"Where there is love, there is life." –Mahatma Gandhi
We live in the entertainment era; a time when we sit back and things just happen. We go to the movies, or stream the latest show, and relax. The show/flick does the rest. We go to the supermarket with thousands of foods to choose from. Choices are everywhere; we’re used to pushing a button, and feeling satisfied.
So what about the most valued experience in the world; what about love?
The Laundry List
Kimberly is 32 years old is beginning to worry. She lives and works in the city, competently handling much of her life. Men come and go; girlfriends come and go…work stays. But it’s time. She decides that she’s looking for a great-looking man who’ll be a good provider, doesn’t smoke, and loves kids. Plus, he’s got to have a great sense of humor and not be intimidated by her success. There’s more, but that’s enough for now.
No relationship sticks. Kimberly is beautiful and haunting. Many bite, but no one passes. Kimberly sits back unhappily until one day she meets Mike, who has it all. They have fun, talk silly, talk intellectually and enjoy sex. It works. But Kimberly doesn’t know. Maybe he’s not the one? I don’t want to be stuck with the wrong guy.
They end up splitting. Kimberly wonders if the next fellow will meet her needs. Mike moves on to marry and have kids; Kimberly is still looking…and looking.
From the Couch
Love is an action verb. It requires sweat equity. There is no such thing a passive love. As the great Cole Porter tells us:
“Let’s do it. Let’s fall in love.”
The laundry list has value. It’s good for Kimberly to have an idea of what she’s looking for. But, intense love is about actively loving. Taking a risk and loving. Cole Porter tells Kimberly … Let’s do it. Meaning, take charge and give love a chance. Don’t wait for it to just happen to you.
Now, there are as many reasons to pull back from love as there are people. Sometimes you don’t meet the right man or woman. But, more often, you are not prepared on the inside. Love requires trust. To really make love…make love happen, you have to trust that you can deal with whatever comes if it doesn’t work out. For some, that takes real guts.
If you have attachment issues or if you were disappointed by your family when you were little, you may have an unconscious fear of trusting love. So, you hold back. You want the power. You want the control. And, you never really love.
Maybe Kimberly had a narcissistic father who never made her feel important. She may not feel lovable despite how appealing she is to the opposite sex. Perhaps Kimberly had a depressed mother who left her feeling anxious at a very basic level. Love will stir all this up. And, love can overcome.
Easy Answers That Fail
When we don’t intuit what is right we rely on society to give us the rules of the road. Knowing who is good for you is a mature thing. Not everyone has it down. The laundry list becomes a saccharine substitute.
The trouble is that you want to love a person who will also love you. You want love to be an action verb. It only works when you live it. If you seek a laundry list, he is probably doing the same to you. This is a setup for disappointment. Laundry list meets laundry list is not love; its business. Life is short and you don’t want to share your bed, raise a family and deal with the stuff of life with a business partner. There has to be something more.
Making Love Work
I have seen a boatload of breakups; and often, risk means loss. Some people never try because they can’t risk losing. I understand. Every time I hear the pain, it’s hard. And each time, I ask the same timeless question. I want to know.
Is the poet right?
“Is it is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all?”
Almost everyone responds in the affirmative. For most, love trumps loss.
It's understandable if you're worried about love going bad. We are scared of abandonment, of anger, of wasted time and of hurt. And some people keep connecting with hurtful people. Freud called this the repetition compulsion. If you're the type who always ends up with a bad relationship, don't run back so quickly. Therapy can really help.
An Appeal to Commitment-Phobes
You may know other commitment-phobes like Kimberly. Many roads lead to this place; a fear of intimacy, a fear of risk—or a fear of settling for less. It's everywhere. I understand holding back if you've been abused and such. What I'm arguing for is to take your wish for love on actively.
Love is made as much as it is found.
Accepting the idea of rejection is part of the game of love. You have to know that not every relationship works out. So, you actively love, and have to believe that you’ll be OK if your dream disintegrates.
Yes, there is risk in really loving. There is unimaginable hurt there. But, we live just once.
I wonder if a life of aridity is really a better choice.