The Complexity of Love

Smiling, happy family including Millennial Mom, husband, and four children
Loving Can Hurt, 2017, oil on canvas, 61 x 121.9 cm, 24 x 48 in

If you’ve seen my work, you know my paintings aren’t pretty pictures. My art explores illusions, suffering, relationships, love, courage, trying to make sense of it all. Loving Can Hurt is about deep, long-lasting, Real Love. Here I attempt to lift the veil for a moment, and explore the idea that the true experience of family life is not the one we portray in our family portraits of harmony and connection. Those moments occur, sure. But many of us have seen another reality go down behind the scene captured by the camera, one which we often do not share in our curated social lives, thus perpetuating the myth of the perfect family life.


I believed my family would be different. My family was going to talk to each other, be close. We would support each other. Get each other, as no one else did. Build each other up. Be a source of strength, a safe haven from the challenges of the outside world, an island of calm in this demanding modern world. We would each be stronger in pursuing our individual purpose with the strength of our unit behind us.


Okay, perhaps with the right perspective it could be true. But this story didn’t serve me, nor my family well. In my fairytale illusion that I could create this ideal family, I naively didn’t consider a family is made of individuals, each of us human, each one of us extraordinarily and wondrously imperfect, just trying to do the best we can.


Love is perfect, pure, beautiful, easy. But loving? Loving is holding on when things go sideways. It’s standing by loved ones while they inhabit their worst selves, waiting with them, bearing their pain, until they come back to themselves. It’s enduring the ego’s playground of abandonment, betrayal, withdrawal, manipulation, deceit, jealousy, criticism, hostility, fury. It’s forgiving. It’s asking for forgiveness.


Often I’ve wondered how the human race has survived, people can be so cruel, so small.

After 20 years of marriage and parenthood, I think the answer may lie in the family, that classroom where we practice loving.  As family relationships deepen, they challenge us, thus teaching us how to really love. For Real Love is not conditional, reserved for those who behave according to expectations. Real Love is having the courage to tell the truth about ourselves, and the courage to see and accept the truth about others. It’s about attending to each other’s suffering, acknowledging our missteps, and forgiving each other. Our imperfections become the tools for change, thus bringing transformation.

Do I have Real Love mastered? No, but I keep trying. And I paint Millennial Mom (MM) as my guiding light, to remind me of the evolved self I want to become.

As Loving Can Hurt is about a wiser way of being, it belongs in the LIGHT chapter of MM’s story. Grounded in reality, free of illusions, we know loving can hurt, and that’s okay, all part of the ride. We don’t have to be perfect to love or be loved. Because in working through the hurt we learn new ways of being, and evolve into better people, better communities, and a better world.


Have you witnessed our culture’s myth of the perfect family? Did you chase perfection in your expectations of family life?  Did you struggle with accepting family life is not what you thought it should be? Has your suffering brought transformation to your life? Did you find a deeper understanding of love through acceptance? I’d love to hear your story in the comments.

Loving can hurt, loving can hurt sometimes,

But it’s the only thing that I know.

When it gets hard, you know it can get hard sometimes,

It is the only thing that makes us feel alive.

– Photograph, Ed Sheeran



  1. Mary kaufield

    Wow, this is a very poignant and beautiful article, Darlene. It seems to me you are too young to know all this ‘stuff’! But you are not, and you articulate so well. I have felt and experienced all of this and will never stop processing and learning along these lines!
    Keep up the great work…
    Nothing beats new awakenings of awareness in love and relationships.
    ‘Communication is a wonderful thing’

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mary, what a beautiful comment! Thank you! I’m so glad to find a kindred spirit. And yes, awareness and communication are awesome. 🙂


  2. Carol Pippy

    Love the painting and the thoughts you expressed concerning it!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Donna Pippy

    WOW…..Love your art work and You are truly Amazing….<3


    1. Thank you! So glad you enjoy it!


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