I’m going to get a little personal here. More so than I had been before. This post is about love and what I’m looking for. This is actually a combination of two journal entries that I wanted to share. The first, Changing Similarities, I wrote today and is a musing on relationships and how I interact romantically through others. the second, Casually Serious, I actually wrote about three months ago when agonizing over the decision to continue dating my only partner at the time. I ended up deciding to part from him, and we’re both good friends still.
It’s funny how things change and stay the same. Almost three months ago I wrote what’s below (The entry *Casually Serious?*) and sent it to one of my closest friends while I was coming to a decision about my relationship with E. As most people know, the breakup was mutual. We’re still friends. I’m still going to hug him whenever I see him. While I’m clear about the problems in the relationship, I have nothing negative to say about him as a person. In the end, it was a matter of circumstance.
I still adore him. He still makes me smile when I see him (the… twice it’s happened since we broke up?). He’s still that delightfully intellectual man who retains that boyish playfulness that made me smitten with him. I still want to do wonderful things with him but don’t because we’re friends, not lovers, now.
And yet everything that I say below is still true, too.
I’ve noticed a few trends in my quarter-century when it comes to relationships. First and foremost is the ideal that “love conquers all” and that, no matter what, it is lasting and worth it and that if you love someone you should BE WITH THEM no matter what. Damn the difficulties, damn the incompatibilities, damn the universe telling you with every message it has at its disposal that love is not enough. Damn, especially, the people who think, believe, and say that love is not enough.
I’m one of the latter. Love is not enough. I think it’s funny how that’s enough to turn some people off of any message that I have about love, relationships and romance after I say it, how I suddenly become this hardened, cynical old crone who has clearly never felt the deep abiding pains and pleasure of “true love” that are so magically life changing that they MUST BE enough. I’m not, that. In my philosophy, I allow a lot for love. The world can become terribly difficult, the fight to be together and to remain in each others’ lives can be intense and difficult and beautiful and worth it all at the same time. But it is not always enough. If the fight leaves you broken and bloodied and dying on the ground, if the world leaves you suffocated and buried underneath volcanic flows that singe the binds of your very soul? Is that truly worth it? Have you really loved or have you destroyed that love instead of cherishing it? There is an elegant agony in accepting the ephemeral nature of love and that it can not, will not, last, but it is one that deepens the feeling and the respect for the changes in your life. It allows the serenity to enjoy the experience instead of jealously guarding what you have, squeezing so tight that it slips through your fingers.
I touched lightly on another trend, there, too: *true love*, as if allowing for the fact that love itself is primarily caused by chemicals in the brain and body coupled with perceived proximity and socialization somehow cheapens the fact that you are in love with someone. That the fact that love happens easier, biochemically, with physical connection somehow makes it dirtier. Less than whole. Love can be accidental, love can be intentional but most of all love is *always* a physical phenomenon. I’m not talking sex and lust and the baser instincts, but I’m talking about the basic anatomy, that part of us that keeps us running, and our basic psychology, that part that keeps us wanting to run.
This is a grudge that I hold on other levels and in other topics as well, but how on earth does knowing how the process work cheapen the process itself? I see this a lot in other avenues: men who honestly think dissecting *why* they’re into certain things makes it less fun and “ruins” the magic of it, women who think that becoming more informed on STIs and pregnancy risks will make sex less fun, people who think that the ending to story (told in film, paper, voice or acting) will ruin the ending, people who think that love must be unknowable in order to know it. This is just so foreign to me. Understanding the process makes it more magical and it even allows me to detect love (and cherish it) early on. Knowing how it works allows me to prod those parts of me and stimulate it, where I see it growing.
If you let it go and it returns it was meant to be is another trend and, really, it was meant to be is what I take issue with here. Maybe this is the fantasy, this is the magic that knowing the process of love ruins, believing that, whether we believe in fate or not, we are meant to be with someone. We are meant to not be alone. We have a purpose and a match, whether it’s someone that completes us or someone that compliments us or someone that we just really like. I’m not even going to go into how mono-centric this is, but I wanted to point that out, too.
My nihilism is going to show here; I think that assuming some sort of divine fate to love and the actual actions we take cheapens it. The world is a horrible, horrible place filled with suffering, hatred, depression and pain and when we can craft things like love, happiness, joy, pleasure, prosperity from within it these are to be cherished. Love is an intentional working against the nature not just of humanity but of life. It is the opposite of “meant to be” because by its very nature it is extraordinary and must be created not bequeathed.
I think the saying should be something like if you let it go and it returns then that’s pretty awesome because that’s honestly how I feel about the whole situation. If (for example, to illustrate my point) circumstances changed drastically with E and we both decided to start a new journey as partners that would be pretty awesome ™. It wouldn’t work right now; I wouldn’t work right now with it and distance is obviously still a major factor… but because my emotional connection and emotional memory focus not on pain or depression or anger from the relationship that’s not a door that I need to close for my sanity, which I’ve seen with others. I hope I never have a relationship that leads to the need to cut someone drastically and completely out of my life.
Which leads well to the last trend I want to talk about (though not the last trend I’ve ever noticed, certainly) *falling out of love.* This concept is so terribly foreign to me and sounds so horrific that it hurts to even think about. That’s my bias, that’s where I’m coming from when I talk about it.
Maybe it’s my introspective nature, my tendency to over-think, my refusal to leave the surface emotion as is and not dissect it? Whatever it is, when I “love” a person, this is a slow realization. A dawning. A process of finding out just how important they are to me by noticing how few areas of my consciousness they haven’t filtered into. When I love someone, that is lasting and unending. They become a major player not just in my life but in my head; when making decisions, moral choices, contemplating the future I can hear their voices and mannerisms. It is as permanent a part of me as a tattoo or a scar; and, really, aren’t tattoos and scars the same thing with different names? Fundamentally I know they’re actually not; but the fact remains that my flesh is marred and changed and one is positive, and the other is also positive, but caused by negative circumstances.
I’m lucky to have not experienced the absolute heart-wrenching pain that would accompany a partner “falling out of love” with me, or being with a partner that was so toxic that I must reject my feelings for them. Perhaps it is naivete that backs this.
But I believe, wholeheartedly, that a partner that I’m in love with would be incapable of doing anything that would destroy that love and they would also be incapable of doing too little to “feed it.” Love, once it’s achieved, is not something that fluctuates for me. Connection can (and often does) and maybe that’s what people mean by it? Clearly, my connections have been changing quite a bit recently both in my romantic and platonic lives. But those I love, I continue to love, even when the connection must be severed or distanced. I will always love E. I will always love my first boyfriend. I will always love the boy I wanted to marry and become the preacher’s wife for in high school who I never met in person (and who I eventually “left” because the religious community he wanted to preach for did not abide homosexuality and I thought that was more important for him to do than being with me). I will always love the woman who was my best friend and who is evolving and growing in so many ways, even though the ways she didn’t or hasn’t yet were hurtful. I will always love my father, even though the thought of being in his presence and recognizing his paternity makes me ill. I will always love the rapidly-growing-into-a-man boy who I love like a second younger brother, even though I had to choose to save myself from his circumstances.
And maybe that’s what people are talking about when they speak of falling “out of love” with someone. I had to walk away from my relationship with E. I would never date my first boyfriend again. I wouldn’t even deign to talk to the boy I loved in high school. I’ll probably never have anything more than a strained-but-cordial interaction with my ex best friend, and will likely never reconnect at the same level with my chosen brother. I’ve already resolved not to speak to my father unless he tries to hurt my mother again.
But this change of connection doesn’t change those feelings. I cherish what we had, and mourn it’s loss. I recognize that even if I built a new connection with them now it would be different. I recognize (in some cases) that they’ve changed and I might very well not love who they’ve become and grown into, but I also recognize the pluralism that I will still love them too. It’s taking the ability to hold multiple realities to the extreme.
It’s funny how things change and stay the same. I still want partners but I’m no longer so focused on hierarchies and boxes than I was, even three months ago. Knowing the way of it, I’ll probably swing back to finding it terribly important in the future, but right now it’s not. In my life right now, I want to experience love but most of all I want to experience feeling loved by someone else.
That’s a razor thin distinction for me, and that boundary is often invisible or fuzzy; I tend to love those who love me and that feels the same as loving them. How do I go about creating that feeling of being loved by another person?
And more importantly, why is that what I want? Does it really mesh, as a desire, with any of my goals? Is that really all there is to it?
The answer to that last one, of course, is no. It’s always no.
I don’t know if I’m wired to be a casual member in anything.
Lately I’ve been going through the different aspects of my life and trying to dissect what’s working and what’s not and how and what I can change to make the ratio of that ever more weighted to the former. Part of this has been looking at what’s different NOW compared to the past and what changed to get here and how, specifically, everything was affected.
Confused yet? Essentially I’ve been doing a ton of reflection and introspection.
My life is in a wonderful state; I’ve got a job that I think is IMPORTANT, I am working on the side on something similarly important, I’m in a master’s program that not only makes me think and grow but is giving me practical experience and skills to create a niche and product that I can sell. I’m in a relationship with someone that I love.
But part of this process isn’t just counting the blessings. It’s looking at what’s lacking.
My job doesn’t pay enough money and I’m better suited for other positions, I’m not being paid for the side project and ideally would rather spend more time on it, I’m still not sure (though I’m narrowing in on it) exactly what I’m planning on doing after school and while there’s love in my relationship I can’t discount the fact that it’s extremely hard for me, very often.
A lot of these issues will work themselves out with time. My job is temporary (I’m looking for a different one for next year and I’m keeping an ear out for anything, *anything* that will keep me out of part-time food service over the summer), the side project, or at least my involvement, will be over at the end of the semester, part of my master’s program is deciding on all of that “future” stuff.
So I dissect what’s going on in my relationship further.
A lot of my own problems stem from a few major issues.
- Distance – I do not like living so far away. I do not like seeing him so rarely. Distance makes me feel disconnected from a relationship and that makes it “easy” to lose. It doesn’t change how intense any emotions are for me, but it does change *how often* I experience them. This is a big deal!
- Communication – recent forays and researching about different communication styles, conflict management styles, types of communication and learning etc. have really driven home to me the differences in how two people interact. In my current relationship, at least, we are very different people with how we communicate, and especially with how we communicate our affections for the other. I’m a much more verbally emotional and romantic person and there are often times that I feel unloved or unwanted because a lack of that affirmation. Likewise, there are times when I feel that MY affections are unwelcome due to his responses. That’s problematic; I need to either be able to adjust to his methods of communication or accept that I will often feel unloved, unwanted and unwelcome.
- “Seriously Casual” – When I was going through some major personal issues, I took solace in the “casual” nature of our relationship. We have pretty serious emotional entanglements in what is pretty stringently a casual arrangement. I don’t know if it’s my desire for structure, the communication conflicts or the distance that makes this an issue for me now, but I find that I don’t want casual involvement with someone. I am at a point right now where I’m pretty seriously over-extended (monetarily, time-wise, emotionally, work-wise) and I really only have an interest in pursuing a serious involvement with someone. My primary interest is in partners who take active parts of my life, not just witnesses, but actors. Honestly, I have enough witnesses and bit-players (both friends and families) and what I need from relationships is to turn this paradigm around and make them “Casually Serious” with that level of involvement that still boils down to a casual relational style between us.
Relationship compatibility essentially boils down to the areas that do not work for those in the relationship. I’ve seen various numbers thrown around, but I like the suggestion that there are three primary areas of incompatibility in most relationships that are functionally impossible to change. The question of the relationship becomes whether those behaviors and incompatibilities are tolerable to both people.
In deciding whether or not something’s tolerable, I take into account a few factors:
- Distance and Frequency – How often does this behavior occur and is it a behavior that I can, essentially, isolate myself from through distance. [I now recognize the oxymoron of deciding if I could distance myself from a romantic incompatibility and the fact that one of my incompatibilities was distance]
- Comparison – Is there enough “good” to outweigh the “bad.” This is a very privileged (white privilege, specifically) construct with which to view the world and I’m trying to deconstruct it.
- Depth – How deep is the relationship, or rather, how *serious* is the relationship? I can tolerate more out-and-out incompatibility in a relationship that is essentially shallow, though usually in a *loving* relationship, there is a lot less room to wiggle. To use my earlier metaphor, if a person is a bit-player or a member of the chorus, whether or not they live an hour away doesn’t matter; their presence in my life is primarily incidental, anyway. But if a person is a primary actor, a co-star or an otherwise major supporting member of the cast? Then I need to want them there… *all* of the time and despite the incompatibilities.
- Emotional Health – Essentially I ask myself “am I in a place to deal with the emotional fallout from these behaviors, and is he willing to help facilitate the same?” This question is the primary combatant with “depth” when it comes to indecision.
I’m essentially a Relationship Anarchist; I ascribe to poly ideals and constructs because they’re convenient archetypes and an understandable, mostly-defined shorthand. Where the archetypes really fail for me is their intersection with reality. I understand the “I don’t WANT to feel like a secondary!” expression because I feel way a lot. By the same token, I like the *structure* of it, understanding that when I say “secondary” I’m referring to time and distance, not depth. [Nowadays, I prefer High-entanglement and Low-entanglement over primary and secondary]
You see, despite wanting to eschew traditional relationship paradigms, I still want them to have *structure*. I want to know where I stand; what level of involvement I have in a person’s life and what level of involvement they have in mine. I want to take each relationship I have and while recognizing that they’re all fundamentally different, *define* them, realizing that the definition can change and shift. That excites me; that’s part of what interests me about relationships in general.
But that’s work to a lot of people, and especially when they do it often.
So I do it on my own more often than not.
No matter what, I’m finding that “casual” just doesn’t do it for me; whether it’s work, a relationship, a hobby… I don’t want to be casual. I want my involvement to be not only serious, but intense, regardless of the other factors there. I really only have the resources available to me to have that intensity.
So what’s the point of all this?
I’m thinking, a lot. About my relationship, the three primary points of incompatibility that I’ve acknowledged, and weighing whether or not they’re tolerable.
It feels weird trying to be rational about a decision that is informed entirely on irrational data… but I am being rational and I am trying to make a decision. What that is? I don’t know yet. It’s becoming increasingly clear that I’m not ok with the circumstances around the relationship, despite liking where the relationship is at emotionally and adoring my partner… and I do not think this has changed much over time (for good OR bad).