Friday, December 26, 2003

Where does love come from? And where does it go?

On one level, this little art site, called "the lost love project," provides an anonymous way for site visitors to reminisce, confess, expound, etc, about old relationships and people lost in the past. On one level, a nice idea.

Viewed another way (a g.s. way?) it provides a rich set of examples of how some people fall in love, not with other people, but with their IDEA of other people. By that I mean, many of these stories clearly describe the process of falling in love with an imaginary person while never learning much about the real person. Not surprisingly, these relationships generally end with pain and separation, whence the site name, "lost love."

How does one avoid such relationships, such pain? I suggest that first and foremost, it takes a continual effort to see through the fog of romance. When you find yourself describing a person as "the only person who ever..." or thinking "I will never stop loving this person even though he left and never came back", stop and ask yourself a few questions, like:

  • Did he really say those wonderful things that made me love him, or did I just assume that that's what he meant?

  • How much of the "time we spent loving each other" really happened, and how much actually just took place in my head, in between real visits?

  • When she said something I found repulsive or hurtful, did I ignore it, chalk it up to a misunderstanding, or did I recognize it as a possible source of discord between us?

I contend that "real" love, the kind that will result in a long-lasting and life-confirming relationship, requires a balance and rationality that some might find cold or unromantic. I suggest that successfully loving another person depends on knowing (and loving) all their bad qualities as well as their good. You need to understand that the way you feel about someone comes from your head, not your heart, and that you create that feeling by what you say to yourself about that person.

If you repeatedly tell yourself (and others) that this person "is perfect" for you, or "completely understands" you, or "would never say anything to hurt me" etc etc, you create an image in your head that the living, imperfect human can never match. Later, when you become unable to ignore or overlook the imperfections, you may feel compelled to say "you've changed!" when in fact, you have simply detected a difference between your mental construction and the real world person. Millions of marriages have disintegrated in a cloud of such accusations--"you're not the man/woman I married!"

In Zen-like terms, you must learn to embrace the imperfect to find the perfect. Opening your eyes to the flaws in your beloved, so you can accommodate and accept them, will ultimately bring you to a "perfect" relationship, one that lasts and gives you comfort and satisfaction without illusion.

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