I just found this song yesterday in a video I was watching on Youtube, and I was perplexed by it, even though I immediately loved it. The music is gorgeous, and I already appreciated the The Civil Wars' epic harmonies from when they were featured in Taylor Swift's song, Safe and Sound. The verses are really beautiful. What confused me was the refrain: Oh I don't love you but I always will.
Trying to find some answers as to what The Civil Wars meant by this line, I Googled it, and found a really interesting article interviewing the two members of the band, John Paul White and Joy Williams:
When you performed in NYC last summer you were promoting the Poison and Wine EP, which came out in late 2009. The title track is so powerful and speaks of relationships in such an honest way. You are both married to other people, yet you write with so much chemistry. Do you find writing with someone who isn’t your significant other to be somewhat therapeutic?
John Paul: When we come into a writing session it’s a bit like therapy. We can talk about things, and because we are married to other people we have a lot of the same things going on in our lives with relationships- the good, bad and ugly. If we were in a relationship there would be certain things that would be forbidden for us to write and talk about. There are things that we can say [to each other] that sometimes you may reserve because you don’t know how it will be taken and you don’t want to let the cat out of the bag about how you really feel. We can say to each other, “Alright what would you scream into someone’s face if you knew they would never hear it?”
Joy: That’s Poison and Wine.
John Paul: It’s all those little things you would love to say but you really don’t want to be heard. We do that with a lot of our songs. Some are completely inspired by events in movies or art that we’ve seen, or books we’ve read, but some of it we pull from our own personal lives. We just keep to ourselves which is which. source
I thought that was some really cool insight, and helped me to understand the song a little better.
I can't say whether or not there is some hidden meaning behind this song, but at face value, I find it be very convicting. It paints a really heartfelt portrait of how as a human being, I do not treat the people who should mean the most to me as well as they deserve. I recognize that sometimes I say and do things that hurt people I love. Sometimes I choose not to love them. But I always will.