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Love IS Having to Say You're Sorry

by Dr. Charles D. Schmitz and Dr. Elizabeth A. Schmitz

The most famous line from the wildly popular 1970 book (and subsequent movie), Love Story, by Erich Segal is, “Love means never having to say you are sorry.” As a New York Times number one bestseller, the book became the top selling work of fiction for all of 1970 in the United States, and was translated into more than 20 languages worldwide according to Wikipedia. The motion picture by the same name was the number one box office attraction of 1971.”

The opening narrative of the book by the main character, Oliver, says, “What can you say about a twenty-five-year-old girl who died? That she was beautiful and brilliant? That she loved Mozart and Bach, the Beatles, and me?” The rest of the book is just as riveting, trust us on that.

Love Story is a wonderful story. If you have any heart at all, you will cry your eyes out after reading the book or watching the movie. In the end, Jenny dies and we are all heart-broken. Lessons abound.

Segal’s work is a true romantic story about love, life, and death. It touched the hearts of everyone who read the book or saw the movie. The problem is, the basic premise of the most famous line of the book is wrong. Love IS having to say you are sorry!

Love Story is a book about one of the great love stories of the 20th Century. There are many lessons about love and life. But the most famous lesson of the book is a lesson you should not learn, and we wonder from time to time if many of the failed marriages over these past 37 years in the United States and around the world might in some way be related to the notion that being in love does not require you to apologize when you do or say something wrong.

What is so confusing about the message of the book and the movie is this – because we are in love with someone, does that make us immune from apologizing for our bad behavior? Just because we are married or engaged to someone, are we exempt from saying I’m sorry when we hurt our lover’s feelings or disappoint them with our words and actions.

From time to time in any loving relationship, things can go awry. People who love each other get angry. They yell at each other and say hurtful things. We all make mistakes in judgment. Sometimes we show our dark side to the people we love. And frankly, there are times when we make fools out of ourselves around the ones we love.

When two people love each other, they feel more comfortable discussing perplexing or challenging problems. They are willing to address the tough issues head on. Why, because they trust each other more than they trust any other human being. They feel comfortable with the one they love. And because their comfort level is so high they often say and do things to each other that are hurtful. But because they love each other and trust each other, does it give them carte-blanche license to say and do whatever they want, even if it is damaging or hurtful? Of course not! But the reality is that it happens and the wounds can be deep. Feelings can be hurt. Relationships strained.

Which leads us to the most important point of this article – love IS having to say you are sorry. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. When you engage in behavior, actions, or words that are hurtful and damaging in your relationship with the one you love you not only should apologize, you MUST do so! In our humble opinion, no two people who profess to love each other can ever take the position that they don’t have to apologize to each other for saying and doing hurtful things. And, never take the position that “Oh, they know I love them. I don’t have to say I’m sorry.” The latter is one of the most egregious of all sins you can commit in your relationship with the one you love—taking them for granted.

In the end, there is only one correct action to take when you hurt the one you love. You must say you are sorry. Contrary to what Jenny said to Oliver in Love Story, LOVE IS HAVING TO SAY YOU ARE SORRY. This simple notion may very well be one of the great truths about loving, successful, and long-lasting relationships – one of the great truths about marriages and relationships that celebrate their golden anniversaries.

Love Well!

Additional Resources:

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