How Is That Love

“Love is when the other person’s happiness is more important than your own.” – H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

This is a guest post by Dawn Novonty from The Faces We

Recently, my husband and I were talking about aspects of love.

What does it actually mean when we say we love someone? Or more precisely, what does the word not mean.

I used the brief marriage of Joe DiMaggio, the great American baseball hero and Marilyn Monroe.

I use them as an example of what love is not.

Why them, you may ask?

And how do I know this?

Because in my soon to be published memoir Ragdoll Redeemed: Growing up in the shadow of Marilyn Monroe I talk about my teenage marriage to Marilyn Monroe’s step-son, Joe DiMaggio Jr.

I speak from conversations Joe Jr. shared with me and from what have been widely reported over the years about their infamous relationship.

Numerous authors have written books about Joltin Joe’s undying love for Marilyn.

It has been said−she was his greatest love.

I am positive that would be true for Joe if he were able to tell us. But I would argue that while he may have had many feelings for her, love of her was not one of them.

There was little about how he treated her during their brief marriage that indicated love.

Possession, yes! Control, Yes! Rage, Yes? Threats and ultimatums, Yes!

Appropriation absolutely! Appropriate as in the verb, “to lay claim to for oneself or one’s right”. Aaaaah, Appropriation!

What did Joe D get out of the deal? Sexy, beautiful, and in demand, Marilyn was the fastest rising star of her time. Men practically fell at her feet with lust and intrigue.

According to the author of Joe DiMaggio: The Hero’s Life: “Joe and Marilyn had one thing big in common.

In fact, they may have been the only two people in the country, at that moment, who could understand each other.

Because both were living inside the vast personages that the hero machine had created for them.

And inside those personages ─ those enormous idols for the nation ─ these two, Marilyn and Joe, were only small and struggling, fearful to be seen.

And alone ─ always. They were like kids left in a giant house, and they must not be discovered. Or it would all come crashing down.

In their loneliness they might have been brother and sister.

“Joe’s insistence made them husband and wife.” Richard Ben Cramer

There was nothing in it for her except the illusion of safety and the hope of being truly loved (her part of the symbiotic relationship).

The illusion of safety implied in his strong, quite, shy, 6’2″ character. The all American hero persona loved and respected by the public.

Public knowledge states that Joe wanted her to give up making movies, the entire Marilyn Monroe public image which included her walk, whispery voice, glamour and all things “Marilyn” that elicited excitement from men.

Joe DiMaggio, Marilyn Monroe and Tstsuzo Inumaru

Give up everything, she ever wanted, which was to be a STAR. Her one and only dream!

Her Dream. Choose!

Your deepest desire to be a star or become Mrs. Joe DiMaggio, you can’t have both. How is that love?

Often times the only way one can feel comfortable in the relationship is when their partner’s position, opinions, and behaviors are in perfect compliance with their own. (Dr. David Celani).

There is little tolerance for partners to form independent ideas, feelings and choices that are dissimilar. This is what therapist refers to as a symbiotic relationship.

Absent is the differentiation (tolerance) for one’s partner to have different ideas, beliefs and feelings. How is this love? It is not.

When partners manipulate the relationship, just to feel more comfortable with differences and the other partner complies, this becomes a symbiotic relationship of control that only serves the partner with the most dominance in the relationship at the moment.

The connection is doomed to fail once one person grows emotionally or flees the relationship, whichever comes first.

There can be no genuine relationship without differentiation (the ability to tolerate differences).

Years ago I was determined to become a certified scuba diver. This scared the heck out of my husband primarily because I couldn’t swim.

Oh, I could float pretty well but I couldn’t do that ─ turn your head, catch a breath and blow it out under water ─ thing.

Rather than putting his fears on me, my husband decided to become certified with me even though he hates water, his way of trying to protect me.

The point is, he did not try and impose his fears and opinions about the insanity of my choice.

In turn, many years later, he decided to get a pilot’s license which scared the bejeebers out of me.

With great effort I remained quiet because this was his choice, his desire, him fulfilling his life, becoming his best self, not accommodating my fears.

I believe genuine love is about assisting your partner in their endeavors to reach their dreams, to become all that they can be in every aspect of their lives without imposing a thousand forms of control in order to arrest our own fears.

Do we need to take into consideration finances, stages of life in terms of raising children, etc.─ absolutely we must consider these things.

But in Joe’s and Marilyn’s situation none of these factors were an issue. It appeared to be solely about control and self-interest of the, “if you loved me you would…” variety.

How do you see love verses control?

David P. Celani. The Illusion of Love

About the author:Dawn DeLisa Novotny MSW, LCSW, MTS, CDP, CP, Is a clinician, teacher, author, spiritual director and national workshop leader. Be sure to visit Dawn’s blog at

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