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Love: seeing through the myth
by Edna Nelson
2010-12-04 09:22:17
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There are plenty of movies out there about love, books too. There are self help guides to loving others well, and few books focus on what happens when loving another takes away from ones ability to love oneself. There are even fewer books on how not to get lost in love. The idealised version of love would suggest that the possibility didn't exist, or rather that there is no valuable self to get lost before love in the first place. That we should get lost in love, because that's where our meaning comes from. But what about all the meaning we create for ourselves, what happens to that when we fall in love.

I fell in love once, and it was terrible. I gave my whole self to another person, just to find out my whole self wasn't enough, or even what the other person wanted. They only wanted part of me, or rather to be a part of me, a part of my life, and this was something romance novels, and advice books seemed to leave out. I searched and searched for answers in times of turmoil and found nearly no refuge from a culture of performance I had grown used to. Faking it was next to natural, smiling when I was unhappy, agreeing when I wish I wouldn't and giving up on myself in general. Romantic narratives that were directed at my generation never addressed the issue of balancing ones life with ones love, at least not the ones I had heard.

At the beginning of this love story I remember an exchange that set the tone for the relationship as a whole, unfortunately it was an encounter that didn't even include the object of my affection. This foundational question and answer session was in fact, directed at a friend when I asked”what happens when you like someone but you don't feel like making time for them?” and they replied ”then you don't really like them.” so I started making time. I whittled down my schedule and my integrity to be able to create a gaping space for this new person in my life to fill. I cut strings, and I stopped creating for fear of stepping on their toes. Dating advice had never informed me of the dangers that lay in that space, where a women collapses her life, it had only shared with me the promise that in this collapsing I would be refilled, with something richer, warmer, and uplifting. Imagine my disappointment when that filling never happened.

Through out the next year I felt like a balloon, being inflated and deflated by my partners judgements and decisions. I wouldn't take a step either way, I wouldn't create, and I wouldn't fill myself for fear of blocking a way for this person to find their way into my life, for fear that if my life wasn't more comfortable for them they might leave it. I felt trapped. Dating books never include chapters about what to do when you don't have a life anymore, what to do when you are more angry at yourself than you are angry at your spouse, or how impossible it is for someone to fill you up. I just waited, until my collapsing became concave, everyday disappointments and personal failures were exasperated not elevated by what I felt at the time to be failure in love.

I had read the books, I knew all about Mars and Venus, the media had plenty of images for me to watch to find out who I should look or be like, and nothing about how to get out of the situation I was in. I didn't know how to love myself, while loving somebody else. I though love was cooking and cleaning, waiting at home and being available at all times. The mold I was trying to fill was of the picture perfect American wife. This was the only way I knew to share the deep and profound love and attachment I felt, unfortunately, all the love I was directly at the other took away from the love I wanted to give myself. My creativity was on the run, hopelessness set in, and I started itching for escape.

Escape for me came in the form of going home to the US, where I have gained some insight into what has been going on with me. I could see it going on in all the relationships around me. People selling themselves out to the other, people forgetting to maintain themselves while their spouses thrived. I noticed that the person I was with wasn't as much the problem as the misconceptions I held about love. Dating books and love stories enabled me to make way to much space for love in my life. The person I was with, wasn't as bad as I thought. When I realized what was going on and shared it, they understood. The person I had made so much effort to share my life with didn't get upset when I took myself to the other side of the Atlantic ocean for 6 months, and rejoiced when I declared a reclamation of my life.

Time and distance taught me that the lack of loving was on my side, directed at myself. I took a friends advice against what I knew in my heart, I trusted authors I never met over what I wanted, and who I wanted to be. Dating books almost never tell you not to trust them or that they could be wrong, but they often are. Narratives about love never screen the part where one or both people get lost in the idea of loving itself, that's something I had to find out on my own.

Learning about love as an ideological trap was hard, but it's something I am happy to have done. I learned something else in the process to, and that's just because love doesn't mirror what I read, or what I see about it, doesn't mean it isn't true. I learned that love is faith, fidelity, tolerance and trust, not complete and total self sacrifice as I was raised to believe. The person I did love, is the person I still love because they have shown me all of that, faith in our relationship, fidelity (fantasies don't count, right??), tolerance of my mood strings, trust in my word and a relentless refusal to sacrifice them self, their primary goals, their livelihood. I no longer feel as if I have fallen in love, rather that love is something I am sticking with, rooting for, choosing. David Schnarch PhD's relationship book Passionate Marriage ( a book directed at married couples twice my age, and wish I had discovered earlier) would describe this realization as an act of differentiation. I just think of it as seeing through the myth.

My close friend Jenne Vargas once said ”one great person finding another great person to learn and share with wouldn't want to be without the other person's great personness.” Now that I know, the responsibility is on my shoulders to hold on to myself tight, an nourish my great personness. Striving to make time for the things I love, not only the people I love, I have a new love challenges to face. The challenge to stay away from dating books, stand on my own two feet, and to love myself first. I realize that I was suffering from a fear of my ability or inability to love well enough. The effect of not feeling good enough ripples through my life, it effects my relationships with friends and family. That's something I an working to change. No one is perfect, people have limitations, what I realize now is that I don't have to let the limitations of others limit me. I don't have to feel empty because someone else cannot fill me up, and I don't have to empty myself just to make sure.

Watching the apple of my eye hold on to their individuality has at times been an inspiration to me and something I have naively attempted to imitate. Now I know better. I have learned that everyone has their own special way of showing love, mine is just as good as any other. I have to find my own way. When I asked my friend ”what do you do when you like someone but you don't want to make time for them” the answer I wanted to hear was ”you'll figure it out.” Regardless of whether this love lasts into eternity, I know I will hold on to myself and at the end of the day I will figure it out.


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a friend2010-12-06 06:16:17
"Love is staying true to you and to your partner cuz if you cant hold on to who you are you can't hold on to them."

Tommy2010-12-15 02:49:24

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