Love’s “Get Out” Clause

In my first post, I discussed about how the French view love according to a New York Times article:

To love truly is to want the other free, and this includes the freedom to walk away. Love is not about possession or property. Love is no prison where two people are each other’s slaves.

The thing is that as much as I would like to believe this, I don’t. At all!

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I come from a culture of arranged marriages. My parents had met each other a few times, perhaps three or four, before they were married, and divorce was never an option. As much as they disagreed with each other, as much as they fought, walking away would never have been allowed by either of their families, particularly since my brother and I were in the picture. Sometimes I used to think that Indian culture was too oppressive, and that they should be able to walk away if they were not happy with each other, but if I asked them now, they would have been glad they did not give up.

There are some relationships that you can’t undo. I can never be an ex-daughter or an ex-sister. Whether I am on good terms or bad, whether I speak to my family or not, they will be my family. And the fact that they are gives me an incentive to make sure things are on good terms.

I’d view my future children on the same level. Once you have children, you can’t undo that, you can’t become an ex-mother again. Even if you disown your children, give them up for adoption, the relationship never changes. They are your kids, it’s a fact. I would want to have the same type of relationship with the person I decide to marry and have children with. I don’t want there to be a “get out” clause. I don’t want there to be the option of being an ex-girlfriend or ex-wife. I’m sure nobody wants a relationship to end but I don’t even want the option of walking away to exist. I think to really love someone means to stay sometimes when you want to go. Not of course in situations where you’re being mentally or physically abused or you are being devalued and made to feel bad about yourself.

Sometimes the harder thing to do is to stay and work through it. You don’t always feel like you love your parents, you’re not always going to feel like you love your significant other.

I suppose I feel this way because I don’t understand what people mean when they say they fell out of love. I mean duh! Those lovey dovey feelings never stay the same, but they change and evolve to a deeper, more companion-type feeling. You also do your best to keep the romance alive. Maybe it’s that there are other issues in the relationship that the couple doesn’t know how to deal with, so they start becoming emotionally disconnected, and rather than addressing the disconnect, they assume that there is something inherently wrong in the relationship. And next thing you know, the love is supposedly gone and there is a reason to walk away.

I’m not saying that all relationships can work. But if you have a good foundation, someone who has the 4-5 core traits you want in a partner, then I don’t see why the relationship can’t be fixed. You just need two willing people….and you need to get the “get out” clause out of your head!

Or am I being too naive?

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More Love Letters

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To whoever finds this letter,

You and I don’t know one another. We may never sit and laugh over cups of coffee. We may never dance in the same circles or yawn together by the midnight hour. None of that really matters to me. It is so small and meaningless to the things I wish you would know on a daily basis: that you are lovely. That you are worthy. That those hands of yours were made for mighty, mighty things.

You probably think I am crazy. You are probably sitting here with this letter in your hands thinking, you cannot know that… you don’t know me… you don’t know a stitch of me. Yes, you’re right. But I know all the things I thought I never deserved. I know how very hard it once was to love myself and value myself and even find myself worth the reflection in the mirror. And so I know I am not alone in needing a boost some days, in needing to know that I matter to someone somewhere.

You matter to me. In a way I cannot explain, you matter to me. And you, you are a marvel… you and all the parts of you.

Love,

A girl just trying to find her way

Today was my day to sit down and continue to learn web design, but I came across a great article on the BBC website on love letters that I had to share since I’ve written previously about how I’d like to bring love letters back.

Hannah Brencher moved back to New York City after graduating and started feeling depressed and lonely, so she started writing love letters to strangers and leaving them all over the city. The above letter is the first one she left behind. She started More Love Letters and recruited others to write letters and spread the random acts of love.

According to the BBC article, random acts of kindness not only benefit the recipient but also the person preforming the act. A study published in the journal Emotion reports that performing acts of kindness may help people with social anxiety to feel more positive. Dr. Lynn Alden, one of the researchers on the study, said, “Engaging in kind acts may help the person to get out and encounter other people and then we can use other techniques to help the person change their beliefs about themselves.”

So what do you think? Are you more inspired to write a love letter now? I confess, I have not, but I give myself and you until the end of March to do so. I think that’s fair!

How Many Times Do We Fall in Love?

(Courtesy of Elite Daily)

In We Are What We Pretend To Be: The First And Last Works, Nanette Vonnegut, the youngest daughter of Kurt Vonnegut, author of Slaughterhouse-five amongst other great novels, describes her interactions with her father:

Most times I’d find my father in a very receptive mood to my prying questions, like ‘How many times have you been in love?’ His answer was instantaneous, and he held up three long fingers.

Nanette again repeats this in an interview with The Rumpus: “He would say: ‘I think you’re allowed to be in love three times in your life.'”

Turns out Kurt’s figure was not too far off from most of our averages. A recent survey of 2,000 adults by Opera North found that the average person falls in love only four times over their lifetime. In addition, the average age to settle down is 27, and 33% of us are “lucky enough” to settle down with our loves.

I don’t like that the study specifically quotes “lucky enough.” Does marrying your first love is always a good thing? If I do marry my boyfriend, he would be the second person I’ve loved in my life so I’m officially ruled out of that 33%. My ex was a great guy, and I have nothing but great memories of our relationship, but I don’t regret not marrying him. I loved him, but I couldn’t imaging spending my life with him. And before someone says, well, then you didn’t love him, I did love him every moment I was with him and that part of me always will, but love has many shapes and plays out in many different ways. The fact that it ended does not mean that the love should be discounted. It just didn’t last, but then, does love have to last to be love? Hmm…sounds like the perfect topic for another post.

Now while the study is entirely UK-based, I can say with confidence that I’m sure the numbers can apply to at least the Western portion of the world because 1) my boyfriend is British, and men are men everywhere and women are women everywhere; 2) I lived in London for four years so I know the Brits fairly well.

Depressingly, one in four settle for the “second best” option, and a majority of those that do settle regret it. The number of people that settle is even more interesting when compared to the number of people who say that you can’t help who you fall in love with. 77% think that you can’t help who you love while 25% settle for someone. Is it entirely too random to suggest that maybe those who convinced themselves to settle down are also those who thought you could help who you love?

So what do you think? Does four sound like a fair number? Too high? Too low? How many loves have you had? I promise this is a no-judgement forum.

There is no Mr (or Mrs) Right

Disclaimer: While this post is directed at women looking for true love, Mr. Right, the one and only, etc, just replace all female references with males ones to make the post equally valid for men.

My flatmate sent me this article, “Why Mr Right is Not Real,” because she thought it would make for a good commentary piece on this blog…and she is right.

Overall, the article argues that we women are constantly fed stories about perfect, easy, everything-falling-into-place love through rom-coms, TV shows, etc. and we hold out for that. We become convinced that anything less than that is settling. The article mentions a new study published in Mass Communication and Society that found that if married women believed in the TV portrayals of relationships, they tended to be less committed to their own pairings and to find alternative partners more attractive. That is one scary thought, that some fictional or grossly exaggerated relationship could have such a profound effect on your real life relationship.

“The problem with looking for the perfect mate is there’s no such thing,” says clinical psychologist Jennifer Taitz, Psy.D. The article does go into how we may think we know what we want, but in reality, we don’t actually know what is good for us; however, since that was already covered in yesterday’s post, I think it’s fair to skip that.

What I really like about this piece is that it urges readers to realize the distinction between letting go of the idea of Mr. Right and “settling”.

All of this Mr. Everything brainwashing has made women feel as if they’re settling even when they aren’t. Unless a guy is some sort of Matthew McConaughey/Channing Tatum mash-up, you believe you could do better. If butterflies don’t break-dance in your gut when he’s around, you think you’re settling. If he’s a morning person and you’re not, you’re convinced he isn’t The One. We want kismet, frictionless matches or none at all.

Most women these days generally fall into two camps: 1) they want to/do marry someone they are not in love with but accept this because there is something else more valuable to them than love in that relationship; or 2) they vehemently abhor the idea of settling for someone and run away from anything resembling “settling.”

“Relationships are messy and scary; they require vulnerability and a loss of control.” This involves accepting the imperfections.

When you aren’t sure about whether you are settling or not, make two lists: on one, write down the top five traits you need your significant other to have and on the other list, jot down all the nice-to-haves. If the guy checks off the need-to-have boxes, then you are NOT settling.

Sure, I want my boyfriend to plan a trip once in awhile. It feels like whenever it’s time to go away, it’s always me bringing up the idea of a holiday, it’s me discussing where to go, it’s me looking for hotel rooms and how we’re going to get there. And yes, this does frustrate me. However, travel planning is not a need-to-have for me, it’s a nice-to-have. I know that he is organized in other areas of his life and he loves traveling just as much as I do (which is a need-to-have), so if he is utterly unhelpful at travel planning, that’s fine. I’m not “settling,” I’m just aware that a lack of travel planning skills is not, for me, something worth dismissing a guy over. I’m accepting that he’s not Mr. Right, but he is Mr. Real (if I can be permitted to use the cheesy language of the article).

The Odds of Finding Your Soul Mate

To get away from the serious and the philosophical dimensions of love,  here is an intriguing video on the math of love found on one of my all-time favorite websites, Brain Pickings. Using two mathematical principles (the Fermi paradox and the Drake equation) , Joe Hanson calculates the odds of finding your soul mate and tells you why there are roughly 871 special someones for you out there. That is, 871 if you are a young female looking for a young gentleman in New York City.

Now, obviously, this number doesn’t apply to everyone since Hanson presented one specific case, but is the overall idea that you can calculate your odds of finding your soul mate valid? Can you create a formula and plug in what you are looking for to see how many individuals fit that description?

I think no. To extrapolate from some of Badiou’s views discussed earlier, love involves risk and the unknown. Putting it simply, most people don’t know what they are looking for, so they probably wouldn’t know what variables to plug into an equation to calculate how many people in this world are for them. While everyone can conjure up a list of desired qualities in their theoretical significant other, I’m not quite sure people have an accurate understanding on what qualities actually matter to them.

Contrary to most blogs, I don’t really want to get into my life experiences, but in this case I will share a bit. If someone had asked me what I was looking for in a guy before I met my current boyfriend, I would have said someone who: works at a job rather than owns a business, is politically and socially aware, is an avid reader and has a thirst for knowledge, loves to travel, is emotionally intelligent, and can communicate and discuss issues.

I’m not saying that my boyfriend doesn’t have some  of these qualities or that these are the most important traits I was looking for because clearly being a good, kind, gentle, loving, family-oriented, ambitious, driven person are all crucial on almost everyone’s list. Rather, I’m pointing out that if I was asked about what interests matter to me in addition to these key foundational qualities, I would not have aligned with my boyfriend. If I had seen him on a dating site, I would have thought he was attractive but after looking at his interests and his description, I would have dismissed him on the basis of incompatibility.

Therefore, I am very glad I met him in person and got to know him, and that we are together. In my experience, having common interests or the lack of common interests do not make or break a relationship. Those are plus points, but not essential. The items we are looking for in the ideal significant other do not often correspond to person we find ourselves in love with and wanting to be with.

I also have an issue with the idea of a soul mate, “the one”, etc. as I was telling a friend earlier today. I don’t believe that there is one person out there for you and that destiny will help you meet him/her….but that is for another post.

So, do you buy Hanson’s argument? Why? Or…why not?

Love, French Style

When I was thinking about what to write for my first post, I immediately thought about this article I read in The New York Times about the locks people place on the Pont de l’Archevêché in Paris. Apparently not only do Parisians (and French people in general) have an aversion to tourists weighing down their bridges with kitschy symbols of love but they also abhor the idea that a lock could represent love. Quoting a Parisian, the article notes:

“The fools! They haven’t understood a thing about love, have they?” was the conclusion recently of a 23-year-old waiter at Panis, a cafe on the Left Bank with a view over Notre-Dame. At the heart of love à la française lies the idea of freedom. To love truly is to want the other free, and this includes the freedom to walk away. Love is not about possession or property. Love is no prison where two people are each other’s slaves. Love is not a commodity, either. Love is not capitalist, it is revolutionary. If anything, true love shows you the way to selflessness….

In his recent book, “In Praise of Love,” the French philosopher Alain Badiou reminds us that love implies constant risk. There is no safe, everlasting love. The idea that you can lock two people’s love once and for all, and toss the key, is a puerile fantasy. For Mr. Badiou, love is inherently hazardous, always on the brink of failure and above all vulnerable. Embrace its fragility, wish your beloved to be free and you might just, only just, have a chance to retain his or her undying gratitude, and love. But don’t ever dream of locks and throwing keys overboard, especially not in Paris.

Pont de l'Archevêché

As beautiful as the idea is of love meaning you want your significant other to be free, I’m skeptical of believing that. Maybe it’s because for me love and security also go hand in hand, and security and the freedom to walk away clash. But theoretically, I do agree that love should be about open doors and the freedom to walk in and out. It’s human to want to hold onto and preserve something once you get it, but nothing lasts for ever, especially if you force it to last.

I’ve bought Badiou’s book on Kindle so I can’t wait to delve into what he says.