Love is supposed to magically save you. The mere existence of the right person is supposed to make everything right. I’ve had people ask me in the past why being in a relationship hadn’t cured my depression. I’ve had people who love me distressed because they believe their love should be enough to fix me.
Love is magic, and can fuel magic, but at the same time it isn’t a magic cure for all ills. It also isn’t reliably enough. Love isn’t enough if you are cold, hungry, exhausted and in pain. Sure, love might carry you through a short bout of that, but it will not let you live there long term. Nor should it. Love is not a substitute for all your other basic needs.
Depression has many causes – massive stress being a common underlier. Love won’t save you from a toxic work culture. It won’t fix your financial insecurity necessarily, or cure your health problems. It also won’t undo past trauma. Your lover is not your therapist, not your life coach, not your psychoanalyst, not a substitute for your parents… It is not the job of the person who loves you to make up for everything in your past, fix all your problems and sort your life out.
When we think love is supposed to magically fix everything, we can end up putting impossible pressure on the people we love.
What love can do, is provide a safe space where people feel able to fix themselves. The love, belief and support of another human can help us feel resourced enough to square up to our problems and see what can be done about them. Love opens us up to the idea of helping each other and supporting each other. Rather than a hetranormative romance take where one person magically saves the other, we can have networks of support and care. Love doesn’t have to mean romantic love, and the idea that the person we are shagging is supposed to meet our every need is questionable.
There are many ways to love. In that love, we can grow together and find shared solutions. Most of our problems are not individualistic. It’s just that keeping us focused on individual solutions that don’t really exist keeps us from making real change. I don’t think this is an accident. Love can save us, but not in the way that happens in movies. Love of life, of community, of friends – that can save us. Love of fairness and justice, compassion and dignity can save us. We can definitely save each other, but not by magic. It’s going to take work.
But then, it’s when you show up to do the work that both love and magic become truly possible and truly powerful.