Then? You just fucking burn. Before you lift your eyebrows in disdain and mutter, “This bitch just got dumped,” you must know that I don’t spit on love lightly. Love provides intense positive, indescribable emotions and euphoria. At these moments, you feel alive and so exceptional that you want to yell out to the world to let them know what you are experiencing. Love makes you think that nothing that has happened before in the history of man was as important as what is happening to you now. Love can and does inspire great creativity, which has resulted in millennia of art, song, and stories dedicated to the celebration or the despair of love. But we need to understand that the storybooks are bullshit. Passionate Love is not like they advertise; it doesn’t permanently improve your life; it actually ruins all best-laid plans. It eventually breaks your heart and vomits out a physical and emotional mess. Yet, we cannot help ourselves; we fall in and out of love with all its subsequent pain and self-disgust. The storybooks teach us love conquers all, and we will live perfectly and happily ever after. But we are not perfect beings. Stars are perfect, ruby red roses blooming in the sunlight are perfect, moonlight falling over a cerulean sea is perfect. We certainly are not. My hypothesis is that humans long ago fell into a willing, endless cycle of ruining ourselves, breaking our hearts, and loving the wrong people until we die. Am I being absurd and dramatic? Maybe. But I don’t think we should throw ourselves off the cliff and get over with it. Perhaps the answer lies internally within us. Passionate love enables a loss of control that encourages impulsive thoughts and actions. By using rational, logical thought about love and romance, we could potentially achieve a sensible blend of emotion and reason. We could exert control on when we abandon ourselves to passion or when we should steer ourselves away from disastrous people and subsequently experience a consistent sense of joy. But many people believe that this level of control over love is mythical. Paulo Coelho, a Brazilian novelist, once wrote, “Love is an untamed force. When we try to control it, it destroys us. When we try to imprison it, it enslaves us. When we try to understand it, it leaves us feeling lost and confused”. Based on my experience and observation, Paulo Coelho has a very legitimate point. I have always seen passionate love as an experience that is extremely difficult to control or even identify until it is too late. Perhaps it’s true that you can’t choose whom you fall in love with, but by knowing yourself, you can take responsibility to avoid situations where you do lose control. Unfortunately, most people do not know themselves.
In some ridiculous form or another, we’ve all heard the self-help mantra of “love yourself before you can love others.” As in any great propaganda, there is a kernel of truth in that advice. But too many charlatans prey on our need for love, and in many cases, we are convinced to buy books or attend courses or pay for advice that ultimately undermines the goal of serene self-acceptance. We end up treating romantic love and relationships as if we are an obsessed Captain Ahab with few guardrails along the journey to the white whale. In addition, mindlessly loving yourself does not equate to acceptance. It can be delusional, selfish, and hurtful to everyone. Loving yourself first shouldn’t be used as a transition to external love since this philosophy isn’t an adequate foundation for relationships. Granted that before focusing on others, it’s a good idea to learn what is marvelous about yourself first. You need to find out what it is about your body and mind that gives you happiness. But? It’s also about searching deep inside and understanding what dark and grotesque urges lie underneath the surface. Like Faust, you must ask yourself which of those Mephistophelean traits you are willing to accept and which need to be modified before you can be more at peace with who you are. Acceptance does not come easily since there is no definitive measure of success. It’s a personal journey with individuals determining if they have achieved their goals. But without a thorough self-analysis prior to embracing self-love, I contend that there will be dark consequences. This philosophy has been badly implemented on a consistent basis, and for many people it misleads them into believing that the only way to be worthy of love is to also achieve some illusionary, complex state of being. For myself? I recall there was a time when I had conditioned myself to live up to some perfect image that I had conjured up – one that I had designed, taking examples from those around me. I always thought that if I could stand up to that image and be the perfect version of myself, no matter how deviated it was from my real self, I would definitely be loved.
However, that entire belief system soon shattered because nothing is ever enough to meet that perfect image that we create for ourselves. In the end, I hurt myself and others in my fruitless pursuit of flawed self-love and subsequent romance. The point is that self-love and relationships aren’t unidirectional. The quality of our relationships also loops back and affects our self-esteem. My self-esteem started kissing the shit layer under the grime of the pavement after a one-time love started nastily joking about my emotional reliance on them. I started doubting myself, the way I looked and acted, which convinced me that my love would leave me for someone more attractive, younger, sadder, richer, older, poorer, happier, worthier…. Which led me into a maelstrom of pain and, of course, eventual loneliness. Relationships don’t work in a predictable cause and effect textbook method. No matter how comfortable we are in our own skin, it’s no guarantee that we will have positive, amazing relationships. I suspect that if you’re twitching with unhappiness and lack emotional control, finding positive love will be significantly more difficult. All these internal and external pressures consistently lead us to fail in love. So alternatively, why don’t we just focus on just liking someone first? What’s wrong with falling in “like”? Recently, I have found myself falling in “like” with a sweet, complex, and fiercely independent person. Someone who would never sit still for being possessed or constrained. Is it love? No. I totally understand that fundamentally I have a deep friendship that transcends both the emotional and physical. But love? Where I am yearning for commitment, reassurance, and a certainty of my love’s sole attention? No, not at all. Thus far, my experiment in liking someone first provides a toasty gentle feeling that easily makes me smile. For once, I don’t have this sense of sadness, displaced jealousy, and a jittery feeling of missing out without the person I love. Passionate love is the ultimate FOMO situation, and maybe I just don’t want the constant nerve-wracking excitement that comes with passion.
With like? I am enjoying myself and not obsessing about the other person. Of course, I hope and care that the other person feels the same way about me. But I’m not going to constantly run to them screaming like Othello on crack. I refuse to be the obsessive, pathologically jealous protagonist of my own version of a Shakespearian tragedy. My Desdemona is an unfaltering friend that respects me and yet still desires an emotional connection that moves beyond platonic platitudes. Should I reject this falling in “like” as a coward’s way out of love? Should I instead worry about the future and see that maybe my “like” won’t last? That this person I like will ultimately choose someone else? Someone they will be passionately in love with? Yes, I feel a slight sadness at the potentially ephemeral nature of my latest romantic like. Nonetheless, I have come to realize that perhaps I’ll be the one to lose my mind and find someone else in a fit of passion. I must keep remembering that falling in “like” is not a roller coaster of emotions with only limitless pain at the end of the ride. At least, I hope so. Now you may laugh. Thus far, it’s been a beautiful ride with mostly smiles and surprises as the other person tries to make me happy without any sneaky ulterior motive driven by loving passion. Ultimately though, I need to consider if I am in complete denial about love? Is falling in “like” just an inevitable precursor to love? Is falling in “like” just another brief stop along the path from friendship to love?? Meh. Maybe. I don’t fucking know. Maybe I’m not meant to know. Maybe this is just another insidious slithering way for love to re-enter my life. All I can do is truly accept myself in a balanced healthy manner and have a modicum of control over my emotions. What I will do is avoid overthinking what I’m feeling and just enjoy the ride. You should too.