You’ve probably seen it circulating online. The love letter Brad Pitt supposedly wrote his wife, Angelina Jolie when they were on the brink of divorce. Scores of people (mostly women) have shared it on Facebook and Twitter, often with the comment, “This is so sweet!” Here’s a snippet of the letter, which can be found in its entirety here.
You won’t believe it, but she blossomed. She became even better than before. She gained weight, was no longer nervous and she 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.
Okay, first of all, it’s a total load of crap because it’s fake. (Read the Snopes piece here.) Brad Pitt never wrote this. I thought this was pretty obvious when I read Angelina was so distraught she was “poking her head.” What does that even mean? Also, when he said he “incorporated all themes in her direction.” Huh?
Secondly, it’s a total load of crap because it tricks women, and men, into believing they can simply “love” someone out of extreme mental illness. Because that’s what was being described. She wasn’t sleeping. Wasn’t eating. Wasn’t working. I’m no psychologist, but that sounds like someone in the throes of a deep, deep depression. Have you ever tried to “love” someone out of depression? I have. And I’ve failed. Many times. It’s an exercise in frustration, and helps nobody.
Don’t get me wrong, you can certainly help your partner or loved one by being as supportive as possible (without risking your own health). And yes, you can make things much worse by showing the opposite of love. By avoiding them. By demanding them to just “buck up” and get over it. By constantly criticizing the ripple effects of mental illness (disorganization, lack of drive, excessive sleep, etc.).
But you can’t just shower someone with flowers, kisses, compliments and other Valentine’s Day-like affections and expect that they’ll “blossom.” Unless their only underlying emotional issue was your complete lack of attention. Even then, this just doesn’t seem healthy.
I hear too many women sing the praises of female independence out one side of their mouth, and with the other, cut down their partner for not “doing enough” for her. As if somehow, he’s supposed to both treat her as a perfectly capable human being while simultaneously coming to her rescue like the main man in a Nicholas Sparks novel. It’s a frustrating expectation for men, and one that we, as women, need to seriously reconsider.
I’m guilty of it myself. I take too little responsibility for my own happiness, and instead, focus on pleasing others until the point that my own health suffers. And then, I go through a period of over-dependence on others, because I can do little for myself. It’s a tough cycle to stop. As wives and mothers we wear the martyr’s cape so well, but we need to focus on saving ourselves sometimes.
I’m not letting men off the hook here. Yes, love your partners the best way you know how, and think of her needs before your own. But if she slips into a deep state of depression, don’t automatically assume it’s because you’re no Brad Pitt. Help her seek the medical intervention she needs. Listen to her. Hold her if that’s what she wants. If flowers are her thing, buy her some. If long naps are her thing, take the kids out to the park so she can rest. Let her know you’ll love her. Remind her of the “in sickness and health” line from your marriage vows. And, this is important, take care of yourself. It’s not easy loving someone who’s a prisoner in their own mind. Eat well, drink lots of water, exercise, all of the things your spouse needs to be doing anyway. Go grab a beer with a friend. Keep as much stability in your home as possible for your children. But don’t feel like you’re in this alone. Seek your own counseling. Ask family for help.
Our partners are worth fighting for, whether they’re “the idol of more than half of men and women on earth” or not. But we must also learn to fight for ourselves, in order to be better partners for the one we love. Women, we don’t need a prince to rescue us. Men, you don’t have to sweep us off our feet while riding a white horse. Yes, we need to carry each other from time to time, but we must learn to walk hand in hand as equals if we want to have a shot at making this marriage thing work.