When we distinguish what we see in relationships from our sentiment ABOUT relationships, it seems that a great deal of what passes for love rests on fear: practical fears, fear of the unknown, fear of being alone. People confuse agreeable circumstances with love. We like sex, money, amusements, and leisure. Those things are worth having, but they are not love. Sometimes, people share these things with others whom they think are contemptible. The fears above are self-defensive and often predatory. They may motivate us, but they don’t make life worth living. My love invites discovery of what’s best in life, a joy in the things that make life worth living.
Before venturing into the darker aspects of human relationships, and returning to the light let’s remember that if we define love by some object or action, we probably mislead ourselves. Let’s ask whether someone unloving can do that action. The answer is usually yes. Unloving people often give time, hugs, gifts, sex, dinners out, travel vacations, money, etc. The relationship exists as an investment, a means to an end.
For me, the closer love comes to friendship, the better it gets.
A friend can get old, get fat, get sick, and grow poor and stay a friend. A friend doesn’t exist to serve our purposes and our friends can love whoever else they want. Such love is an end unto itself, be it sexual or otherwise. Ironically, this kind of love seems far beyond what most people consider safe in sexual relationships.
Love wants to live but no relationship is guaranteed.
I’ve spent most of my adult life in loving open relationships, one spanning over two decades, so I know it can be done. I know ‘normal’ people might not handle such freedom well, so it does make sense for them to avoid it, but in light of what often happens to these people, I can’t say what they do is better. These folks often endure the pain of divorce; infidelity; deceit; abuse; coercion, including emotional manipulation; and, in the worst case, homicide. Many also endure the loss of days, years, and decades in dead relationships.
A love limited by self-centered fear, emotionally charged wishful thinking and veiled selfishness often deteriorate into dead routines. These routines can include all the activities that people enjoy. I suggest that most relationships, including many relationships that last a lifetime, move in a cycle. We could symbolize such relationship cycles as moving in a circle from A to B to C to D and back to A. Somewhere between B and D, the relationship dies, regardless of whether the relationship ends. The difference between the length of time it takes to begin and end one relationship in this cycle is not nearly as relevant as people like to think. What’s misleading is that, if someone dies between A and B in a relationship, it will seem to others as if they ‘succeeded,’ when, in fact, they were just a few days or years away from ending it on D.
I suggest that a relationship can be a journey to ‘this’ and then a deeper understanding of ‘this’ to still more adapting to ‘this,’ with ‘this’ defined as ‘this that it is, and can be no other thing.’ It is reality or as close as we can get AND ‘this’ is in a constant state of flux. ‘This’ is not bound to a particular outcome because ‘this’ is already here. We may make plans, the outcome of which is not guaranteed, but whatever happens, it will always be ‘this.’
When is it time to leave a relationship?
I’ve pondered the above question quite a bit and my answers don’t gel with typical thoughts. For me, the only reason to leave a relationship is that it’s destructive in some way (e.g., it’s reckless, deceitful, coercive, or violent). If someone has no interest in being with another person, then that is also a real reason to end or change a relationship. What is surprising to me is, assuming genuine affection, when a relationship ends and nothing destructive is happening. I suspect that it has to do with the types of fears listed above, although I admit that this statement is only a guess.
When we try to explain why a relationship changes or ends, we have countless alternatives (e.g., someone got scared, he/she was just using him/her, we were not sexually compatible, I’m too fat, it’s because I’m white or not white, he/she is neurotic, he/she was playing a game, he/she loves someone else). I choose not to come to a final conclusion when asking why a relationship ends because it is impossible to know and such explanations are cheap self-consolation. Hell, even if someone tells you why, you can’t really know whether it’s true. We may not, ourselves, know why we are ending relationships. Knowing why may be a booby prize, but simply cutting it off without any communication is hard. It’s not a yes or no, it’s being left in the dark.
Digressing, this piece is also a message to a particular person I hope will read it, so it is also a love letter. I admit this freely. I’m letting the rest of you in on something personal.
I chose elephants as the image to represent what I’m saying for a few reasons. The first reason is that the alpha can either be a male or female. Elephants choose the best elephant for the job regardless of gender. Unlike the common and perverted human idea of an alpha, with elephants and other animals, the alpha defends the others in the group. The alpha will charge hunters and die for the group. What humans consider the alpha is often cowardly, exploitative, and deceitful. Elephants will also do everything in their power not to leave another behind and, in this regard, they shine. Sometimes, elephants simply must go on when one of their own is trapped in the mud, but before they abandon the other to its fate, they try everything possible to save the other. Elephants also weep because love wants to live. Why reject the pain of being separated from people, after all it is one of the things tears are for, but, sometimes, the mud that people are stuck in is incomprehensible drug abuse, manipulative behavior, deceit and, even more subtle, the thick mud of belief, prejudice, and imagined fears.
Having experienced the death of a beloved, I take parting with another seriously. With every person I’ve ever walked away from, both friends and sexual friends, I’ve felt pain. I’ve always hoped to find a way to be with them in some way. This opening could be initiated by the other person or me. Regardless, I always hope for a reunion in some way and I am fortunate to have found a way to love most of the people whom I have known in my life, including ex-lovers.
To me, love is like a caravan where people can come and go. Love makes room to hear both yes and no because love is primary. Granting love is not destructive, our expectations are secondary; our ideas about love may not be adapted to the events or people in our lives. Love is an end in itself, not a means to an end. This love does not exclude cooperation, but cooperation happens naturally. Let’s try to adapt to each other’s needs because loving together is a precious part of enjoying a good life. Let’s value love as such while we can because (to quote the poet Kabir) “the flute of interior time plays whether we hear it or not.”
Love wants to live.
By Todd Vickers
Edit: 14/04/2017 Grammar and SEO