The One About Saying Sorry

Last week I picked up Erich Segal’s Love Story at the university’s library and spontaneously decided to include it in my 52 in 52 Reading Challenge for 2016. Yes, you read correctly, I intend to read 52 books in 52 weeks!

The introduction, written by Segal’s daughter, as well as the Goodreads review described it as ‘one of the most adored novels of our time, this is the book that defined a generation—a story of uncompromising devotion, of life as it really is . . . and love that changes everything.’

Well… It was a nice, light, uncomplicated read. Nothing more than that.

The book tells the story of two college students, Oiver, a half macho half sensible jock from a wealthy family on his way to a Harvard degree and a career in law, and Jenny, a sharp-tongued, working-class music student. They meet, fall in love, overcome the socioeconomic differences of their upbringings (or at least try) and get married after college graduation. I’m not going to spoil the end, but it is a ‘love conquers (almost) everything’.

Instead I’m going to focus on what has become one of the most famous lines from the book. If not the most famous, since it was even featured on the cover of the edition that I read.

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‘Love means not ever having to say you’re sorry.’

The line proved memorable, and has been repeated in various contexts since. It suggests that true love is unconditional. It implies that you can accept, understand and allow the other person to make every mistake possible, to fall short on your expectations, to stumble.

Yet I couldn’t disagree more.

Saying that sorry is redundant is like implying that we’re infallible, which could not be less true.

Whatever love  means, say sorring plays a very important role in it.

Even John Lennon said. ‘Love means having to say sorry every 15 minutes.’

Blame it on my linguistic background, but I think the word sorry has a too great symbolic importance to be left out of any romantic relationship.

On the contrary, it is necessary for every healthy relationship for the one who ‘hurts’ the other to acknowledge the damage caused.

Sorry is reassuring.

To me, it is like saying thank you to my family or the closest of my close friends when they do something for me, like, for instance, simply existing. They would do this nevertheless, but I want to acknowledge it. To show gratitude. They know that I feel grateful, but I still feel compelled to prove it to them. I know that you know.

Same thing goes for I’m sorry.

There are also cases in life where the word sorry on its own does not even start to described how penitent one may feel.

Last but not least, this ideal can prove poisonous for romances, affairs and marriages. If someone says that he/she is sorry, does that mean that their relationship is not based on love? That it lacks compassion, understanding and unconditional acceptance?

Thoughtful (as always),

F.

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One Comment

  1. I agree with you disagreeing this particular interpretation of the statement. I do believe saying sorry is necessary to appreciate your friends, family and loved ones in general and maybe to acknowledge that oneself is not perfect either, that every mistake you make is in need of a sorry.
    but maybe the statement “Love means to not ever having to say you’re sorry” is meant on a quite different level. I always understood it that way that you don’t need to hide yourself anymore. You don’t have to apologize for the way you are, because there is someone accepting it all. Not that you are perfect, no, you have your faults, but that is okay. Because You both have them. Not that you make no mistakes, no it’s not about that. Everyone makes mistakes, but your partner knows you well enough to distinguish between a conflict of character (you had a bad day and you don’t want to talk about it) and when there is an actual problem (your relationship has problems, but you keep ignoring them instead of talking).
    I hope this makes sense.

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