Here we’ve got perhaps one of the most-covered love songs out there. Bob Dylan knows he loves someone, but they aren’t so sure, so he’s gonna show how good at love he is. Let’s see if he succeeds, but we’re gonna listen to Adele sing it because that’s what YouTube gave me.
It’s a good thing I already like this song, ’cause sheesh have we got some sap here. I hope a real person never tries to say anything like this to me because then we will never see each other again. But in a song it’s pretty okay! Songs are for exaggerating.
The first verse is actually exactly what a nice relationship should be about. You’re having some bad times, and someone who loves you wants to give you a hug! That’s super-nice, Bob Dylan, I would like that a lot. You are even willing to hold me for a million years, which is probably longer than anyone needs a hug. But nice follow-through, I guess?
Unfortunately, from that point, our friend Bob starts getting a little over-promising and, frankly, it makes him sound a little desperate. Claiming that you’ll never do wrong by a person is a pretty common early relationship move, but I prefer honesty. People hurt each other, and what I really want to know from a partner is that they’ve got the sensitivity and skills to work on recovering from our inevitable mis-steps. Someone who thinks you can go a whole lifetime (or a million years!) without ever hurting someone close to you has very little experience with real relationships, and that’s a red flag. More importantly, holding up “never hurt each other” as a relationship standard makes it harder for people involved in real, imperfect relationships to know that there’s nothing wrong with sometimes messing up.
Then we go headfirst into more desperation, where Bob promises that he’ll go hungry and get bruised and otherwise come to harm in order to prove his love, which is just impractical, really. Self-harm doesn’t show me that you care, it just shows me that you can’t think of better ways to get my attention.
I’m not totally sure how the winds of change relate to loving someone a whole lot, other than, hey, it’s Bob Dylan. Let’s skip down to that final verse, where we have one of my biggest love song pet peeves. “I can make you happy” is not a reasonable relationship promise. No one can make anyone else happy. I can feel happy when I spend time with certain people, or when I do certain activities, but, ultimately, my mental state is up to a combination of circumstances, brain chemicals and my own choices. I don’t appreciate anyone telling me they can control my emotions, nor do I want to hear that they can “make [my] dreams come true.”
If you really want to make me feel your love, Bob, give me some space, treat me like a real human, and let me make my own damn choices. Emotional support is great, but it starts to turn to emotional manipulation by the end of the song. Give me time to make up my mind and respect my choice, rather than going to greater and greater lengths to try to make me feel a thing. If you love me, I’ll be able to tell.