Sacrifice in the name of Love

A tiny snippet of a little film called “Paper Heart,” got me thinking, over many months, about the sacrifices we make for love. First of all, Netflix directed me to this movie after it noticed everything starring Michael Cera in my queue. The movie is about Charlyne Yi, a young comedian, who sets out to make a documentary about love. And just to clarify, it’s not really a documentary, but a movie about making a documentary, so the actors are actors and not “real people” (ha! that made no sense, but maybe you get the gist). Anyway, in one particular scene, Charlyne interviews a romance novelist who suggests that any real love story must have the element of sacrifice, that the lead character must sacrifice something huge as a way to demonstrate his or her love.

So I thought about all my favorite love stories: Dirty Dancing (rich girl sacrifices social status), Gone with the Wind (boy sacrifices awesome bachelor lifestyle and pride), Romeo and Juliet (girl sacrifices her life, then so does boy), The Wedding Singer (girl sacrifices prior marriage proposal), Serendipity (both boy and girl sacrifice existing relationships), and this is not even close to an exhaustive list. Turns out sacrifice is a very common thread in many, many love stories throughout pop and not-so-pop culture.

In my own relationships I seemed to have unwittingly chosen this guideline to establish if the love is “real” or not. So does that mean then, that in order for it to be real, true love one person must make a sacrifice? And what if the opportunity to make a sacrifice for your one true love never comes along? Maybe that’s why we get married, to show your partner you are willing to sacrifice the rest of your life to them to prove your love. Ha.

But let’s turn this around a bit. The point is not to define love based on sacrifice, but whether or not we expect sacrifice from someone we love, or closer yet, we require sacrifice to be a component of love. So again, and less sarcastically this time, what of the drama-free relationship in which the closest thing to sacrifice is giving up on your hopes for Chinese take-out for dinner? Does that mean, because there is no heart-wrenching sacrifice, the love is somehow less valid? My head says of course not, but my life reads just like a romance novel.

It’s difficult to think you may have been influenced so strongly by movies, books, and urban legends and I know my marriage has much more to do with love than sacrifice, but let me tell you, this idea of sacrifice being a love requirement has made me think twice when advising friends on the eternal question, “does he love me?”

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