The Road to Relationship Hell is Paved With Good Intentions
Love: It’s confusing. But, I’ll argue, it’s not confusing because there’s something inherently hard about it. It’s confusing because our society doesn’t give us any cues whatsoever on how to go about it.
If you were raised in the Western world, you probably had two basic information sources on how love was supposed to work: Your parents, and the media. Your parents can only show you their own personal brand of neurotic and dysfunctional love, which may or may not work. And the media essentially presents love as this “magic thing” that happens to people who then live happily ever after, kind of like a baby dropping a stork down the chimney. Except babies aren’t created by getting dropped down the chimney by some annoying freakin’ bird (seriously, has anybody even SEEN a stork? What are they? Where do they even live, Tanzania? These days a baby getting dropped down the chimney by some fritzy scavenging raccoon would at least be more believable). And love just doesn’t happen by a wand getting magically waved and two people riding into the sunset, roll credits. It’s formed when people get bored of having sex with each other but decide to stick around anyway because they’re comfortable and lazy and the economics are broadly feasible. And a billion other subtle and not-so-subtle factors. I doubt we even have a proper working vocabulary to describe all those factors and stages of a relationship—much like eskimos have 80 words for snow and we only have one. We just have no working language for understanding love, and we don’t prepare children for it at all, much like we don’t talk about sex at all and then expect them to figure it all out on their own.
So why are we surprised when we raise kids on Disney movies that present love as a fairy tale, and then wonder why they end up with bitterly broken relationships, unwanted children and steep therapist bills when reality doesn’t conform to expectations?
Love is tough. It’s not a fairy tale. It’s two complex, different people trying to align their lives in a way which is hopefully mutually supportive. It’s also two people dragging along their childhood baggage, expectations, and the prying influence of their friends, relatives and religious and cultural, combined with the hard realities of work and money. It’s a complex set of negotiations around whether to reproduce, and what that should look like. It’s trying to get two personalities that, as much as they may seem similar on the surface, will inevitably end up with some jarring differences that they will have to work out and negotiate, often over the course of years, before they grind the relationship to bits.
I think we need a new vocabulary for love, and to take a cold look at all of the factors that go into it. It does us all a great disservice to have a Disney-fied view of it, and that it should just be 100% perfect immediately if it’s real. We need to be honest. We need to be pragmatic. For God’s sake, India has the lowest divorce rate in the world, and they get married off by their parents on the basis of astrology and offers of cold, hard cash. And that’s the best working system on the planet! Not like in the West, where we’re left to run around trying to find somebody in some bar or who knows our friends or who we’re thrown together with by happenstance at our school or work, and then somehow immediately drop into “I wuv you fowever you are the only one for meee… let’s share credit cards.”
You don’t love somebody, in my opinion, when you ride into the sunset with them while sparkles fly through the air. You love them when you can hear them taking a crap in the next room on a regular basis and not care.
And that, as they say, is Reality.
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