Relationships start off with us seeing our partner as the idealized, the perfect person. Everything about them is new, seductive and something we can’t live without and you lust after them nonstop. Then, as the relationship continues, things start to dull out. You’re with them for a couple years, get to “known” them more, you get busy with work and getting degrees, maybe get married and have a few kids. Things feel pretty dead. What happened?
This seems to be the expected norm for long term relationships. Have wild sex and adventure with them for a while and then finally grow up and become adults in an adult relationship which turns into resentment and dissatisfaction, and in more than half of marriages and relationships, separation where you feel you’ve wasted your life and never got to explore yourself and were imprisoned in the relationship and by your lover.
Humanity has this continuous pull between love vs desire, adventure vs commitment. As asked by The Cardigans in their song Please Sister, “Why do all love’s disciples have to wither and die?” and then asks, “So if it’s true, that love will never die. Then why do the lovers work so hard to stay alive?” The feels and looks as if it’s the natural way of relationships and we have to fight to keep them going, but that doesn’t seem true when observing and exploring with people in these relationships.
A young female client of mine, Mary, would call her husband “regular” because he was so tame and bland. The sexual excitement was gone, everything was habitual, sex was boring, passionless and rare. As we continued to explore his “regular” status, we came to ask the question if she was invested in him being “regular”. The client had a history of dating the exciting men, dangerous, drug users who, even though the relationships were exciting, were destructive to her. “I had to have an abortion back then. I never thought I would ever do that, but there was no way I could have his kid.”
With continuous exploration, she saw ways she would insist on him being dull and dependable. If he ever wanted to try something new in their erotic life she would deny him, even though she complained much about the habitualness of their sex life. If he tried to be adventurous and take her away on a spontaneous romantic getaway, she would make up excuses for why they couldn’t go. “What the fuck is wrong with me? It’s like I’m trying to kill our souls!”
We talked much on the phrase of killing their souls. What did it mean to do that? The client then asked me,
“You know that song by Ricky Martin Living Lavida Loca?”
“I am her. I have this soul in me that is devilishly intoxicating, into having new sensations and addictions, having a crazy life that blurs out all my pain and I will wear him out. When he gets spontaneous, does things that I want from him that are edgy, I feel my soul ignite and it’s too dangerous. I can destroy all the safety that we’ve made.”
“What’s wrong with that?”
“…” This silence was long and I felt the induction of the fear and excitement of this question.
“I’d fuck him to death. He would die in this beautiful freedom of life and chaos. In this pure connection and communication.”
The client found that she was invested in her husbamd being dull as to keep herself safe from her soul. He had to be safe to keep her respectable, an adult. Without that, she would lose all control. To her surprise, when she started allowing his spontaneous actions, he was also wild and impulsive.
“I thought I knew him, but Jesus Christ he’s worse than I am…I love it.”
“The unconscious intention of much familiarity is to kill desire and this may be the unconscious abiding wish. The type of knowing that kills desire is the type of knowing that takes the humanity out of the other person, the unknowns, the intensities, the uniqueness and makes them into predictable patterns. Making someone a habit, being so infuriating to them because it strips away everything that makes them complex and themselves, is a protective degradation, a defense against vulnerability to romantic love (pp. 44-45).”
We saw this with Mary. There was this illusion that she knew her husband. It was a co-creation between the two of them to keep the relationship safe for it was discovered that they both struggled with the fear letting their souls out to be free and genuine. They let themselves become vulnerable to the uncontrollable nature romantic love and have reaped the benefits of it in their relationship without suffering destruction.
“Love and desire are not subject to our conscious will. Love dies or else lovers die, notes Harold Bloom in his discussion of Romeo and Juliet, “those are the pragmatic possibilities.” Romantic passion requires a surrender to a depth of feeling that should come with guarantees. Unfortunately, there are no guarantees. Love and life are inevitably risky (pp. 53-55).” To kill the risk is to kill the romantic love and passion for an illusionary safety. “Love without desire can be tender, intimate and secure, but love without desire lacks adventure, edge, the sense or risk that fuels romantic passion (pp. 34).”
Now, for the Advice.
Can Love Last by Stephen Mitchell