Those of who Loved the 80’s understand the title and the picture, wisdom from the Howard Jones…
I wondered what would happen if I really combined my psychological and theological perspectives and my experiences as a middle aged man on my own ideas of romantic Love. I don’t think my ideas (ideals?) are that much different from most Americans.
I was originally going to call this “I don’t believe in Love anymore, is that so wrong?” but then I decided it was too harsh and actually not really true.
What is true is that my particular mid-life crisis seems to really be focus on the meaning of romantic Love. At mid-life a lot of us get reflective, perhaps philosophical, perhaps wise, perhaps depressed. In the middle of our lives, many of us feel compelled to put the experiences of half of a lifetime in contrast with our long held concepts, ideas and values. Sometime people write great books or bad poetry, some change their religious or spiritual beliefs, some people find new, more satisfying careers, others have meaningless affairs or buy sports cars. It is an opportunity for great insight and wisdom, though honestly sometimes it just feels like the rug is being pulled out from under us with nothing to hold on to…
For most of my life I was sure… really sure… that when I really fell in Love, when any two people really connected, everything would work out…it would have to, it was party of “the plan.” I believed Love had a magical power you count on that made everything just right. It could easily be said I had a faith in Love that was VERY similar to religious faith.
Over the years, when that belief didn’t pan out, I could always explain it away. When I first came out, I was sure I would fall in Love soon and live happily ever after. When that didn’t happen I was just sure I hadn’t met the right guy “yet.” Love required patience. Then a couple I knew, who seems perfect for each other admitted infidelity I was shaken. I was very disillusioned, but still believe it was an aberration, and Love would find away. When I first met a couple who had an open relationship and that shook me, but still I believed in Love. While personally I have always known myself to be pretty much a one guy guy, I came to believe that monogamy and non-monogamy are choices in relationships that are less about morality and more about the personal nature of the people involved. Anyway, I came to see that either option could find Love and Love would make everything OK, and real Love would still win out and change everything
I really believed (and I think a lot of Americans still do believe) that once you found true Love, your life would make perfect sense. As if by magic, true Love would transform everything and everyone would live happily ever after. I believed that once you really made that connection, it would be the beginning of eternal happiness and you would either understand the meaning of life, or would stop caring about it.
But, then slowly, as the years went on and on the doubts crept in more and more and got harder to shake off. When my father and my friend Rob died within a about a year of one another, I was devastated. Afterlife or not, I was not prepared for how real their losses would be to me, how real the sense of never seeing them in the flesh would feel. I really shook me, gave me doubt about what Love was, and how exactly Love was “eternal.”
Then there was watching the relationships of people in my life. No offense to any of you reading this, but over time, I came find fewer and fewer relationships I really envied. I watched relationships I knew (gay and straight) turn bitter, anger or empty over time. Some of those relationships ended, some did not…frankly I am not sure whether I am sadder about the relationships that ended, or the ones that stayed together. Found myself looking at some of these relationships and being disillusioned that the people in them weren’t willing to work harder to stay together. Looking at others, I thought how much happier everyone could be if both parties just moved on and left each other. I have seen people cling to a relationship because the idea of being alone or causing any conflict were too much to bear. I have seen people given up on partner too easily, with no patience, strength or willingness to weather a storm.
Then there are my broken romances. I won’t give too many details, to protect myself and both the innocent and the guilty. Needless to say, I have felt like I was in Love probably 3-4 times in my life (that number changes depending on how my selective memory works on a given day and how deeply I am willing to look back) and believe I have actually been really been in Love, exactly once. Whatever has been true in my romantic life, Love did not make everything better, clearer or easier and here I sit, a single, yet not totally unfulfilled, 44 year old man.
So what do all these reflections leave me thinking about the nature of romantic Love…stay tuned for the next posting…