture.

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                    • This is why I’m troubled by the redefinition side: I don’t see how we can justifiably say, “this kind of love [obsessive, codependent, etc.] is not really love, it is something else.” We all love however we can best manage (the closing line of my piece about the partners who support our fandom), so let’s just let it all be love.

                      How would Guy’s love for Marian have been different if Marian (and Robin) would have been able to accept it as love instead of trying to police it? One reading is that he kills her because he can’t control her and thus he feels like he can’t control himself. I wonder about the steps on the road in that direction.

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                    • I recall screaming in a therapeutic situation,”Projection, internalization, delusion — is that all there is?!” No. I believe that it is all love, just not all some politically correct ideal. And it is axiomatic that helplessness begets rage; in that critical instant, rage obliterates love, with perilous consequences.

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                    • However did we get back to women are at fault in their own rapes mentality? It seems like a really alarming sign of a shifting trend in the status of women in the U.S.

                      re: detachment, Was this in some sort of healthy break up article? In that context I can kind of understand it – to “let them down easy” so to speak? I have been at the tail end of relationships where I didn’t want to hurt the other unduly, but wanted out.

                      If this is not in the context of breaking up, I still don’t follow the reasoning…

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                    • No, it was someone trying to compile recognition from a bunch of different relationship theorists to come up with a general definition of “healthy love.”

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                    • I am so enlightened by this conversation…I will admit to feeling a bit out of my depth, because I’ve never really considered love so closely – perhaps it’s because I’ve never really felt that I was without it or that it was withheld or qualified in some way? I think I may have led a rather sheltered life. When push comes to shove can anyone really define what constitutes love for someone other than themself? I’m now pretty sure that I can’t.

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                    • yeah, I don’t think so, which is why these advice manuals about healthy relationships are so problematic …

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                    • This is my new book series proposal: “You’re Doing it Wrong – Advice I’ve Heard from People Who Don’t have a Clue”. First installment will be: “Marriage Advice from My Never-been-married Sister” Uggh!

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              • If love has a stinking corpse, it is a numb apathy.

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      • I was thinking last night about looking up the original source of the maxim and then didn’t because I was running out of time before I had to leave my coffee shop, and Pesky was sitting next to me, wanting to have a conversation. However, I think that like me, the vast majority of readers probably are aware of the statement without being aware of the context, so it probably means something different to us/them than it did either to Dashwood or Austen.

        But there we are with the “payoff” question again. What if we could move away from it? What if love weren’t a scarce commodity? What if everything about our lives weren’t determined by notions around exchange (which is very much the case of the Austen protagonists that I am familiar with — they’re always either negotiating for something, or painfully aware that they are in no position to negotiate)? That’s all I’m asking in this post. Austen is a poor interlocutor for this problem in general, because, given her historical location (how could it be otherwise?) her solutions to dilemmas of pairing are so often both ridiculously moralistic and unbelievably meritocratic, except, perhaps for her main characters, but not always even then. Now, I admit that I am not a colossal fan of Austen, although I’ve very much enjoyed reading her works, so my perspective is not going to be that of someone who gives her the big, gushy, romantic reading, as my buddy Didion might be more inclined to do than I am — but even when the heroes of _Pride and Prejudice_ decide to marry the heroines, it’s because the definition of the women’s potential worth as marital partners is rewritten — not because worthiness as a romantic partner stops being a criterion altogether. They are still being loved “because” and not “in spite of.”

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    • Oh, Marianne, that reckless lover. But whereas she is transfixed (early on, anyway) by love qua love, Armitage spurs something else — and I can’t imagine more pleasurable reading than to see what Servetus does with the question. What a great piece. And a great song I now have stuck in my head.

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      • ;->

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      • You know I love Austen, just not as much as you.

        It just bugs me, has always bugged me, that the end of P&P includes this long discussion of how the Bennet family is made bearable for the bridegrooms.

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        • When I first read Austen, I had little sympathy for many of her characters. For example, I never did see why anyone would have a moment’s patience with Emma, let alone actually want her. Austen simply made me all the more determined to rebel, not to fit the mold.

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          • I can’t remember when I read Emma. Maybe grad school? That was when the film came out. I read P&P in high school English and remember thinking, this is entertaining and I like it but by liking it I might be letting down the side. It helps a lot when you have a good friend who loves something and can explain to you why it’s great. I appreciate P&P now much more as a comment on the “marriage market” and as a leading wedge into the preoccupation of Victorian fiction with false appearances than I did five years ago.

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  6. This post made me cry, but happy tears. Thank you so much for writing it and thank you everyone for the thoughtful comments too!

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    • Ditto on “thanks for the thoughtful comments.” I look forward to coming here because I know I can count on people to say good things.

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  7. This post leaves me speechless, Servetus! You have put your finger on something that I could not express but that I have somehow known for a while. Thank you for explaining this so eloquently. It actually helps me sort out some feelings – not just in terms of Armitage but in RL, too!

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  8. I agree that it is difficult to believe that there is enough love to go around. You raised a lot of interesting issues, making me think about some of my characters and what they might be thinking/feeling. As for me, I usually believe in a world full of love and possibilities, except when I don’t.

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    • Well, I’m not always capable of this sort of attitude, either — in fact I can think of one very concrete situation right now where I am *not* achieving this. But I like putting stuff out there to think about. The more we think about them, the greater the possibility they could become real.

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  9. Hi Servetus, been following your blog from the beginning but never commented, partly because I was one of the fans worried about being obsessive. Then I’ve had other things to think about lately, but I still enjoy reading your thoughts, and this post really speaks to me. Unlike Guy, I have had a lot of love from family and friends in my life, but I do tend to worry about how intense my emotions are and how they sometimes do scare people when I open up beyond surface interactions.

    This discussion with all of you talking about transactional thinking vs. giving it freely, about not being scared of our own inability to be moderate, is wonderful. Someone I met has been a catalyst for a great deal of growth, simply because they truly want to see beyond my surface, and I’ve been learning that much of what I think of as wisdom and caution is simply fear, and every time I let go of the fear and follow intuition/love it’s completely worth it. Still get rather paralyzed at times, but diving into the adventure and just living fully is beautiful. There is nothing better than those moments when one soul connects with another soul, and the great thing about RA is that he has somehow facilitated a lot of those moments for people.

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    • Thanks, kickingtheplaster, and welcome. I hope you’ll leave comments here more often.

      I definitely think we learn to love / give in interactions with others — I’ve been learning about the positive and negative dynamics of this process intensely lately myself, with someone who is generous and also not inclined to judge — which makes it important that we find those people who think as we want to, so they help us to grow.

      Nice point about RA — he really does facilitate these feelings for us.

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  10. I’m probably too jaded, but to me loving is damned hard work — one of the hardest things we’ll ever do. Doesn’t really matter what type of love because it all comes down to a common denominator if it’s the real thing — and that’s self-sacrifice. While I agree that some might not feel free to love due to fear of rejection or obsession, I think it would also be a lot easier to spread the love around if we weren’t afraid of the self-sacrifice involved.

    I’ve been “in-love” twice in my life. The first time, it was an obsessive love and I will never subject myself to that again…what a waste of time and energy. The second time around I learned that it’s possible to love someone deeply without obsession. And let them go without looking back in pain, suffering or disillusionment.

    But even though love can be difficult and at times painful, I believe whole heartedly that we all need to love freely and boundlessly — as well as be loved in return.

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    • I don’t disagree on the self-sacrifice point (although the things we are sacrificing in each case vary slightly). In the situation this summer, while I often became resentful, it was a comfort to me to remember that things had been sacrificed on my behalf as well that made me who I am. Even when the love on both sides was imperfect, the sacrifices were made without hesitation. It was a comfort.

      In terms of being “in love,” my first really serious loves had intoxicating features (I’m not going to call them obsessions). You do learn as you go along …

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  11. […] You are special, because when you chose Richard Armitage, you chose well. You have loved well, and you have given much to him and to the rest of us. And no true love that we give freely — whether to Armitage, or to our fellow fans — is ever wasted. Nothing is ever really lost, or can be lost. Your love goes out into the world to meet its objects and it circulates and it makes the world a better place. […]

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  12. […] But I am going to ask myself that question; I’m going to tape it to my computer screen. I am going to remind myself of the love that Richard Armitage makes me feel – and what I share with other fans. And what we can build together out of that feeling of […]

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  13. […] Take the weakest thing in you and beat the bastards with it. And always hold on when you get love, so you can let go when you give it. […]

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  14. […] casts out fear. I had a good handle on that in the fall, and how the Armitage crush was related to that, and I need to get back there. Even if I don’t make it there by […]

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  15. […] into that devotion. I think fandom tells us that we are — or could be — powerful. I think the experience of an immoderate love teaches us that our love makes us strong, stronger than w… (incidentally, that link also broaches the topic you verge on, the lack of reciprocation from the […]

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  16. […] That said, the theme of 2012 was resurrecting my understanding of love. […]

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  17. […] Armitage love lets me tap into every aspect of my energy, and because it helps me realize that human desires are ennobling. It’s okay if I want things, including things that are out of my reach, in fact, precisely […]

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