S&M: Wasting love
“What is love? Baby don’t hurt me. Don’t hurt me. No more.”
No. But seriously, what IS love? Is it that ineffable and irrevocable sensation of affection? Is love a myriad of emotions and behaviours characterised by affection, passion, intimacy and commitment? Is it a state of mind and being of prioritising someone else’s happiness over and above your own?
Or is it more primordial, where its basic instinct fusing with fatal attraction (an ‘80s/’90s double movie whammy right there!) or just undefined fleeting emotions of feeling a deep connection with someone, a longing to spend every moment with someone else who values you unequivocally? Is love an unwavering, unfaltering devotion to your partner with an emotional, physical, and spiritual attractiveness that cannot be summed by each of its parts alone?
This grand notion that love can be simply defined and categorised as a linear, fairy-tale-like generic experience, for lack of an euphemism, is sheer and utter poppy-cock.
A Whole Lotta Love
The ancient Greeks distinguished four notions that can be called love: Eros, Agape, Philia, and Storge. Eros embodies the essence of love as perceived conventionally, that is to say a romantic and sensual love, derived from the word erotas. Agape (a word Christians may recall from Corinthians in the New Testament) is somehow a much deeper and profound love.
Philia is affection towards one’s friends, associates, and peers – or brotherly love, as it were. Storge is more of a natural affection, like the love between a parent and a child.
These words and their meaning have naturally been deconstructed in post-modernist evolution.
Plato’s view was that love need not be reciprocated. Which is incidentally how the term “platonic” emerged. A love without physical attraction.
Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theories were that love is a form of re-finding, and also a discovery of narcissism. The latter has proven to be far more of an altruism in the 21st Century than one would have dared imagine. But there is more to this of
course, as Freud also stated that relationships deal with ambivalent feelings. That sexuality is a weakness all humans are subject to, while fantasy is an integral factor in sexual excitement. Also that our loved ones become a part of ourselves.
Who is right? Who is wrong?
Me thinks, it’s not as black and white as that.
Love, you see, transcends a variety of sub-disciplines, be it human nature, religion, labours of love, ethics, philosophy, and metaphysics. Love defies definition and meaning.
Out of the frying pan and into the fire
That’s romantic relationships in a nutshell today, is it not? Either it’s one foolish rebound after another ricocheted indolently into something serious overnight or two people so smitten with each other after a few shared encounters, but lacking the maturity and experience to act responsibly and with accountability take a dashing, sensational swan dive into the ether.
A better example would be like jumping off a plane without a parachute and wondering half way down why you would do something so bloody reckless. How can you accommodate and live with someone else if you have never lived independently on your own? How can you be one organism and function cohesively together as a couple when you barely can tell your own nose from your elbow?
I’ve noticed so many people rushing into the proverbial deep end in their relationships, before taking baby steps and first learning how to swim in the shallow end.
What happened to the realm of flirting and getting to know each other before you become an “official item”? What has become of those exciting and exhilarating moments of rendezvous, long chats with the waves lapping at your feet, those mischievous trysts under screaming starlight? Or time spent discovering the traits and attributes of one another while learning every curve, crevice. and contour of your partner’s body before going postal and nuclear impulsively?
I am not talking about open relationships or one night stands here.
So many today treat relationships like fast food. It’s a smoke and mirrors game of cat and mouse, where the entire arc of discovering each other is lost in the desire to seek validation and societal solidarity before you’ve even begun to figure out what rubs each other the wrong way.
Many are the people I know who meet up, hurry into dating, rush into marriage, and then within a few months begin to grasp that all the beautiful flowers have wilted, that the shimmer and shine has faded, that they are enthralled and charmed no more; and the moment life faces a few hurdles and storms, they grow fed up of each other and are all but ready to jump ship. They become resentful. Indifferent. Self-conceited. Vindictive.
And finally all those tiny cracks and fissures turn into gargantuan fractures where splinters of bone are coming asunder that you can’t simply slap a band-aid over.
Symptoms of a bigger problem
What is compatibility? Why are so many people unhappy in relationships, in marriages? Why is there so much of divorce and separation in the world today? Why has infidelity become more popular than chocolate lately? Have the disgruntled, irreconcilable, and tainted state of affairs elevated exponentially? Have the levels of discontent and disdain grown incessantly?
People throw around words like love, trust, loyalty, equality, compassion, compromise, and understanding around so flippantly now, that those very words have somehow lost their meaning. Their essence. Their value. Words too become faceless syllables framed in forgettable nuances if misused and left abused.
On one hand, the issue is that the expectations far exceed reality. A plethora of individuals wish to share the best of times, but care not to share the burdens. Too many people are so occupied with maintaining appearances and rushing into an utopian framework that the only focus tends to be the ends and not the means. They forget the journey. They forget to cherish and live in the moment.
They are so busy thinking about the finish line and starting a family and having kids that they forget about the race, the process, and what it takes to participate and perform as one entity, creating that perfect balance of push and pull. What it takes to build that dynamic of give and take, of regard and respect.
When one looks at the statistics of separation and divorce, the cited reasons that take predominant precedence are incompatibility, infidelity, physical and mental abuse, and alcohol and narcotics addiction, among other irreconcilable factors.
People are strange
You need mutual respect. A relationship is not a competition. It’s a team sport. It’s a band. It’s a give and take. You can’t play in a band and try and outperform and shine over everyone else. They say a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. This is true in any sort of partnership.
Perhaps learning to meet half way by truly comprehending the art of compromise and the spirit of sacrifice, patience and forgiveness, attentiveness, and selflessness is a small step in the right direction. People are strange, as Jim Morrison aptly said. People are also not necessarily nearly as complicated so much as creating complicated situations for each other.
This farcical concept, that in a marriage and relationship both are equal, is perhaps one of the greatest constituents of causing conflict and catastrophe. A relationship is a team sport. Each person has their roles to play and their strengths and weaknesses. You may share similar interests, but not similarly possess the same potential. What you bring to the table will vary.
There is nothing wrong in one being more successful or popular than the other – providing this is a dynamic you are comfy with. Your competencies and capabilities will not be the same. Nor should it. You need to know when to take a step back and let your partner take the ball and make the shot. It’s not a race and competitive struggle to constantly out-class the other.
This is something we see frequently today, where in some situations one smothers the other with overzealous affection, while those sentiments are not reciprocated publicly. Sometimes you will have one person constantly demoralising and demeaning the partner. Other times, the two toxic individuals will be so engrossed and enamoured with each other that they simply bring out the worst parts of themselves.
Give yourselves time and space, room, and opportunity to get to know each other before you rush into things. Have your fun. Date. Dance. Debate. Be decadent. Enjoy life. Live together for a while if that’s possible. Yeah, you’ll argue. You’ll break up and get back together. You’ll reach a zenith of wanting to throw the other person over a cliff.
However, you’ll also learn how to face difficult situations. How to make tough choices. You’ll figure out how to listen. How to work out solutions instead of exacerbating problems. You’ll learn to face your obstacles together and to know when to rise to the challenge and when to let your partner take the wheel.
It ain’t rocket science folks. Just remember that love ain’t supposed to be perfect. And neither are you. So while you like the rain, it’s best you learn to also deal with the mud.
Best to be smart than sorry.
Suresh de Silva is the frontman and lyricist of Stigmata, a creative consultant and brand strategist by profession, a self-published author and poet, thespian, animal rescuer, podcaster, and fitness enthusiast.
(The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not in any way represent the views of the newspaper)