In the past month I have watched two lovely female friends post photos on social media with their (relatively new) partners. Both of these lovely women referred to their (relatively new) partners as “the love of my life.” Nice, eh? Positively lyrical. Really romantic.
I’m not one to rain on anybody else’s romantic revelry but in my (humble) estimation the problem with these public proclamations is their children. Both these women have children who were not spawned by these (relatively new) partners. And by all accounts these children are still pretty crazy about their biological daddies. So I’m wondering as I gaze upon these postcard pronouncements, whether true or not, is this “love of my life” label something that really needs to be broadcast to the masses? Especially if those masses include your offspring?
I ask this today based on personal experience yesterday. I don’t mean yesterday Monday, I mean many yesterdays ago. In those bygone days I was freshly (maybe six months) out of my marriage and blissfully involved with Prince Charming. Well okay, truth be told it wasn’t all bliss and he sure as heck was no prince but I truly thought that guy was IT for me. My soulmate. The one I had waited for. He was my dream-man and the answer to all my prayers with a side of gravy.
So there we were, camping with my 11 year old son, and I ran into an old friend. I was delighted to introduce said friend to my new man who I confidently (and loudly) labeled “the love of my life.” The look of horror on my friend’s face was instant and obvious. Not because he gave a hoot who I was loving or whether or not it was lifelong but because HE had seen the look of horror on my son’s face. He had seen my cheerful baby’s face crumble when those seemingly innocent words vacated my mouth. My poor sweet innocent boy, who loved his father more than cheeseburgers and Pokemon, was crushed that I could label another man so profoundly. And so dismissively of his dad. Sure he knew we had split up and sure he knew I was with someone new and sure he even knew that so was his father. What (I believe) he couldn’t stomach was my cavalier banishment of the sixteen years his father and I spent together. Those years that produced a son. And thus created a family. The prince and I were unproven newbies in comparison. On what grounds could I anoint him “the love of my life?”
Okay, perhaps I’m over-analyzing and I doubt all those thoughts raced through my child’s pre-pubescent mind. All I know is my words did damage. Big fat ugly stupid damage. To the one innocent soul who deserved it least.
So … to my lovely women friends who are now enjoying Act 2 of their own romantic dramas, I humbly suggest a tiny yet measured modicum of discretion. I’m not advocating dishonesty or even only private, behind-closed-doors jubilation with your new-found ardour. Please feel free, with all the conviction you can muster, to wax poetic about your new love. Maybe just not on social media? Maybe just not anywhere (like a campground) where your kids might hear or see you? Trust me – it’s just not worth it.
While pondering this missive (sometimes it takes awhile for these thoughts to crystallize) I did ask another lovely woman friend who has been living with her own (not-so-relatively-new) partner for over ten years if she thought her children would accept her labeling him “the love of my life”? She replied “Yes, now they would. It’s been a long time, they’re older, they get it, and now they wouldn’t be bothered by that moniker. But in the early years … never!”
As for me, I have now decided that if I really feel the need to define “the love of my life” I’ll do it on my deathbed. Seriously, up until then, how could I possibly know?
In the meantime I’ll mind my tongue. And my pen. Because the one thing I actually do know for sure is that my child IS the love of my life. And I don’t ever want to do or say anything – consciously or not – to hurt him. I will love whomever I choose and I will include him on that journey. But I will do it (I hope) with tact and sensitivity.
Because as we all know … children will listen.