Thursday, November 16, 2006

What Is Love, Anyway?

I really envy all those people who seem so in love with their partner, so sure that they made the right decision to be with that person, even when they're fighting or going through something stressful. I've never had that, at least not for any length of time. Oh, I've had relationships, but I've always been plagued by this idea, after maybe the first year, that it just wasn't going to work out. There's always something about the person that I don't click with, something that drives me batty about them, or something that makes me think 'RED FLAG! RED FLAG!" . Either I'm not physically attracted to them, they bore me, or they have different ways of viewing the world that it just doesn't seem possible to work through.

As I've been getting older, with no foreseeable strong, secure, lasting relationship in sight, it's been on my mind more and more. Is it just that I'm not the kind of person who can be in a relationship? Am I too something: too stubborn, too judgmental, too set in my ways, too introverted, too sarcastic? Am I kidding myself when I dream of having a stable, committed long term relationship with someone who loves me, warts and all?

The thing is, I do have someone who loves me like that, I just don't know if I love HIM that way, unconditionally, willing to forgive his flaws as he's willing to forgive mine. I find myself now in a place of ambivalence with him - do I stay, do I go, do I do something else...? Is it my predeliction for ambivalence cropping up now, or is it that this really isn't the relationship for me? Should I listen to my mind ("You've broken up and gotten back together 3 times in six years!") or to my heart ("He sees you the way you've always wanted to be seen. He treats you better than any lover ever has.")

I've been reading a lot of books about zen and mindfulness in relationships these days, and they all say the same thing: ambivalence and confusion are okay. The true path to love is to stay with those feelings of confusion, not fight them or try to pin them down. And intellectually I can buy that. But the western part of me, the one that grew up in a couple-centered culture where you're aren't really successful in life unless you have a significant other, is yammering away at me that I have to figure this out, and figure it out NOW. Either stay, and commit to this man, or go and find someone else. But DO SOMETHING.

I don't have a biological clock. I don't want kids, and never have. I have a good professional job and own my own home. I don't need anyone else at this stage, except emotionally. And I know intellectually that being in a relationship doesn't guarantee anything: not security, not happiness,not love, not having someone to grow old with, not anything. I know that. Yet there's a part of me that thinks if I just find that right person, I'll finally be happy and can stop searching for happiness. And that part of me is standing behind me , looking at this whatever I have with this man, and saying "that's not happiness!"But I don't know what happiness looks like. Emotionally, I feel like happiness should be a state of pure, uninterrupted bliss, but in reality, I think happiness is knowing in your soul that you can deal with whatever comes down the pike. And I don't know that with this relationship--whatever it is. But is that true, or is it only my projection?

Nobody in my immediate family has ever had a healthy, long-term relationship, as far as I can tell. There's a long history of infidelity and divorce. So I never learned what it was to be in a healthy relationship. I know that's at least one of the core reasons why I can't seem to build one, either. I'm swimming blind here, trying to make it up. That's freeing in some ways and debilitating in others: I feel like I have the tools to build whatever I want, but I have no blueprints. The only thing I can do is try to pay attention, try to treat people well, and try to be loving to myself and others around me. Maybe that's really the only answer, but man, it sure doesn't fit into that fairytale romance crap I grew up believing: one man, one love, one white picket fence...

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