A celebrity gives us marital counsel here:
“My wife got sick. She was constantly nervous because of problems at work, personal life, her failures and children. She lost 30 pounds and weighted about 90 pounds. She got very skinny and was constantly crying. She was not a happy woman. She had suffered from continuing headaches, heart pain and jammed nerves in her back and ribs. She did not sleep well, falling asleep only in the mornings and got tired very quickly during the day. Our relationship was on the verge of a break up. Her beauty was leaving her somewhere, she had bags under her eyes, she was poking her head, and stopped taking care of herself. She refused to shoot the films and rejected any role. I lost hope and thought that we’ll get divorced soon… But then I decided to act. After all I’ve got the most beautiful woman on earth. She is the idol of more than half of men and women on earth, and I was the one allowed to fall asleep next to her and to hug her. I began to shower her with flowers, kisses and compliments. I surprised and pleased her every minute. I gave her a lot of gifts and lived just for her. I spoke in public only about her. I incorporated all themes in her direction. I praised her in front of her own and our mutual friends. You won’t believe it, but she blossomed. She became better. She gained weight, was no longer nervous and loved me even more than ever. I had no clue that she CAN love that much.
And then I realized one thing: the woman is the reflection of her man.
If you love her to the point of madness, she will become it.”
To be unloved is holistically damaging – one’s heart, spirit, and body all suffer from lack of love. From infants in orphanages who are receiving optimal nutrition but still fail to thrive, to teens struggling with gender definitions, from those in loveless marriages to seniors who have lost a dear spouse, across the spectrum of humanity this can be observed. Nerves become strung taut, weight is gained or lost, unhealthy patterns of behaviour are developed, and a constant loneliness seems like your own personal rain cloud following you about. The heavens are brass and God seems unapproachable.
Mr. Pitt is to be commended for his perceptive observation of his wife’s symptoms, and for his decision to make love a choice rather than an emotion. He could have said, as so many Hollywood couples in the heat of the spotlight do, ‘We just don’t have feelings for each other any more…we’ve drifted apart…we’re not compatible’ – or he could have stopped short with his observations and used them as excuses: ‘she’s no longer attractive….she’s not fun to be around….’ But he chose to act; to pour attention and affection into her, to love what seemed unlovely. And he saw her response and the resulting healing.
Now, while I affirm Mr. Pitt’s loving actions, I do disagree with his rather narcissistic and limited conclusion. Genuine, unconditional love deeply changes both the lover and the one who is loved; it doesn’t change the beloved into the lover, or into a mere reflection of the lover.
Ms. Jolie, I would argue, in receiving this affection and attention, grew more deeply into herself. Her wilted spirit was able to revive with the metaphorical sun and rain her husband poured over her, and she bloomed – not into ‘Brangelina Pitt’, if you will, but into a more fully flowering Angelina, a more beautiful self.
One last thought. We were created with an imperative to love (agape, eros, phileos, and more) so strong that when we suppress it, our souls are damaged. Pouring out an unconditional love will change you, even if that love is unreturned, unknown, or outright rejected. I remind myself daily that one of my lifetime tasks is to love in this way. And I have felt that powerful change in my spirit as I pour out that energy. Where can you give love, even if you feel unloved yourself?