On One Hand

October 26, 2006

The Irony of Love

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 6:04 am

All our lives we’re taught to suppress the tendencies of jealousy, fear, posessiveness, and competitiveness that millions of years of cutthroat evolution have woven into our psyches. When we are small confused children and our new infant sibling arrives from the hospital bundled in soft blankets, we are taught not to spite our young sibling as we watch our mother, who we love, nurse the infant, though sharps pangs of jealousy pierce our hearts to see her give to someone else what she ones gave only to ourselves. While all the adults fawn over the new baby, we are told to give up the limelight. Though we feel deeply threatened, we are taught not to worry about which one of us mom and dad love more, because they “love us all the same,” they say. We are taught not to hoard our toys and not to fight with those who threaten to become more powerful in social groups. We are taught not to posess our friends; we must allow them to have other friends besides ourselves, and to overcome the “lower emotions” that urge us to do otherwise.

This is not true for romance. We do not share our boyfriends, girlfriends and spouses with other people. We allow our jealous tendencies to dominate, and expect that our loved ones are not betraying us by loving others the way they are supposed to love us alone. If it happens, it is called “cheating,” and it is considered the worst breach possible in a relationship. We essentially allow every “lower emotion” to rise and take hold, and our tendencies to dominate another person are not only permitted but encouraged as ideal.

One-on-one romantic relationships are basically controlled, tempered channels for all our frightened defensive instincts. We are naturally anxious when someone else has sex with those we are having sex with, because years of evolution has favored individuals who scorn a situation in which one’s offspring might not be one’s own. So we prefer to posess our partnerts, just as we posess food and territory, to feel comfortable in a world in which all our other primal instincts are to be surpressed. Rather than overcoming attachment, we create an environment where it’s OK to become attached. Rather than overcoming desire, we create a relationship in which we expect all our desires to be fulfilled.

We become anxious when we don’t get enough affection from the one we love. We get angry when the one we love doesn’t think we’re perfect. We get insecure when we are physically inadequate in bed, or when we don’t ourselves receive the maximum physical pleasure from sex. We demand complete intimacy and confidence from our lovers. And if the one we’re with isn’t good enough, we abandon the one we love, sending him or her through the most awful emotional pain imaginable, and seek out new partners. Because, in the end, we feel little commitment from the people we love, yet expect it from them, because in the end we really love only ourselves and are terrified of the excruciating pain we feel when our lovers betray us before we get them first.

And ironically, this relationship is idealized as the greatest bond between humans. Romantic love is thought to be deeper than any other – most religions say that the yearning between two lovers is modeled after mandkind’s longing for God. Psychologically, we are so close to the ones we love romantically that we feel that we exist inside the other’s head, even if we actually have entirely different personalities.

I think romance can be everything it is idealized to be, but I think people first have to shed stupid ideas about love and admit that it is actually animal and carnal. Attachment and need are not only OK, they are vital. Weave whatever illusions of poetry you want weave to make love meaningful, but admit the facts first. Love is very much about fear, of the big scary world and the comfort that comes from holding someone elses hand when you face it. Love is about the desire to count on another person for a sense of absolute safety, and about the need to fulfil one’s own personal insecurities by providing the ego-extension of the intimate partner who doesn’t have the same faults. Love is also about reliable sex, and about routine, about the desire to place one’s trust in a person who will never take sides with an enemy, about being able to be always put first in another person’s mind, about being able to see another person as perfect and not caring whether or not he or she actually lives up to perfection, and finally, it’s about the desire to have a relationship that will never significantly change or come to an end. When a couple moves to a different house, has children, loses children, changes careers, loses parents, moves to a new city, or experiences any of countless live changes, they are expected to stay married. In a world where nothing is dependable, people hope that love is dependable.

If only people could be worthy of depending on. But they aren’t; they are human, and being human, they are concerned with their own pain first (avoiding pain and finding happiness is what they find love for in the first place). So they’re willing to hurt the person they are so attached to in order to avoid being hurt first, to play the other person and conceal emotion, to leave people they don’t really want to leave, and to hoard and manipulate and create boundaries. It’s been done against me more times than I can count, and I know I’ve witheld myself and been manipulative, or even hurtful, out of fear that the person I was loving was going to hurt me first. And in the end it’s left me with more aches, wounds and fear than I had before I ventured into the whole thing to begin with. But what can I do, except keep trying? I know Karma will bite all my ex boyfriends in the ass, which I’m torn between being happy and sad about. Meanwhile it’s all sort of an unavoidable game, because I’m always going to feel at least a little ache until I finally find the right person, but unless I can get that person to see what I see (which is near impossible) I am going to end up more and more in need of such a thing.


1 Comment »

  1. WORD. To everything you said.

    to paraphrase a quote from a Tom Robbins novel: “Passion is an enchanted forest where the fairies and monsters still live. Everyone’s drawn to it, everyone wants to live there. Unfortunately, many peoples’ first instinct is to cut down the dark scary trees and put up gas stations and hotels and McDonald’s.”

    Comment by arazel — October 26, 2006 @ 6:35 pm | Reply

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