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How Love Changes You

We hear it said often, as if a warning or a reprimand, that the beloved should not change you. When you change because someone has entered your little life, apparently a kind of violence occurs. What was once strengthened by habit and preference, that indolence and leisure, now have to give way to an unannounced guest who reorganizes not only your days but ultimately also your life.

Your schedule will have to if not revolve around him (because one still has to make a living, attend to family and friends, etc.), make a lot of room for him; this need cannot but translate to hours previously devoted to other concerns, usually for one's self and sanity and rest, being taken away from you so as to be given to him. To decide to love is to decide to work more, sometimes much more than you can handle. That decision, always sweet and taken lightly at the beginning, can, when you become weary like a body after continued strain, become more than what it once was. You find out love, as with other great commitments or promises, requires great strength and constancy. Catherine of Sienna once with remarkable honesty resigned: "Love does not stay idle."

But outward changes matter little compared to what can change in you essentially. It is also possible, and in fact most often real, that the one you love not only changes what you do but also who you are. This change of character and behavior, or, I am afraid to use the word, your personality, becomes the canvas on which the other can play as a mindless child and paint. At the risk of disfiguring and bending you, and most times with neither force nor intent, the other transforms you, until, in worst cases, you no longer resemble who you were before love appeared.

Like a thief in the night, this self-transformation stealthily transpires without your knowledge. It is your friends, loved ones, those who precisely had known you before the intrusion of the other--they are the ones who see the remarkable metamorphosis. And because changing to something better often goes unnoticed, those around you only observe how you have changed not for the better but for what appears to be worse. All of a sudden, after the arrival of him whom you claim lights up your days, you can appear darker to others, crazy, at times stupid, too much in love, its slave.

Whence the worry and endless chatter about how the one you love has stolen from them the one they had loved and known so well. Because it is inevitable that they shall never see what you see (whence love's invisibility), they remain in the field of the apparent, and apparently, often it is true, the one you love completes and accomplishes your full transformation by forcing you to hide from them so as to avoid criticism, their so-called advices and warnings about how to maintain your dignity and regain your sanity. So that day comes when, estranged from men and women who do not understand how you have lost yourself--that day comes when you vanish completely and retreat to a small yet safe world for two.


Why do you become so malleable when in love? That the non-lover is able to identify your  transformation betrays the fact that your surrender to formlessness appears to transpire without your clear knowledge. If that is the case, because it must be thought that you are still free and able to think, then it must be considered that it was you yourself who chose to change for the one you love. And that decision marks the beginning of a marvelous kenosis: all the stakes are raised, and for the first time in your life you become the wager itself. After all, to sacrifice--authentically, that is--is to give up what is closest to you and leave it all on the table. And what can ever be closer to you that you? What other sacrifice is there, again, worth the name, than to give up who and what you are? That is, to risk destruction or self-disintegration by placing yourself in the hands of another who can crush you.

As in all choices, you choose to change for the beloved essentially because you realize that whoever you are and whatever you are doing will always be insufficient and belated. To love, as an act and a decision, cannot be reduced to a description of our inner emotional and mental states; if that were the case, then if I ever do change, I change like night and day, dancing between better and worse: one day I love, tomorrow I do not love, now I am faithful, later hateful. But love as an act is a response to a call only a lover can hear, a call which summons me to be forever on guard as to how to love better. And as decision, love requires me to keep faithful to my promises, notwithstanding how my emotions can bend and break.

Because that response to the call of the beloved is played out less in my inner life than in my actions and commitments, love changes me by all of a sudden placing on my shoulders a weight only I can promise to carry. Charged with a responsibility I volunteered to assume, assigned a post I must keep, I am elevated to the high rank of lover. But to be worthy of that name will have to require from me a strength that I do not even know I have. Thus I therefore surpass myself, become an overman, not only becoming a better man but a man who goes against the very grain of my self whose contours and roughness those closest to me had long been familiar with. Look at how those who become lovers appear differently. If they look larger that is because love does that to you. Because something more than one's self is suddenly at stake. At bottom, you are not the one responsible for your self-transformation--what lonely and weak person can ever have the will to even initiate that?--but the one you love. The loved one says yes and blesses you with a new name. You will never be the same.

The declaration of love says more than it says. Who can ever love enough or measure up to that word and promise? No one--not the one who said it when he said it. But the one to come, him that I vow and aspire to be, that man who will love you more than I do now--he was the man who said those words, and he was serious like death. Thus I have to catch up with that promised self, labor to chip away the real to reveal the ideal, so I can be the man I have to be now that you have loved me. And the wonder of wonders is that the face of the man who emerges from the furnace of love is the face you were destined to have. You were hiding all along. Sometimes all it takes is to love in order to become who you really are.


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