In the saccharine, ghastly world of romance novels, love really does mean never having to say you're sorry. It also means heterosexual relationships only, no sex before marriage, rugged men with big chests, gasping women with even bigger chests, castles, horses, and the loving wife staying at home to look after the 2.4 golden haired children while hubby dashes off to have duels and sign things with wax seals. If that's love, then baby, you can keep it.

Love is none of those things. Love can be dirty, messy, unpredictable, awkward, complicated, embarrassing, loud, terrifying, sad, and lonely. It can also be powerful, warm, exciting, amazing, safe, silly, bizarre, quiet, simple, and breathtaking. Many people think that if only they had a girlfriend/ boyfriend/ whatever, then everything would be perfect. But it won't be. Relationships are difficult. You have to work at them, like anything else. They definitely won't solve all of your problems. They will probably create plenty of new ones. But you will have someone to help you deal with them. And that's half the battle, sometimes.

You're going to argue. Everybody argues. You're going to say the wrong thing, bring up the past, be sarcastic, act more hurt than you really are, shout, swear, cry, shake, break things - it happens. We have two doors with small holes in, because somebody punched them in a huff (they're really flimsy). For a while we only had two plates - before that, we had three, but somebody slammed one down on the table a bit too hard during an argument, and it smashed. We bought a set of plates and cups after that, because if any more had broken we'd have been eating off the same plate. We haven't broken any more since then (not yet, as of December 2004, except for one cup that heyoka dropped in the kitchen after a nodermeet, and one glass Andrew Aguecheek knocked over that same night, ha ha, I told on you). I can't remember what those arguments were about. Probably nothing, or something small or stupid, a misheard comment, a snarky response. But was everything then fine without anyone having to say sorry? No. We both said sorry, and meant it, and all was forgiven.

Sometimes it's hard to say sorry. If the other person is still angry, they might not be ready to hear it, or still feeling argumentative. You might feel embarrassed, because you've lost your temper and looked stupid shouting at and punching a door, and then need lots of fuss and a plaster for a tiny cut on your hand that isn't even bleeding, for example, just to make up an example out of nowhere. Sometimes the person is ready to hear your apology, but wants to guilt trip you a bit longer because you splashed his leg with the dinner when you broke the plate, to make up another example. It's hard, but it has to be done, and done sincerely.

Love isn't a fairy tale picture book where nobody has to say sorry. Love means saying sorry - and meaning it.

And anyway, she started it...

The famous line from Erich Segal's book Love Story considered by many to be a classic account of love, separation, death and pain. Let me say at the outset that I don't particularly like the book, it's way too sappy and says 'just the right things' that just don't work for me.

Love is never like that, you never do say the right things, you say more often that not, stuff that's horribly wrong, but then you hope that the person you are saying it to, manages to comprehend what you're saying through that all bumbling rambling rubbish, forgives you for your lack of clarity and appreciates the sentiment behind what you were trying to say. So I completely and entirely disagree with the notion that love means never having to say you are sorry.

First, let's take the first form of love we learn to recognize. That of our parents. In many Asian societies we never ever tell our parents we love them. One of the things that struck me most about Western TV serials and soap operas when they first appeared on Indian television was that of characters hugging their parents and saying: I love you Mummy/Daddy. I don't think I've ever told my parents that, and I can safely say that most Indian kids never do. Doesn't mean we don't love our parents, it's something we just never ever do. But it doesn't mean we don't say sorry. Just as we learn to recognize parental love, it brings with it the implicit understanding that your parents will love you no matter what, as long as you own up to what you've done. And that means having to say your sorry.

I don't have any biological siblings and I find it hard to write about relations between siblings. But I think the above formula would equally apply. Whether you say sorry through a word, a gesture, or even something like eye contact, you need to apologise. If you don't say sorry, there will be no healing.

And so when it comes to man-woman love and for that matter man-man or woman-woman love, I don't see why the formula is going to be all that different. If you don't say your sorry or hear any sorries being said in your relationship, then:
1. There's a serious chance that the other person will think you're an arrogant twat, and there goes your relationship.
2. That you have a problem with owning up to something that you did, i.e. you think you think you're always right...and we can return to 1.
3. You guys have never ever hurt each others' feelings or done something that would merit a sorry. Whoa...are you even having a relationship then?
4. You're afraid that your sorry will be taken as a sign of weakness. Either you are in a relationship where your partner dominates you and you don't want him to get the upper hand all over again, or you dominate and 1 and 2 apply, and you don't ever want to back done. Either way it's unhealthy.
5. There is probably plenty wrong with your relationship but that you guys are afraid that sorries and a 'let's talk it over' session will completely degenerate and that will be that. There is so much that one has to say sorry for her that you don't even know where to begin.

These are really just off the top of my head. I'm sure that there are plenty of other things that would indicate unhealthiness in a relationship if there isn't a 'sorry' floating around now and then. However, how you say sorry isn't the point, saying it is. You could just hug the other person, give them a gift, do something nice for them like cooking a meal, do something that they hate doing like a household chore, an unexpected phone call, or just muster up your courage and utter that five letter word. It won't cost you all that much.

Except if you're in an abusive relationship where you're the one always saying sorry and you get no apologies for what the other person is doing to you. Stop saying sorry and get the hell out of there.

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