I was asked a question recently: “what makes a romance a special and desirable thing, apart from any other experience?”
I think I ask myself this question once a day or so, but I keep coming up with different answers. Lately I think I’ve broken it down to the fact that I don’t know what love *is*. I believe I’ve experienced aspects of it – I’ve fallen in love. I’ve been loved, in some fashion. I feel a degree of love for family members and a few special friends. But I don’t know if I understand what it means to really be in the thick of love – to abandon oneself to it, to give and receive it whole-heartedly, without fear, without question, without condition. And I’d really like to know!
It’s not a state that I believe can be maintained indefinitely – we’re humans, not gods. I’m just wondering if it’s something that is potentially achievable – or even approachable. From what I understand, the closest expression may be a mother’s love for a child, but there is still imbalance in that. I’d like to know if two self-aware, mature beings can create something between them that elevates them both past their individual limitations. Can they, if only for a time, become as gods to one another?
I do think it’s possible, though it probably resembles a sort of delusional religious fervor — but I’m okay with that. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with recognizing some aspect of divinity in another human and thereby acknowledging its existence in oneself. Why not accentuate the positive, even at the risk of appearing a fool? Who are we trying so hard to impress by being wordly and cynical, anyways? Isn’t it better to be ridiculous and happy? 🙂
So that is one argument for being open to serious romantic attachment. I think it is an experience that teaches us things about ourselves and other people – through that passionate connection to another person – that we cannot learn elsewhere.
But is that enough, if, as I said, that sort of romantic fervor is a temporary state? Are such emotional highs worth the lows that must inevitably follow when the passion gutters and dies? Disappointment, disillusionment, betrayal, despair, yes there are risks. It’s hard to accept loss and hurt as part of the process, but that’s how it works, and we must understand that we learn something about ourselves from that as well. Life is full of both joy and pain. It is our choice whether to run towards them or away. It is also our choice how to view them and how we allow them to change us.
I also believe there is much more to love than romantic attachment. When passion works, when it doesn’t end in ashes or disappointment, I see it as a doorway to a new level of experience. I think these sorts of extreme emotions force us out and away from our usual protective bunkers and foxholes. We become open, exposed and vulnerable. We feel strong enough to take the chance and trust – we trust someone else to be gentle with our most tender bits, and we trust ourselves to be strong enough to survive and forgive when they prove to be human and occasionally mess up. Just as they will when we do the same.
We are social creatures (granted, some moreso than others). We have a need to bond and connect and believe that we are important to other people. We feel a deep need to give and receive love and attention. There are an infinite number of ways to achieve this – friends, family, social connections, working with teams and in collaborations – they are all there to be explored, enjoyed and to educate ourselves in what it means to be human – in what it means to be *this* particular human. It is all a matter of choice and courage. When such opportunities present themselves, we always have the option to run towards or away.
What we need to ask ourselves is which option to choose and why, and then decide if we truly feel at peace with the answer. There is no right or wrong. There is only ever more of one thing and less than another.