My song today is “I Can’t Make You Love Me”. This song was written by Mike Reis and Allen Shamblin. It was recorded by American singer Bonnie Raitt in 1991. It became one of Raitt's most successful singles, reaching the top-20 on the ‘Billboard Hot 100’ chart and the top-10 on the ‘Adult Contemporary Chart’.
In August 2000, Mojo magazine voted "I Can't Make You Love Me" the eighth-best track on its ‘The 100 Greatest Songs of All Time’ list. The song is ranked at Number 339 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of ‘The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time’. On 27 November 2016, the song was inducted into the ‘Grammy Hall of Fame’. The song was also recorded by George Michael and Adele among other notable artists.
I cannot make you love me, want me, or understand me. All that I can do is to hope that someday you will. The previous sentence is a self-evident fact but nevertheless, one would be surprised to learn just how often humans genuinely believe that they can force another to love them.
During my lifetime, I have come across the strangest of situations where an attempt to force ‘love’ upon another or efforts to force them to love you in return have been made by misguided, disillusioned, and occasionally dangerous people.
I recall when I was a Probation Officer in Huddersfield during the years 1970-90 coming across a woman in Holmfirth whose neighbours had called the police out several times and reported her partner for physically manhandling her. Because she was a woman of previous good character and her partner had served time in Borstal as a young man for physical assault, the police always took her side, even though her partner indicated she had started the physical altercation and not him. The bottom line was that his woman was constantly fearful that he would leave her, so she would resort to being physically abusive to keep him with her.
I also knew another man who physically abused his wife with such frequency that he managed to convince her that his ‘hitting her’ was a sign of him ‘loving her’. I have known women believe that their partner’s jealous behaviour of the most aggressive kind merely demonstrated how much they were loved by him.
I remember another man in Huddersfield who sexually assaulted three of his daughters in succession when they were between the ages of nine and twelve years of age. Then, as soon as the oldest daughter reached her thirteenth year of life, he had full sex with her on a regular basis, convincing her that such incestuous behaviour between a father and ‘his special daughter’ was an act of love. While engaging in full sex with his oldest daughter, realising that ‘his special relationship with her would not last forever, he began grooming the next daughter to move up ‘his special daughter’ chain of incest. Even after the father was subsequently reported to the police by the oldest daughter five years after she had left home and married, and the father was arrested and subsequently imprisoned; even then, the middle daughter he had progressed to having a full sexual relationship with refused to incriminate her father, and the youngest daughter had been groomed to believe that all sexual acts engaged in with her or perpetrated against her were ‘loving acts’.
For many years when I lived in Mirfield, I lived across from a young nurse who was stalked for at least four years (prior to stalking being made a criminal offence) by a man she had once agreed to have a cup of coffee with at Dewsbury Hospital. Following that innocent cup of coffee, the man in question convinced himself that he loved the nurse in question and that she loved him ‘only did not yet know it’. Convinced that she would eventually come to realise she loved him and convinced that they would one day marry, he would bombard her with flowers sent to her home and place of work, he would wait for her outside her work and travel back on the same bus, sitting a few seats behind her. When she got off the bus to go home, he would wave to her and smile. Then, there were the inevitable letters he sent to her, professing his undying love, and saying he could not wait until the day they were married. Because there was no threatening behaviour and no offence of ‘stalking’ then on the statute books, the police could take no substantive action. Eventually, the only way she could get away from her unwanted suitor’s ‘loving attention’ was to move accommodation and work to another part of the country.
The most effective way I have witnessed one person attempting to persuade another ‘not to stop loving them’ and to ‘stay with them’ is to threaten to commit suicide. Too often this ploy has proved the consequence of a good person being so worried about the suicide risk of another that they have allowed their action to be influenced or controlled for far too long while they looked around for any safe means of ending their association with the other person. Only once have I personally found myself in a similar position, but once was quite enough, thank you. I would like to say with authority, that such a threat is invariably an action that is never carried out by the type of person who makes it, but experience over more recent years in my life would lead me to substitute the word ‘never’ with ‘rarely’.
When I was a romantic young man, I was always ‘falling in love’ but because I had no intention of getting married until was thirty, I did not want the responsibility of ‘being in love.’ What I always accepted about ‘falling in love’ was that it is an event that happens outside one’s control. One does not plan to ‘fall in love’, neither can one deign to bring it about! ‘Being in love’ on the other hand is a much more culpable act and involves a large element of choice. While it may be a moot point how much volition a person exercises to ‘be in love’, it seems to me that whether they ‘stay in love’ or ‘move out of love’ is one of total choice. As the song says, “I can’t make you love me if you won’t”.
Love and peace