November 17, 2016

The Lesson on Love from Frida Kahlo & Diego Rivera that Stopped me in my Tracks.


Frida and Diego’s love story has always been my favorite.

People are surprised to hear this—especially those who are familiar with the couple’s painful relationship. Our human tendency is generally to admire love stories that are less complicated and more joyful.

I think it’s the complication itself that interests me. Frida and Diego had so many problems and so much suffering, yet there was so much love in their coupling, even in light of the challenges they faced.

I lived through a similar experience in the past, therefore I understood what Frida had to put up with. I could relate wholeheartedly to how she felt, and why she stayed with Diego.

Diego was known for his infidelity—he wasn’t capable of being loyal to one woman. Throughout his marriage to Frida, his unfaithfulness complicated the relationship and brought about vicious suffering to Frida’s life. In return it ultimately, turned her unfaithful, too.

In one of the letters exchanged between Frida and Dr. Eloesser (a friend of hers), the doctor wrote:

“Diego loves you very much, and you love him. It is also the case, and you know it better than I, that besides you, he has two great loves: one, painting, and two, women in general. He has never been, nor ever will be, monogamous.”

When Diego had an affair with Cristina, Frida’s sister, the marriage was damaged beyond repair—it actually drove them to a four-year divorce.

What I’ve read recently read from both perspectives on this incident stopped me dead in my tracks. And by all means, it helped me gain a better understanding of love.

Frida wrote to Dr. Eloesser at the time:

“The situation with Diego is getting worse every day. I know I’m to blame for much that has happened because at the outset I didn’t understand what he really wanted and because I fought against something that can no longer be made up for. Now, after so many months of terrible distress, I’ve forgiven my sister and I had thought everything would get better now but just the opposite has happened. Of course, the situation may be more tolerable for Diego now but it has remained horrible for me. I’m so down and discouraged now, so unhappy that I don’t know how I’m to go on. I realize that Diego is now more interested in her than me and I keep saying to myself that I have to be ready to accept compromises if I want him to be happy. But it’s costing me so much to put up with all this and you can’t image how I’m suffering.”

Diego wrote in his autobiography:

“I have never been a faithful husband, not even to Frida. Just as I did with Angelina and Lupe, I succumbed to temptation when it came my way and had quite a few adventures. When I saw Frida in such a bad state of health, I, of course wondered whether I was really the right partner in marriage for her: I knew there wasn’t much in my favor and at the same time it was clear that I would not be able to change much. I loved her far too much to want to keep on inflicting more suffering on her. That is why I decided to divorce her. She answered that she would rather endure anything at all than lose me entirely. We had been married for thirteen years and we still loved each other.”

Frida and Diego’s words floored me. Although they were separately written, they incorporate the same emotions—they both wanted the best for each other:

“I realize that Diego is now more interested in her than me and I keep saying to myself that I have to be ready to accept compromises if I want him to be happy.”

“I loved her far too much to want to keep on inflicting more suffering on her. That is why I decided to divorce her.”

Frida loved Diego so much that she compromised her own peace of mind and accepted his infidelity for years. Diego’s happiness came first, although it came at a price. What Diego said shows what Frida sacrificed for the sake of love: she would rather endure anything than to lose him entirely.

Diego loved Frida in the same way. Despite his strong attachment to her presence in his life, he separated from her since he believed it would be better for her longterm happiness. Even though living far from her was unbearable, he wanted her to be happy.

Frida and Diego had their own impressions on how to make the other happy. For Frida, it meant staying with him and accepting who he really was. For Diego, it meant staying away from her because he discerned the agony he inflicted on her.

Diego and Frida have taught me that true love is wanting the other half to be happy.

Some of us have drifted away from the true meaning of love. Most of the time, we unconsciously opt to put ourselves first and forget about the other person’s happiness.

I’ve spent years trying to investigate the truthfulness of love, and I found it in the most complicated relationship I’ve ever been in. Frida and Diego have taught me that true love means compromise even if it brings us disappointment. By all means, I’m not saying that we should stay with a cheating or abusive partner just because they’re happy. However, we can reflect this notion on the small things that make our partner happy even if we don’t approve of it. A happy coupling means compromise.

And last but not least, this love story taught me that the most authentic love stories are the ones that never die—like Frida and Diego’s.


Source: Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, by Isabel Alcántara and Sandra Egnolff


Author: Elyane Youssef

Image: libby rosof/Flickr

Editor: Caitlin Oriel

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