About Love Part IV: The more you want it, the more it slips away

Title Pictures for about love part 4, a blog digging into relationships and the topic of love.

I just recently read a definition of love that was new to me, that love is the interest to help yourself or someone else in growing in a spiritual sense. While implying that there is also some sort of “fake love” which would be to invest feelings into someone else and expect this person to behave according to the feelings you project onto them.

The author also added, that abuse or negative feelings are not a form of love, rather punishing someone for not acting the way they’re supposed to do, according to the invested feelings: Which can be caring for someone in a twisted way, but not love. I thought about that and figured that this definition is not for me. This blog article might as well be called “a critic approach to the first couple of chapters of “about love” by Bell Hooks” but there’ll be more.

I’ll try to dissect love from butterflies and rainbows, going over reasons why I think good relationships are messy and uncomfortable at times and how love is anything but a constant interest in helping the other person grow.

By the way, just like my last posts on the topic, this is obviously completely subjective. That being said, to simplify things, I’m going to pretend its facts, since it’s rather annoying to add an “in my opinion” after every sentence. Here is a overview of this rather long post, but to be fair it’s the first I wrote within two years so ofc it escalated a bit.

Part I: Love is not a good willed intention

What I didn’t like about the general Idea that love is being the intent to make someone else or oneself spiritually grow is for one: It’s highly subjective what growing actually is, not every development is for the better after all, and to think that we ourselves know, what makes others “grow”, is arrogant.

Actually, it might even be dangerous to have the assumption that we know what is good for someone else in an intimate relationship: Could cause grooming, controlling, and feelings of superiority.

And secondly, the concept of love being pleasant and a beautiful investment into one another just strikes me as being way too specific and positive. Love is not a specific process people follow through to make each other better human beings, it’s highly individual.

You can tell someone “I love you” and feel the most overwhelming happiness within you, almost exploding with endorphin levels as high as if you just popped ecstasy pills like Tic Tac. And yet, at the same time, you can tell someone the exact same three words, with the same honesty behind them, while feeling so miserable, as if someone had just ripped every ounce of happiness and hope out of your body and flushed it down the drain, leaving you within a black hole of sadness and self-pity.

And in both scenarios you would be sure that it was love, that it was real. And in both instances, you felt completely overwhelmed by emotions.

For me, love, rather than being a single emotion, is a multiplier: Hence, it can make negative emotions, as well as positive emotions, stronger. So while I’m pretty sure that me sending sad music titles to my ex at 3 am is not my way to make her spiritually grow, yet it might be the result of me having loved her.

Sleepless nights and other side effects

I think I can identify love or its absence very clearly by its physical nature, if I’m sleepless at night, my mind restless thinking about someone, my heartbeat rising and my body unable to fall asleep, that’s love to me (or a panic attack). If I meet someone that I love, and we’re on bad terms and my stomach is completely turned upside down, that’s a sign of love to me.

When I’m angry about some minor thing, that doesn’t even annoy me the slightest when friends are doing it, this could be love. And feel free to call that toxic, love can be toxic.

There is a saying, you can’t truly hate someone, unless you loved them. I think that’s bull but if you’ve ever experienced how insanely fast positive emotions can perform a complete 180 in a steamy relationship, you can’t argue that love has the potential to cause a lot of hatred.

Yet we’re hesitant to put that “hate” in correlation with love, even if those feelings are felt with the same intensity and, I might dare to imply, that the hate, you’ve for someone you loved, is just another side of the same coin. As soon as we limit love to only the good and spiritual growing intentions, we strip people of the right to have negative emotions because of love.

That doesn’t mean that I’m flying colors for the horrible things that can grow out of love, like violence, emotional blackmailing, or other ways to fuck someone psychologically or emotionally up, but I want to crack that sugarcoating, that love is supposed to be something positive.

Why best friends can be horrible lovers

Like mentioned, I understand love as something that multiplies someone’s feeling towards someone else, rather than being a single emotion or action. I can physically feel, by the way my body reacts to someone, that I “love”, because everything just gets stronger and more intense, it gets uncontrollable to some extent.

At the same time, when I don’t “love” someone, my emotions stay at a mundane level. It does not feel as uncontrollable and can be very caring and friendly. It is what makes me a good friend and counsellor to my close ones. I wouldn’t be if I would get overly emotional about their issues, if I would get annoyed and judgmental when they repeat the same mistakes.

I think this is also how some people can be the best friends and always appear fun, gentle, and caring – essences of harmony, calming down their peers and being great pillars within their friend circle: While being a complete clusterfuck in a relationship.

Because we don’t get this emotional with our friends most of the time, they get the cozy, fluffy treatment some partners are crying to get from us – And it’s not like we want too, we can’t control how we feel, we’re getting overwhelmed just as much.

But the modern perspective on love has a fixation on the positive, which is mostly intimacy, pleasurable emotions and getting a lot of affirmation and constant understanding. This concept gives us a wrong impression on what love actually is and that’s not positive and comfortable at times.

Love hurts and that’s how it should be

A lot of people got hurt over love even more than they gained from it. Yet they still continue to pursue it, because we have this deep desire, for a closer connection to someone, one that’s on a different and deeper intimate level than friendship and family. Because we crave the high of this emotional roller coaster.

I’m at a point where I’m convinced that even persuing of negative emotions is just hunting down another high and something that’s just as addictive. Strong emotions can be so overwhelming, that everything else is fading into the background, just like the loud music during a first kiss on a dance floor or the lack of any appetite, or motivation to do anything aside from listening to your saddest songs on repeat after a painful break-up.

Not only do those strong emotions help us to forget about everything else, they also help us to deal with stuff that we couldn’t approach in other forms of relationships.

Sometimes we need others to play our heartstrings

Alan Watts once said that we ought to love those we hate, simply because we should be glad they are there. Without them, we couldn’t identify our own nature. Being a “good” person or group is only possible because they, the people we dislike, are bad. Without them, we can’t identify ourselves as being morally superior and that’s something worth digging deeper: Why we separate ourselves from certain people/communities, can help us understand our own self-perception, help us get kinder and more tolerant.

It’s the same with struggling within a loving relationship, we could discover our shortcomings, unhealthy traumas and wrong assumptions: But most of the time, the partner is going to be the villain for showing them to us and sparking discomfort. It takes a lot of commitment, to stick to each other and figuring out what’s actually just a reflection of our own skeletons in the closet.

That’s conflict and that’s dealing with heavy stuff, that’s suffering and being angry or getting hurt and not “being interested in oneself or the other’s spiritual growth” – but it might be unavoidable, if we want to “grow” as a person.

Part II: Acknowledge that relationships cause pain

For the longest time in my life I recognized my parent’s relationship as a smoking train wreck with three survivors, my two sisters and me. That drastically changed over the last few years. I broke up with people after things got a little complicated and at the same time, experienced getting dumped, after I got emotional and lost my “everything goes, nothing is expected” attitude.

The start of an intimate connection began to feel like carefully walking on broken light bulbs around a very sensitive noise detector that’s ready to abandon ship if triggered.

I started to notice, that couples who fight in their relationships, who have hardships and arguments, work on them and don’t let go of one another, even when shit hits the fan completely – might look like a clown car from the outside, but with every time they figure things out, their bond is getting stronger and stronger.

Forgiving and taking the effort to understand someone, even reflecting ones own mistakes takes so much more strength, determination and courage than taking the easy way out, distancing oneself or taking the chances with the next person.

Scar tissue and broken bones

My parents basically broke up prior to my birth, but decided they were gonna stick with each other, to be there for their kids, as best as they can. They kept on fighting, they kept on arguing and repeating the same topics over and over until they got better, it was hard, but they stayed, they stayed not just for their children but because they wanted to be there for each other.

That might not have created a happy playing house environment in my childhood, but taught me at least one important lesson… like 30 years later. That the strongest companionship had their fair share of uncomfortable history.

However, getting through negative emotions and situations in a relationship, doesn’t mean at all that it’ll be guaranteed to be good for oneself or the other. Good, that you’ll learn something about ourselves and get more open-minded with our loved ones, while bad meaning, you now need to find a therapist because you’ve just developed a PTSD.

How we fight and the conclusions we draw from them, is probably the most significant factor, if two people stick to each other long term: If they are good for each other.

I like to use the metaphor of broken bones or scar tissue fights. If a bone breaks, once completely healed, it’s stronger – scar tissue, on the other hand, gets more and more vulnerable the more often it’s damaged, until the smallest incident can open it up again.

I think it’s very similar with confrontations within relationships. Couples with a healthy fighting culture figure things out eventually and get stronger. On the other hand, couples with a bad fighting culture, don’t solve the issues but postpone them into the future – get more sensitive towards towards them and, I’m sorry I’ve tried to avoid this term but here we are, easily triggered.

And sadly, if they don’t get help, more and more reasons for fights will pile up, spiral out of control and take the center stage in the relationship, until it gets the ugliest and scars or broken bones might not be metaphorical anymore and most people, rightfully, draw the line.

About boundaries and dealbreakers

Obviously, there are pretty lost causes and stuff you can’t fix. I think everyone needs to set boundaries and stick with them; cheating, violence (be it emotional or physical), stalking or blackmailing are pretty rational dealbreakers to call the quits. Although I have to say at this point that emotional and verbal abuse might be way underestimated in our society. There is stuff that can’t be solved within a relationship, since a partner can’t be a therapist at the same time.

But there is a difference between a tearful confession like “we’ve been living apart for months and had a huge fight, and I made out with someone completely drunk” and “I’ve been systematically cheating on you for the past half year, and I’m getting clean because one of your friends saw us”. In the same way that many people (past me included), use terms like gaslighting, bipolar, triggering etc. way too lightheartedly.

I’m just emphasizing that in the event of broken boundaries, there can be a grey area. If they’re crossed in one way or another, and they’re used as a wake-up call, instead of becoming the new norm, further spiraling the relationship into an abyss, they might be a way to tackle a heavy underlying issue and grow together.

Take that with a grain of salt, because once certain lines are crossed, things can go downhill fast (speaking from experience here). And even if two people are willing to put in the effort, both of them, it won’t be pretty, and it might fail, hurting even more. If that happens, we start putting up walls and begin to take control over our intimate relationships, or at least try too.

Part III: We can’t control the direction love takes, but adjust who we fall for

The older you get, the more you have an understanding of when you fall for someone. Getting hopelessly struck by love doesn’t happen anymore and a lot of people start to think the absence of this kind of strong, out of control, falling into love sensation is the absence of youth, of true romance, that they experienced in their teens.

What they’re missing is just being inexperienced, being naive and blindly falling into a deep hole of emotions like Alice, when she followed the white rabbit into wonderland. Which is what we wouldn’t do as “proper adults”, since, who in their right mind would blindly jump into a bottomless pit within a hollow tree after they developed a sense of self-preservation.

While, at least in my experience, it’s possible to fall in love madly and losing every sense of self-preservation after your teens as well (don’t worry, there can be drama for everyone and in all stages of existence), maybe even more so, since opening up to someone happens ever so rarer and takes a lot of trust, opening up, making oneself vulnerable to get hurt deeper than before.

And I think that’s what changed, we can, most of the time, decide when and to whom we open up, which is a good thing, if people don’t get paranoid about it.

About avoiding and causing negative emotions

We can control who we fall for, at least at the beginning, by cutting off the connection to someone before “love” (the emotions) takes over. It’s important that we get at least some sort of control over it, but what happens when we’ve had a tad too many bad experiences in our last relationships or attempts?

I know so many people by now, who like that kind of control to such an extent, they don’t want to let it go entirely. They bounce out of intimate connections asap when they smell only the slightest disharmony or get too close to someone: Fear of commitment.

Being a long time single I did the exact opposite, digging out conflict and trying to figure out what might, in just the slightest chance, cause issues later down the line – That’s fun to deal with and a real bummer after the floating high of the honeymoon phase: But you know if someone sticks through that, you know it’s going to be great!… not really: Fear of loss doesn’t deepen the bound between two people.

In the same way, avoiding confrontation doesn’t produce meaningful partnership, causing confrontation doesn’t build a more secure partnership.

We tend to act like that because we’re afraid of the feelings someone might invoke within us, since to love is risking to feel and feelings are well known to not work the way we want them too. And sadly, most of the time, we tend to shift the blame for our feelings onto others.

Three ways; how not to deal with negative emotions towards your partner

Making the other person responsible for your feelings and expecting them to change, is a form of trying to gain and keep control over someone: Since you make your own well-being dependent on somebody else instead of yourself, you feel entitled to pressure, since it’s about your mental health and you can’t help yourself.

In the worst stages, people who are controlling their partner, justifying that behaviour by their feelings, can get overwhelmed by them and become abusive. Which tends to happen more often with partners, who get devotional towards them for one reason or another.

Devotional in a sense of completely stagnating, how we like to describe it in the German language, play a dying swan (which is way less fun than it sounds). Meaning that you’ll just surrender yourself to being unable to change the situation and marinate in self pity: Which is, in its essence, another form of entitlement. And sometimes, people who’re suffering in this position start practising worse.

More often than I like to admit, I acted like an asshole, because my significant other has done/is doing the same, trying to make things right by practising a similar or even worse behavior: To somehow cope with something that I condemn in them, to regulate those negative feelings, as if they would go away if I would just act the same way.

Which, surprise, didn’t end well. If you try to act like something you despise, you’re lying to yourself, and end up more frustrated and judgmental, since you’ll probably can’t perform that behaviour with so much drive/passion/enjoyment than your partner did or does.

You could be overstepping boundaries and end up doing worse than what you judge your partner for, since you might be way in over your head (looking at you Ashley from temptation island USA season 2). But what is a better solution?

About not being a hypocrite and making a stand for oneself

I feel that rather often, most of the issues in a relationship that I had, could have been avoided, if I had considered myself responsible for the way I’m feeling, instead of making it someone else’s fault.

The better way, for me at least, would have been to clear my head, figure out if it’s just me being childish, getting angry over stuff that I’m not willing to admit to myself I have a problem with. Taking a huge step back, to get some emotional distance, and maybe realizing that I might be a hypocrite on some topics.

Communication, especially if it gets ugly, is such an important key factor and like I mentioned before, figuring out a way to have fights with one another that solve and heal things (the broken bone that gets stronger), instead of just stockpiling on topics that two people don’t like about each other (the scar tissue that opens up easier the more it gets hurt) is so essential.

For what we must be willing to not make someone else responsible for the feelings that they invoke in us. As well as accepting character traits that we don’t like. Rather, trying to figure out why we have an issue with them in the first place.

So many fights are just a byproduct of deeper rooted issues, if you figured that out, at least let your partner/or yourself know that the breakfast dishes are not flying through the room like it’s a polterabend because someone brought the wrong jam, again. Might save everyone involved from picking up some new traumas to deal with in their next relationship.

Part IV: The more you want it, the more it slips away

In Buddhism, they say “To be aware of a single shortcoming within oneself is more useful than to be aware of a thousand in somebody else.”, sounds cheesy, but that kind of mindset would have saved one or two relationships I’ve had in the past.

Would it have saved all of them, no, definitely not.

Because sometimes we get stuff thrown at us, not just my favorite coffee mug, which is just out of line, has nothing to do with us. And instead of trying to surrender to the situation, control it or pay them back by doing the same: We could say our goodbyes respectfully. Hope things will look better for each other in the future.

But to do that, we first have to accept pain and negativity in relationships and that means letting go of the idea that love is a magical, positive journey of self discovery and growth. The more one expects those flourishing, nice aspects from a relationship, the more they’ll push people away when actual growth could happen. Because actual growth is most of the time not the easy path, it’s not pretty and hurts like hell, but it certainly makes us more loving, tolerant human beings if processed through.

And I think it’s good, that is what creates deeper bonds and an endless possibility to learn, to help, to become one and to break apart, to feel something that makes your whole world crumble, just the way it made it bloom – this is what makes it worthwhile.

What’s love without drama?

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