a little east of reality

Saturday, June 24, 2006

love and relationships

I saw the movie The Break-up last night. It wasn't really the laugh a minute darkish comedy that the trailer implied, but the script was very real. Then this morning I was reading the post that Jazzy wrote on love after seeing the movie. Here is some of what she wrote:
That idea of love that I believed in all my life has just been slowly deteriorating for the past five years. There's very little of that original idea left. The older I get, the more I realize how alone I am in my experience. Instead of falling in love with someone and sharing this blissful experience of love together, I feel alone in my experience of love.

Do two people ever feel exactly the same way about one another at exactly the same time? I'm not trying to measure love to see whether or not we are equal. What I'm getting at is that we are all individual beings and we all live in our own worlds that we create in our own minds. You can't live in my mind and I can't live in yours. We can find one another and both glean pleasure from the experience, but that doesn't mean that we really share the same exact experience...

I'm not complaining. Really. I guess it's just that I sometimes feel completely removed from the one I love. I don't think he would tell the story the same way I do. But, that doesn't make me love him any less. I'm just realizing that I've been wasting all these years trying to grasp at love, thinking I could hold it as if it were an object that could be captured. God, I've wasted time on that! I was only setting myself up for failure.

My love for him seems larger now, as it has every year from the start, but I'm farther now from controlling this relationship than ever before. And somehow, I'm becoming okay with that. Maybe love is best when you give up the struggle to push it into the form you want it to be, and just allow it, on it's own, to be.
After I commented on the post, I realised that the ideas were something I'd thought for a long time, but never articulated just that way, so I decided to post it here as well:
Sniffle? I saw that movie last night and it made me weep. But also I think it showed something really relevent to what you've written. Loving someone isn't the same as being happy with the relationship you share with that person.

Sometimes loving someone is what makes a relationship so painful, because you have a sense of what the relationship could be. Love doesn't bestow communication skills. It doesn't teach time management. It should imply priorities, but sometimes life is more complicated than that. It doesn't resolve all the issues we haven't worked out and bring into the relationship with us. It doesn't make someone good in bed. And it doesn't align our ideas about relationship roles or raising kids or anything else.

People will say that love conquers all, but it's not really true. What love does is give us the motivation to conquer all, but it doesn't remove the work necessary to conquer problems and differences. And even when the love we feel (or receive) does motivate us, if both people aren't working at it, it still may not be enough.
I think there are three reasons why so many relationships fail over time:
1. Because the people in the relationship thought loving each other would be enough to make the relationship work and never communicated properly about the real issues or developed the skills to resolve them.
2. Because they never realised that these unresolved issues or relationship problems have the power to erode their love over time. Love will fade, and you can get to the point where the relationship is so dysfunctional that loving that person is the harder option. People often seem surprised when they realise they don't love their partner any more, as if their love was a static thing that required no continuing effort to sustain.
3. Because people fail to prioritise the relationship over other things, so that even if they start out being truly loving and determined to develop a solid relationship, everything that can get in the way (work, kids, money, family, friends) does. I'm not saying those other things aren't important or that they should be ignored, but more than if your relationship always takes a back seat to everything else, eventually your whole life will be based in those concerns and there will be no relationship. Because life will inevitably creep in and take your time and energy, if you don't see your relationship as the most important thing, you will never make any time for it.

Of course this is when both people are initially in love. Some relationships fail because one person in the relationship is so selfish that whatever love (if any) they feel beyond simple attraction fails to change or motivate them in any way. They might enjoy feeling loved, but they never have any real commitment to making the relationship work, and they resent any expectation placed on them to contribute to the relationship, or sacrifice time or anything else to make it work. Those relationships are doomed from the beginning. I think it's much sadder when both people started out in love and wanting to make it work, because those are the relationships that didn't have to break down.