Falling Out of Love
Why must we lose a taste of heaven on earth?
Posted Apr 03, 2016
Last month I wrote about the spiritual basis of falling in love, how it is the closest most of us will ever come to tasting heaven on earth. I suggested that the experience of falling in love owes its power and profundity to a spiritual truth: we begin in wholeness, whether in the womb or as souls which are part of the divine, and we seek to return to that wholeness. William Wordsworth says it far more beautifully than I can (in “Intimations of Immortality”):
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home.
So that when we fall in love and taste of that oneness with another person, it taps into a feeling of cosmic oneness as well. Why, then, why oh why must we lose this? Why is it so much easier to fall in love than it is to stay in love?
Let me start by acknowledging I can’t possibly “know” the answer to that question, which I think is one of the riddles of existence. It’s like asking why we were expelled from the Garden of Eden, or why do we have to work for a living, or why is there suffering and strife alongside with flowers and singing birds.
But let me suggest some partial ways of addressing this question, ways I have found to offer a stable hand rail to lean on.
The first partial answer comes from the world of Imago, which is a kind of couples therapy I practice. Imago theory states that we fall in love with someone who contains keys to our past, who is able to push our buttons in meaningful ways so that we have to grow into wholeness. According to this theory, falling in love is both a glimpse into our potential wholeness as well as a means to get us to make a commitment to a person so that we can do the necessary work we need to do toward our own wholeness. In this view, falling in love is akin to a drug which shows you a distant vista of beauty and oneness. But the drug wears off and then we are left needing to make that journey on our own, step after plodding step.
The second partial answer I offer is not necessarily different than the first, but broader. Imago focuses on the primary relationship, usually a marriage partner as the key to wholeness. What if we were to expand that and include not only every person with whom we come into contact as being a key to us reclaiming our wholeness, but every moment of contact with everything in life? Of course this feels like an impossible consciousness to sustain, that we are to be aware of each and every moment – such as you right now reading these particular words on this particular blog posting – as being the key to recapturing our wholeness. Further, this recapturing our wholeness, this “secondary naiveté”, is deeper and stronger than the first one we initially enjoyed, whether as a child at play or in the first flush of falling in love. So that there is meaning and celestial purpose in this falling in love, losing it, and having to work so hard to reclaim it. Let me close with Wordsworth again, at the end of this poem:
And O ye Fountains, Meadows, Hills, and Groves,
Forebode not any severing of our loves!
Yet in my heart of hearts I feel your might;
I only have relinquish'd one delight
To live beneath your more habitual sway.
I love the brooks which down their channels fret,
Even more than when I tripp'd lightly as they;
The innocent brightness of a new-born Day
Is lovely yet;
The clouds that gather round the setting sun
Do take a sober colouring from an eye
That hath kept watch o'er man's mortality;
Another race hath been, and other palms are won.
Thanks to the human heart by which we live,
Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, and fears,
To me the meanest flower that blows can give
Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.