I can’t make you love me

My current all-time favourite song is ‘I can’t make you love me’ written by Michael Reid and Allen Shamblin and covered by many singers, including George Michael, Adele, and Bonnie Riatt. I had heard it before, but recently it was sung by Jamie Johnson in the semi finals of The Voice UK, albeit in a shortened form, and it once more moved me to tears. Why? It is because the words and the emotions they conjure up make a connection somewhere deep inside me, reminding me of a love I thought I once had, but a love that was not reciprocated.

The words of the song are as follows:

Turn down the lights
Turn down the bed
Turn down these voices inside my head
Lay down with me, and tell me no lies
Just hold me closely, don’t patronize
Don’t patronize me.
Cause I can’t make you love me if you don’t
You can’t make your heart feel something that it won’t
And here in the dark, and in these final hours
I will lay down my heart and I will feel the power
But you won’t, no you won’t
Cause I can’t make you love me when you don’t
When you don’t
I’ll close my eyes, ’cause then I won’t see
The love you don’t feel when you’re holdin’ me
Mornin’ will come and I’ll do what’s right
Just give me till then to give up this fight
And I will give up this fight.
Cause I can’t make you love me if you don’t
You can’t make your heart feel something that it won’t
And here in the dark, and in these final hours
I will lay down my heart and I will feel the power
But you won’t, no you won’t
Cause I can’t make you love me when you don’t
When you don’t

When someone cuts us out of their lives, for whatever reason, once they have decided on this course they’re usually committed to it, and nothing the other person does or says will change his or her mind. Even when the relationship proceeds from that point to end slowly, in a series of recurrent reconciliations and break-ups, eventually the relationship does end for good, leaving the person who was left devastated. So how do we recover when we lose a great love? As with any loss, we must look upon it as a challenge and an opportunity. I say this without in any way attempting to downplay the intense suffering the loss of love brings. No matter what stage of a relationship or stage of life in which we find ourselves, dealing with the end of love is often overwhelming. But whether we’re sixteen and feel as if life is about to end or sixty-nine and know it actually soon will, within that ordeal resides the opportunity not just to survive but to thrive—to alter the very way love functions in our lives by becoming stronger for having lost it.

Whenever I hear this song and others like it, evoking grief and thoughts of what might have been, the tears still flow. I know that I will always carry within me the feeling of isolation and aloneness that I felt then and have felt on other occasions when I recall my shattered dreams, my secret hopes and secret shames. Yet, in every springtime, I am born again, my heart skips along with ‘young lovers’ and I know something of the exhilaration that is in them. Thank God I have largely avoided the self-circling fantasies of what might have been, but I do like to hear a sad song every now and then, and wallow a little.

● Adam McIntosh

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