Justify My Love?

by Jason Stotts

What would you do if you were asked by your beloved to prove your love to them?

What would you do if you professed your love to your beloved and they did not believe you?

The issue of the communication of feelings is an especially tricky one – even in a hypothetical analysis where the situation doesn’t have all of the complexity of a real life case. Yet, I think the issue is great for gaining insight into the phenomenon of love and it also pushes us to stretch our creative and explanatory faculties in order to tackle this difficult issue.

Let us dive in and assume for our hypothetical situation that we have a man and a woman who are a couple, but whose relationship is only newly formed and as such is not perhaps as stable as an older relationship nor has it yet stood up against many tests. Let us further assume that in this instance that it is the man who professes his love for the woman, who professes disbelief and asks her lover to prove himself.

The first issues that arise to me are:

1) Does the woman doubt that the man is sincere or does she doubt that he knows what love is?

2) Why does the woman express disbelief in the first place? Has her lover made a mistake? Has she had bad past experiences with love and so is “scarred” from that? Or perhaps she herself doesn’t know what love is so she doubts that he could either?

With respect to the first set of questions, the answer here will determine the type of justification necessary to engender her belief. If it is the sincerity that is doubted, the man must show his sincerity by habitual actions indicative of love – whereas if it is the knowledge of love that is doubted, the man must show that he knows what love truly is.

With respect to the second set of questions, the answer will determine the content of justification, if such should even be applied in the case.

If the man has made a mistake he must prove that the mistake was a) atypical of his character, b) the mistake is not prohibitive of a further relationship (or that the future benefits of the relationship outweigh the cost of the mistake), and c) a sincerity to correct the cause of the mistake.

If the woman has had bad past experiences with love and is left incredulous to anyone truly being able to love her, then it is only the passage of time that can cure this – the man (if he wants to take on this burden) must show his love through habitual action and the passage of time. If, however, the woman doesn’t know what love is and so doubts another could know either, then he must show her what love is – explain the nature of it and its causes. If she doesn’t understand or refuses to understand, then it’s probably best for the man to cut his losses and leave with his sanity and integrity intact.

However, as we have just seen, many of these cases involve an appeal to what love is – so perhaps we must look to that idea ourselves and see if we can’t discover its nature.

Now love seems to me to be an extension, or perhaps a special kind, of friendship – so it seems as if it would be beneficial to first examine that concept and then build off it in order to arrive at knowledge of love.

Friendship seems to be something like a relationship of mutual goodwill, based on mutual good characters. Friends are a great joy to each other and they enhance the lives of their friends through pushing them to do better, helping them through hard times, and celebrating together in good times.

An intimate relationship is similar to a good friendship since it too has mutual goodwill and mutual good characters as its basis – yet an intimate relationship has a much stronger and more acute bond of love than friendship does. While friends are great values, your true beloved should be one of your highest values in life.

Love then, seems to be this emotional response to the good character of your beloved, to their virtues and sense of life, and to the value that she brings to your life. Love is an emotion – but it is an emotion based on reasons. Your beloved must share a similar sense of life as you – imagine how ill matched two people would be if one of them had a very positive outlook on life and the other had a very negative outlook on life, they would be perpetually annoyed with each other.

Even if two people cannot explicitly identify the basis of their love, it still exists.

However, love is based on trust and open communication. These two things are necessary conditions for the love – if either of these conditions is not met, love will either not arise or will cease to exist.

Trust is based on a person’s experience of another, it is based on your knowing that they will do the right things in the right situations – trust is based on your knowing a person’s character and their essential defining features. For example, if I were to say that I trust some girl M, what I would be saying is that based on my past experience of M, I have no reason to doubt that she will do the right thing because she has exhibited the right kinds of habits and a good character – since I know that one essential fact about her is that she highly values her mind, she will not take actions to destroy it.

Open communication is the basis of any kind of relationship, whether friendly or intimate. Open communication just means that you feel comfortable talking to the other person in your relationship, that you feel like you can tell them anything, and that they feel the same.

So, now that we have come to a fairly good definition of love, it is time to answer our original question: “How would I justify my love?”

Let us continue our original hypothetical situation where we have a man and a woman who are a couple, but whose relationship is only newly formed and as such is not perhaps as stable as an older relationship nor has it yet stood up against many tests. Let us further assume that in this instance that it is the man who professes his love for the woman, who professes disbelief and asks her lover to prove himself. Also, the woman’s reason for doing this are that she doubts that he is sincere based on something he did which deeply troubled her.

If this is the case and we were to counsel our gentlemen friend how to quell his lady’s ire and reestablish the relationship, it seems we should counsel him to first analyze what he has done and see if he truly regrets it. If he does then we should continue to try and help him, if he does not regret it then he should talk with her and see why she is offended. If no consensus can be reached about whether the action was wrong or not then the relationship should be dissolved. However, if he does truly regret it and they talk about it and they come to a consensus (let us assume the consensus is that the action in question was in fact wrong), then the next steps for our young friend are to make amends as best he can, talk with his beloved and show that his intentions were not malicious, and to make sure not to repeat the offending behavior.

If his beloved still has doubts, then he must show her that she can trust him again and explain to her that he does understand what love is and remind her why they were in love in the first place.

If he works at reminding her why they originally fell in love, the values they share, the good times they have, and the joy they have in each other’s company – then hopefully she will return to him.

If, however, all of this fails then the best counsel we can offer is for him to give his beloved space and see if the passage of time will melt the objections in her heart and whether she will return to him. In this case it would be best for our young friend to remove himself from her life, since she already finds him objectionable and he wouldn’t want to exacerbate this by continually being present and being a constant reminder of the offense.

Luckily though, the case is only hypothetical, but if it were real then it would be hard to imagine a more dreadful position to be in than to realize that you had destroyed true love by a mistake and that there was nothing you could do to convince your former love of your love.

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