03.21.13 Love

An Intimate Conversation with Karrine Steffans about the Meaning of Unconditional Love

An Intimate Conversation with Karrine Steffans about the Meaning of Unconditional Love

BY Jessica Tholmer

I sat down with my laptop open in front of me, waiting for my phone to ring, something I can assuredly say that I have never done in my entire life. I am not a “wait by the phone” kind of girl, but when you are expecting a call from Karrine Steffans, things can change. I read over the seven very detailed questions I had hurriedly typed up in the hour before my “interview” with Steffans— the kind of stuff that anyone would expect to be asked after having written an extremely intimate portrayal of an extremely complicated relationship.

“What made you decide to be so open about your relationship right now?” “What makes this relationship ‘work’ so much more than your other relationships?” “How can you really be okay with the structure of this relationship?” “Do you feel guilty about prioritizing him over all the other men in your life?”

I am not one for interviews, though. I prefer conversations. From the minute we greeted each other, I knew the questions I had scripted would not be asked as I had written them. Conversations cannot be planned, and talking to a woman as fascinating as Steffans is like driving down a windy road. Don’t try to plan it out.

Steffans has just released her fifth book, How to Make Love to a Martian; the first under her own publishing company, Steffans Publishing. Steffans, a self-proclaimed “Hemingway,” in her writing style, considers herself more of an author than a writer. She claims she is not the celebrity type who decided to write a book, she describes herself as a crazy author, like a combination of Hemingway and Howard Hughes. Writing is her passion, first and foremost, and she truly has a way of expressing her realism through the written word.

I could not wait to get Steffans on the phone to tell her how refreshed I felt after reading Martian. I surprised myself, but I truly meant it. Steffans and I have a similar quality in our brutal honesty, and I am not the type to tell someone, or not tell someone, exactly how I feel about something. If I did not enjoy her story, I would have told her so. As a 25-year-old young woman, I related to Steffans’ story of love much more than I had anticipated. And, according to Steffans, I am not alone.

“I’ve heard that, you know, a lot, and I feel like, as an author, and as a writer, and when this is what you do… this is what you want to hear. And I’ve never heard that before. With all the books, with all the bestsellers, with all the millions of copies, I’ve never heard what I’m hearing with Martian. There’s a huge reason for that, and I know what the difference is, and I’m happy to make the decision to do it when I did it.”

So, what is the difference? Martian is Steffans’ fifth book, but clearly her most personal, for anytime one chooses to write on an extremely significant relationship, it is bound to get personal.

Lil’ Wayne, also known as Dwayne Carter, Jr., is a world famous rap star. I am sure you know his name, since most people do. Associated with some of the biggest names in music, over the past 15 years Carter has made quite a name for himself. Steffans and Carter met a little over six years ago, immediately connecting on a level that has kept them coming back to each other through all of life’s hardships.

Steffans decided to finally write her story of loving Carter partially because she was stuck in a completely hopeless place in her personal life. In discussing the months before Martian was born, Steffans describes the “dark place” she could not pull herself out of, until one day, a person she had been seeing finally pushed her, unintentionally, I am sure, into the light.

The unnamed man told Steffans that she was a loser, going on to cut her deeper than probably necessary. Steffans describes his words, “He was like, ‘You think you’re somebody special because you wrote a book? You’re nobody. You’re miserable, you hate your miserable life, and you’re nothing.’ And he said that to me during a time where I was already feeling just different. I couldn’t write, and I couldn’t perform.”

Being kicked when she was down was something that “broke” her, and thankfully it did. For ten days, Steffans couldn’t do anything. She did not open her computer, or write, or speak to anyone; she lived within her own head. She and her son suddenly moved from their apartment, breaking their lease, and checking into a hotel to escape the inner torture that consumed her. For ten and a half weeks, Steffans “Hemingway-ed” it, found her words, and a few months later, Martian was born. She knew she wanted to write; clearly her dark place was because she had not been able to do so.

Focusing on the phrase “how to make love,” while reading about Carter on the Internet in a room full of smoke, wine, and friends, the title came to her: How to Make Love to a Martian. When I asked Steffans if she had struggled with being as open as she is about her love story, she quipped back immediately, “I never struggle with the truth. I struggle with cryptic shit. Encryption is a road block when I’m writing.”

I concurred, for my writing has been criticized for being “too open” as well, though on a much lesser scale than Steffans- partially because none of my ex-boyfriends have a bunch of Grammys. Steffans went on to admit, “I can’t connect with the words, I can’t connect with myself, I’m not going to be able to write,” when she is not being fully honest.

Talking to Steffans, or reading her words, is like stepping off of an airplane and breathing in the fresh air again. Her honesty is admirable, and real. And those things are pretty rare.

So how do you make love to a martian? Steffans’ book is not about having sex. It is not a how-to; it is not an answer to all of the many complicated questions that will forever surround relationships. It is simply a story, and quite the unfinished one at that. But aren’t the best stories unfinished? How is anyone expected to tell a love story with a conclusion? There is never a conclusion to love. Steffans writes on her intense bond with Carter with such an open realism, anyone who has ever been in love will be able to relate.

The best part of a conversation is what you are still thinking about by the end of the day, hours after you have said goodbye.

When I finished Steffans’ book, the line, “We became each other,” which is written in the first chapter of Martian, was stuck in my head. When I was finished talking to Steffans, ten hours after I had hung up the phone with her, the thing that encompassed my thoughts was the concept of “unconditional love.”

Unconditional love is powerful, maybe too much to ever understand in whole. There are some who claim that unconditional love is only reserved for those who share your bloodline: your mother, your son, your brothers, your father, but perhaps those people have never connected to another human being with such force as Steffans feels when it comes to Carter. She believes in it, though.

Has Carter broken her heart? Absolutely, in fact, he still does it all the time. Does Carter see other people? Yes. Does Steffans see other people? Yes. They both have children by other people; they do not have a child together. There is no white picket fence surrounding a home they own together. The structure of their relationship is unfamiliar, something we are not conditioned to think of as functional, or “normal.” But what is normal, anyway? And why would anyone strive for normalcy, when, as Steffans reminds us, the divorce rate in this country is insanely high.

“Unconditional love is viewed as wrong,” Steffans states. She has taken plenty of flack from her friends about her choice to remain committed, in her heart, at least, to Carter. Her friends will ask her, after a fight, or a heated exchange that leaves Steffans upset, “Doesn’t this change how you feel about him?” Of course it does not change how she feels about him. Steffans relates with the example, “If your husband looked at you right now and said, ‘I don’t love you anymore,’ does that automatically mean you don’t love him?’ Then how strong was that love, and was that ever love?’ Like, ‘I’m going to love you as long as you love me.’” That is what Steffans (and I very much agree) considers “conditional” love, which anyone can have, and most people probably have settled for.

Steffans felt compelled to write this book not just to tell her story, to further illustrate the reason she feels the way she does about Carter, but ultimately, she wrote this book for Carter. “I wrote this book for him,” she says, to let him know all of the things she felt about him in their in-between times, to let him know what he has done for her, what he has supplied her with: strength and happiness.

I will admit, while reading Martian, I was initially a little disturbed. I fell victim to thinking what I am sure plenty of other people think, what is wrong with this girl? She puts up with so much from this man who seems to love her, but not know how to handle that love— what with his unusual career, his other relationships, his busy schedule, whatever it may be that gets in the way of his heart. Their relationship seemed like a double standard. Carter very publicly (like all things in his life) had relationships with multiple other women, but Steffans was not allowed to speak on other men without Carter becoming upset with her. It seemed unfair, like Steffans poured her heart and soul and put her life on hold to be with him, but Carter put half as much effort into their relationship. Everything seemed so backward.

And then I finished the book, and I could not stop thinking about how socially constructed my view on their relationship, and all relationships, is.

When Steffans talks about Carter, either to me, or in her book, (which also felt like she was talking to me), I responded strongly to her words. Her feelings for Carter had me reminiscing about the lack of normalcy in my own relationships. No one believes that a woman can be truly happy in something that is not a roses-delivered-to-your-office kind of relationship.

Because society constructs us to believe that a woman should never settle, and this kind of relationship? We are forced to believe it is settling. But listen to the woman, you guys. Listen to her, and have faith that she just may know exactly what she is talking about. She may know exactly how she feels. She may just be exactly right about her own life.

Steffans is very in tune with her feelings, and she is confident enough to state her opinion as fact. After reading her words, and listening to her describe her experiences, I believe in unconditional love much more than I thought I could. I am still young, and maybe I have had that connection with someone, and maybe I haven’t, but toward the end of the conversation, Steffans said, “When you say ‘unconditional,’ Jessica, think about all of your relationships. Every man you’ve ever loved, it has always been conditional, but there may have been that one person…”

There is that one person.

When Steffans talks about Carter, she says, straight up she will not stop loving him. She will not, she will not, she will not. And the people in her life who are uncomfortable with that will have to remain uncomfortable with it, because she will love him forever, unconditionally.

“As long as he’s there, I’m happy,” Steffans told me, as I started to tear up. Unconditional love is, “not wanting all of someone, all the time. Just knowing that they are there, and knowing that they feel what you feel when you feel it. You can fight, and argue, and fall apart, but you always come back together.”

And when she is asked, “Are you still with Wayne?” Steffans is ready.

“I am always with Wayne.”

“How to Make Love to a Martian” is available for purchase for $2.99 on Kindle, iBooks or Nook. Follow Karrine on Twitter @KarrineandCo.

Jess has been told she reminds people of Scarlett Johansson, Victoria Beckham, Carrie Bradshaw, Raven Symone, George Costanza (she's serious) and Cece from New Girl, so basically, she's every human ever. Using her multiple personalities, she proudly writes for HelloGiggles.com and breaks mugs and hearts as a manager for Starbucks in the Pacific Northwest, where coffee was like...invented. She believes in song lyrics, hair diffusers, red wine, eating food before liquor, respecting her elders, not washing her hair everyday, big brothers, little brothers, medium brothers, Beyoncé, breaking walls down, her childhood, full fringe, turning the heat on, mismatched socks, being serenaded, tweeting, shots of espresso, a thing called love, red lipstick, crying openly, Barack Obama, and even more, his wife. You can find her pretty much all over the internet, because what's real life anyway?


  • Mrz3zy

    A very well written article about a woman who has written another amazing yet personal book.

  • Court

    I am all for unconventional. In fact, I used to be one of Karrine’s biggest fans. I chose to enjoy sexual freedom for a period of time and I felt very empowered by all of her work especially since men do this all the time. So, my comment is not coming from a place of not respecting people who choose to go their own way or define life by their own terms because I too am that person.

    However, I’m growing disappointed that so many years after Confessions she is still living this way. To each his own and it’s her choice, but for a woman in her thirties it’s really ridiculous at this point that she carries on this way. Her “relationship” with Lil Wayne really does seem to be more of an obsession on her part. For instance, she tweets about him all day and has (an older) picture of them as her twitter avi as if they are in a committed relationship, yet I’ve never even heard him give her slight mention other than to say someone gives head better than her in his song “love me.” Aside from what she says when we look at the facts, she just comes off as delusional. Again, I support and stand by any woman that is bending the rules and marching to her own drum especially when it comes to the double standard that society has about women vs. men in terms of sexuality. But truthfully, it’s sad that she’s this starved for attention.

    I agree 100% with Lalala. I think at this point she is just plain setting a bad example.

  • Karrine Steffans

    It’s easy to see how one’s personal experiences, or lack thereof, shape their opinions. It is also easy to see who is learned about the realities of love, the way God intended –– selfless and unwavering, constant and without condition.

    Greek philosophy teaches there are 6 different kinds of love but, those who have been taught there is only one, have a hard time believing it can exist for everyone, everywhere, at all times. They have been taught it is difficult to obtain, keep, and endure and that it is only sealed, proven and fortified by Puritanical rule. That this “love” must show itself approved by traditional trinkets and notions –– the same trinkets and notions which have proven to fail in today’s society.

    It’s the mark of a true outsider when one believes a person with a certain public job cannot be worthy or capable of the purest love and friendship, simply because of who they are in public –– which has no bearing on who they are, privately. But, this concept is too vast for those with acute levels of comprehension and experience.

    I understand this and I feel sorry for those who are so limited in their scope.

    Nearly 7 years later, I continue to enjoy such a beautiful friendship with a man who has taught me so much, without even trying. I shall hope everyone has met or shall meet such a friend and that you, too, will love that person without condition.

    Thanks all.

    • elfie08

      Sorry I wouldn’t say anything if I didn’t think this sort of thinking influences so many other woman esp. younger women….but the only thing that’s limited is the love and respect you have for yourself.

    • Karrine Steffans

      Those who don’t know agape, make me sad. Still, I pray for them and love them, as well, with no judgment. I don’t judge people. Ever. I hope you find agape one day and are blessed enough that someone will one day love you without bounds, without rules, without condition and there will be nothing you can do to turn them against you, the way God loves you, the way your parents love you. Good luck to you. [NOTE] “Many have thought that this word represents divine, unconditional, self-sacrificing, active, volitional, and thoughtful love.”

  • elfie08

    I’m sorry I understand that life isn’t perfect and relationships exist in all forms. But I think describing this relationship as ‘Unconditional Love’ sends a terrible message to girls and women. This isn’t Unconditional Love…It’s BS. Unconditional love is when someone loves your quirks and if anything finds them amusing. It isn’t letting someone treat you poorly, disrespecting you and making you feel terrible all the time.

    • elfie08

      I mean no ill-will to you personally. I’m a big proponent for open debate and people having their own definition for love. Here’s the problem: A younger woman reads your book and validates her man sleeping with numerous other women and also with her as ‘unconditional love’. What say she is exposed to HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases – greek mythology isn’t really going to do much for her then.
      I respect your freedom to make your choices but you have to also understand the bigger implications of describing your relationship as a higher or other-worldly love. Good luck to you as well and God bless.

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