The De-evolution of the ‘Relationship’

‘Perhaps they were right in putting love into books’, he thought quietly. ‘Perhaps it could not live anywhere else’. ~William Faulkner

I’d previously voiced my distress over the demise of love; this beautiful thing that has been used and misused, abused and mistreated, until it’s doubtful many people know what it really feels like anymore. As a consequence of the destruction of love, relationships are now a shadow of what they could possibly be.

Like many young women of my generation, my introduction to relationships came from literature. Yes, there was television to some extent, but when I thought of a relationship, what came to mind, what I aspired to, what I longed for, was what was described in detail in the Mills and Boon books to which I had become addicted. As my reading tastes evolved, so did my aspirations, and I left behind the two dimensional sameness of Mills and Boon for the more complex world of romantic suspense and historical romances. The rich outlines of timeless, enduring loves – men who desired and cherished and protected their women and their families, women who adored and had faith in and nurtured their men. The loves songs seemed to support the possibility of it as well. But the books, the books were the blueprint, the instruction manual.

Now, there are times I wonder if any of that is possible, if it ever even existed. These weren’t fairy tales, they were complex stories of relationships that faced the test of loss, war, difficulties and differences. But in practicality, my experience has been vastly different. I have friends, acquaintances and family members who have long abandoned the hope of finding ‘true love’; beaten down by lies and disappointment and deceit. Some however, still hold out, in faith, in need, in desperation for at least a compatible partner with whom to share the minutiae as well as the extraordinary.

One of my favourite terms, and one which I’ve used to describe myself, is ‘hopeless romantic‘. Though fanciful, it should in fact mean something positive. But when someone very casually pointed out that maybe what I’m looking for doesn’t exist, it took on new meaning. Maybe I’m no longer hopelessly romantic, maybe I’m just a romantic without hope. What’s disheartening is that I know it’s not hopeless, that what I’m looking for does exist. I know it exists because it’s what I am, it’s what I want to be for someone. I also see it in some of the couples I know. The ones who have committed to building their relationship day by day, the ones who love each other out loud. And while they give me hope, I’m also forced to concede that maybe what I need exists in such small quantities that there’s just no more left. But it must exist though, all those poets and authors and songwriters must have been writing about something that they’ve observed or experienced. It can’t be some collective, artistic delusion. Right?

Maybe some people have given all their love to someone who used it up but never replenished the supply. Love is mutual and if you give and don’t receive you can absolutely run out. Maybe some people have a wealth of love to give, but are afraid to give it because they’re afraid that it will be used up and then they too will have none left. I’ve met some people who have chosen not to love. I’ve met some people who do not want to be loved. I’ve met some people who do not even have a concept of love, and so do not know how to choose or give or receive it.

And without love, relationships just don’t make sense. A relationship should be a joy, not an obligation or a chore or a burden. So many people are content with or resigned to mediocrity, with passionless existences, with obligatory activities, with boring sex if any at all. Shadows of themselves interacting with the shadow of someone else. I’ve compromised before and watched myself fade, unable to truly, fully become a unit with someone else. I can’t do that again.

It seems so simple – attention, affection, inclusion, communication, compassion, eat sleep repeat. Giving and receiving, treating someone the way we wish to be treated, loving someone the way we wish to be loved. Treating them and loving them the way they wish to be treated and loved. Having all that given back to us in equal measure. And yet, we’ve made it so hard. Pride and greed and stubbornness and anger and fear have reduced our ability to fully connect with another person. We run from anything that makes us vulnerable, hold back our needs and emotions and expectations and grow old alone, or worse, with the wrong person, because it was just too much work, to much risk to fully go after what we really want.

I’m not afraid though, and when the opportunity presents itself, when I find my equal, I will absolutely grab hold of it. I will fearlessly love someone, completely, passionately, every single day that they will let me. Until then, I’ll be the hopelessly hopeless romantic that I’ve become…

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