Friday, August 19, 2005


As humans we are susceptible to our emotional needs. Many have theorized about the psychological, spiritual, and physical aspects which combine to form the essence of love, but what is it really? Beyond the concept, what drives us to desire this feeling? Is it simply the biological urge to copulate and replenish the species? Or does out mental make up confuse this impulsive feeling by attaching societies constructs and molding every culture's own specific beliefs into one universal concept? Perhaps it is all of these things and more.

Cynical as it may sound, most marriages in America today don’t last very long. America’s divorce rate is riding high at nearly 40% and getting worse. That’s almost half of our population! Other cultures don’t have divorce, so what’s our problem? All I can say is that from my own personal experiences, I’ve fought with my lover almost 40% of the time, but each time we talk through our differences and resolve certain issues as new one’s come up. Don’t fool yourself, you’ll never know each other well enough to read the other’s mind, but you may be able to eventually finish each other’s sentences. Arguing is natural, and fighting happens, just don’t let it define your relationship or dictate how you communicate. If things get that bad seek professional counseling. Dr. Ruth K. Westheimer is always a bookstore away for those who believe in the art of self help books, among other such ventures. And if that doesn’t work, and you’ve tried every angle, then think hard before you trivialize marriage. If you want a fling, do that, but if you’re going to make a mockery of the holy union of marriage, then stop. You’re only fooling yourself in the end.

You may wonder what my credentials for giving advice on love are. Other than having read Dr. Ruth and a slew of other books on love all the way from "The Five Love Languages" by Gary Chapman to the great moral legends of Eros and Psyche, the list also includes Homer’s Odyssey, Shakespeare's greatest plays on love, Orpheus and the Underworld, the Helen of Troy myth, to the bible and Jesus Christ's life itself just to start naming a few. I think I have a rough idea on certain notions about love. I'm not trying to prove how intelligent I am or tell anyone how to do it, I'm only pointing out what I have learned from extensive study on the subject. It may work for you, it may not. It's different for everybody, but I hope my observations and foresight help just a little bit. If even one sentence pops out and sticks with you, then I'll be satisfied with that.

Well, I'm a successful lover and I listen to people. That's the biggest part of this entire love mumbo-jumbo is learning to listen to people, especially that important person in your life. Recently my own family has had to question this construct. Perhaps they have been questioning it for years. If we abide by our customs, then marriage is the ultimate commitment to loving someone. How can we deny this, when it seems to be true in most places today around the world? Where marriage was once a means of survival, or wealth, it exists today as a hybrid. Marriage is part of love, and slowly we as a society have come to realize that with great independence comes a greater desire for true acceptance through love. We all want it for ourselves, but very few actually work for it any more. I myself come from a broken family, so why all of the divorce, all of the cheating, all of the giving up, and for that matter all of the initial bad choices? Well, the way I see it there are several answers.

Cupid and Psyche

The first answer I think may be the most obvious. We have combined two customs into one ideal. Whereas marriage used to be a political and legal contract binding a man and a woman, Christian ideals about monogamy lead to it coupling with the notion that one should love that partner exclusively. Yet we are at the whim of our illogical emotional and psychological needs, because in today's era we are told our individuality is just as important as our choice of who we may love. Basically, we put ourselves first, and defy the classic legality of marriage by demanding out emotional satisfaction first. But did the outdated traditions of the past really lack the deeper feeling of love? Were arranged marriages really a sufferance for those who were forced into unwanted and even unhappy unions? Or did it force us to take responsibility to make the relationship work, because the necessity of survival came first? And even after survival, the individual wasn't at stake, but the family name. I don't presume that I would ever put myself above my family, but it seems to be the case today with all of the divorce. Do we disguise marriage as easy love because we don't want to make the commitment which such a union demands? Is it more about that quick emotional fix which love can provide and we think marriage will stamp and seal all of those good feelings in forever? Or have we allowed ourselves to become so disillusioned with the emotional satisfaction which we believe love fulfills?

I think the second answer is not so obvious. And that is that Love and Marriage are entirely separate. Sure, over time we have combined the two notions and put them into the same camp, but they are still different. Love is purely a feeling which entails an emotional response. As potent as love is, it is not the same as marriage. Marriage is a much more heavy notion, because with marriage comes great responsibility. Marriage is a promise. It is a promise to love someone above all else. What's more marriage is the promise to keep faith in the other; to give yourself up and disregard the selfish individual and share in a coexistence of two souls. The Latin for psyche literally translates to soul. Eros is love, and so the love and the soul are the two main elements which comprise tangible love.

However, I am afraid that many today do not wish to make such compromises of the self. Rather they continue to put themselves ahead of the other, or they unhealthily hold their loved one on a high up pedestal and idolize them. Whether they only take for themselves or give all away, they are forgetting that marriage is the union of two souls into one. After marriage, the trick is functioning and learning to coexist on that intimate level where every decision requires teamwork and communication, because in the end you’re not just dealing with yourself anymore -you are dealing with a new version of you and that other person's needs are equal to your's. Don't be manipulative, and just accept the fact that you made an adult choice to marry. It is about striking a fine balance between what you can allow yourself to give, and sometimes, what you should keep to yourself. This includes words, and thinking before speaking, and thinking before acting become a large consumption of your time. Believe you me, this self reflection isn't always easy, but it is necessary. You have to judge yourself the hardest, and then make the good (not always the easy or self serving) decisions. Hey, that's all part of the marriage game.

Many people don't want to give themselves up entirely and wait eons before finding that special someone. Other people don't want time to run its course and jump into marriage too hastily. Some get lucky and find true love, and others never feel the prick of Cupid's arrow. The only thing that is sure is that love is work. Love takes work, and if you think it's anything else, then you're just another Despina.

It’s a law of nature, and not Merely sense.
What is love? Pleasure, convenience, taste,
Enjoyment, amusement, pastime,
Fun; it’s no longer love
If it becomes a burden and
Instead of pleasure brings pain and torment.

---Despina (Cosi Fan Tutte by DaPonte/Motzart)

I’m sorry to ruin the convenient fantasy, but it’s pretty obvious that Despina doesn’t have a clue of what love is. Everything she talks about it just the easy excuse toward what her selfish indulgence lends her, and she expects that love fulfill those psychological needs. Sadly, however, we’re not talking about the soul any more. Despina’s want is something more primal. It is the gratification of the dominance she has over men, and if the other cannot fulfill her every emotional whim, then how could it ever be love? She even goes as far as to change the definition of love to what fits her needs. How selfish is that? Well cookie, the truth is love ain’t a piece of cake. Love is a test. Some will say a test of time, and other’s say time is the glue which bonds the strongest lovers. All I know is that if Shakespeare, the most eloquent poet and writer the western world has ever known couldn’t figure love out no matter how many Romeos he went through, poor Despina sure as hell ain’t gonna crack the code either. Perhaps Dan Brown would like a try at this one?

The temptation

Sometimes love fails, other times people create excuses for it to fail. Why? Well, like I said love is hard work and it takes more work than most people are willing to give. Not everyone can rise to the occasion, and not everybody is a hopeless romantic. I’m not asking them to be. My belief is that love is like a plant. Suppose you have a flower, a daisy, and you plant the seed and watch it grow. This daisy represents love and if you don’t nurture it it’s going to die off quick. But be careful, most people only nurture it through its initial sprouting and budding. That’s the excitement of the relationship. That’s the newness of it, and then there is the long dormant stage. This is where people get bored; learn they don’t like spending time with that certain someone who was special at the beginning of the relationship. They had the first few months of hot and bothered excitement, they eloped or rushed to get married, and the first year of sex is always amazing, but what they didn’t consider was that love takes more than just happily ever after.

Marriage isn’t going to make the bond any tighter than it was to begin with. Seriously, it's not a prom date, so don't treat it like one! Marriage today is the act of making the promise of commitment to be faithful; not only to the other, but to yourself as well. It surprises me how many people can do only one of these, but what is more shocking is the number of those who can’t do either. Being faithful with all the juicy and exciting worldly temptations, it is sometimes hard to keep that promise. Sure, I too have experienced such temptation. I’ve gotten myself into trouble numerous times. The latest example is I went out to lunch with an old sweetheart of mine and my lover became enraged with jealousy. Yet my life mate let it fester, and for weeks I thought she was ill with the flue. The truth was, I was careless of her feelings and she became ill with the betrayal she felt. Even though it was a meeting among to mature adults, the truth of the matter was that my lover felt threatened by another woman. I didn’t think of this possibility when I met with my old friend, and even though sometimes jealously arises, you can’t let it ruin all you have worked for. For this I had to compromise, and when it came to giving up an old friend or keeping a life long one, the choice was pretty obvious. From time to time there will be other charming, attractive, and appealing people who will seem better than what you have. Don’t let the blinds be pulled over your eyes, even though it looks good now, pay attention to what’s down the road. New cars look nice, smell nice, and ride nice, but there is always a better and newer model out next year. The cycle will be endless if you fall for it, but if you have already committed yourself to someone else it is your duty to be faithful. In sickness and in health.

Romeo oh Romeo!

Romeo was a Montague, and Juliet a Capulate. They weren’t allowed to court one another because of a family feud. The distain between the two family clans caused a tainted mark on the other. This label was a silly excuse not to get along, because as long as the two parties feuded, it gave each an excuse to try and prove the other was better. It was a competition of posturing which got out of hand. Romeo and Juliet were at the fate of love, but even their love couldn’t fix a broken family's love. In the end the story is a tragedy, because love can’t win out every time. Just because you may be young and in love, does it really mean you’re mature enough to handle all the responsibility that comes with the baggage of another person? It’s great when they (loving companions) surpass all of your wildest expectations, but when they don’t meet every check mark on the list, can you live with that?

I can’t hear in my left ear, I’m tone deaf so I can’t sing. It wasn't my choice to be deaf, that's just the cards fate dealt me. My fiancé loves singing karaoke. Just because I can’t sing and she loves doing it doesn’t mean I don’t go with her. I enjoy being with her, so I try the things I’m bad at just to see her beautiful smile when she laughs at my poorly refined skills. This is compromise with a dash of humility. If you can’t humble yourself in the company of your significant other, then what fun is that? I don’t make ridiculous requirements which no woman on earth could meet unless they were the perfect human being. I accept that I have my limitations, and neither of us are perfect. She has her flaws too, and between our more note worthy challenges, namely after all of our bi-cultural obstacles, misunderstandings, language barriers, geographic hurdles, hardships of distance and being apart, and being true to someone who can't be with you every moment of every day, I wouldn't take for granted how lucky I am to have her. Not for one moment. Yet I continue to try my hardest, because even though I have old sweethearts, and new crushes, I know that sometimes I just have to stop thinking only about myself and start acting like a mature adult who's in a very real relationship. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes an occasional fantasy can liven up a relationship (wink wink, nudge), but don’t let your fantasies become your ambitions. Or worse, your addictions. They will only hurt you both in the end. I admit that going on a date with an ex-sweetheart, even if it was just a lunch date among two responsible adults, was a mistake. I apologized to my lover and she forgave me. Even though I didn’t see anything wrong with it at the time, I knew that’s not how she saw it. Right then and there I learned the hard way to think long and hard before I do something, because I have to consider her needs as part of the responsibility of being the significant other. And even when I think I have it, I still ask her, out of respect for her as a person with feelings. Sometimes it’s a matter of getting in touch with your sensitive side, and sometimes it’s owning up to your own actions and the consequences which follow, regardless of intent. This doesn't mean we both won’t make more mistakes, and have more problems arise, but in the long run it's how we deal with these mistakes and problems which will define our success.

When the going gets tough, most would rather just throw up their arms and say they tried their best. But in the famous words of YODA, “Do or do not. There is no try.” I think it would behoove us to really consider these words, because when you get to the nitty-gritty of it, they are one hundred percent true. You can try all you want, but by the end of the day you either succeed or fail.

Failing for some is extremely hard to take. They gave it their all, but without the cooperation of the other individual, the entire weight of the relationship gets pushed onto one person's shoulders. This can’t work, because the relationship takes the full energy of two couples as one individual. Compromise and discussion become the two biggest keys of a successful relationship, and patience will always win out in the end. Perseverance and hard work, and well, you get the picture. It’s the difficult things that allow two to tango. And just like the tango, real love takes time to learn. It won’t happen over night, and it may not happen in a year. Heck, it may not happen in 10 or 20 years. Yet the underlying truth is, if you stick at it, you can get it to work –as long as both parties are willing to work together. Remember, a relationship is about two people, not just you. If one party isn’t willing to work or play nice with the other, then the relationship is doomed. At that point, you have to ask yourself just one thing, how much punishment am I willing to take?

I hope I have covered the basics of love. It may not be romantic like in the movies, but I can guarantee that it is rewarding beyond your wildest dreams. It’s only a matter of climbing that Everest, and not giving up so easily. There is always professional counseling and the warm advice of caring family members. If you keep getting the same message from everyone around you, you might want to ask yourself why you are the only one that isn’t seeing things the same way as the majority does. Because as special as you may think you are, I can guarantee that the whole world isn’t uniting against you to ruin your life. Another heads up would be to err on the side of caution. Take things slow, and if you do happen to jump into things, beware that falling for someone because you are infatuated with the idea of love rather than the concept of learning how to love someone for the rest of your life are two entirely different things. Watch out and use your brain! Marriage isn’t a game, and in the olden days when it was just yourself to care about, life was fine and dandy, but now you have another person and another soul to consider. A ruined marriage has consequences, don’t think it doesn’t. Somebody, but most likely both involved, will end up getting hurt. So wise up, and exhaust every possible option before you get into a marriage, and afterwards take it to the extreme and give it your all.

No comments: