Falling in love is not my specialty. My daughter likes to joke that my relationships have been informed by the torrid and never happy ending Russian novels I used to be so fond of. And she is not that far off the truth. But those novels also taught me a couple of valuable lessons: obstacles are par for the course when it comes to love, and “the one” does not exist. I believe the definition of love changes as we do and that more than “one true love” can be had during the course of one’s lifetime. And, above all, that “the one” is made and not sent by divine intervention to cross our path at the perfect moment.
And all those good dreamers, myself included, who spend countless hours pondering just such matters, It might not surprise you to learn that the science of romance isn’t incredibly romantic. That believing in soul mates—or destiny, or the idea that there is exactly one person who you were absolutely put on this earth to find—can and probably will backfire.
If you are one of those people who have been with the same partner for the past thirty years with nary a disagreement, you would be a very rare breed indeed (and an enviable one). Most of us have to contend with the job of resolving petty arguments and overcoming disappointment in as healthy a fashion as possible.
Let’s assume we meet the perfect specimen, someone who meets most, if not all the criteria, we look for in a partner (because, let’s face it, who hasn’t drawn such a list?). It’s absolute bliss for a while, maybe even a good while– maybe we marry or live together, and even add children to the mix. One day, he or she will do something that will get on our nerves, which will tarnish that shiny patina of perfection. At first, we will overlook it, we will let it go but then the behavior will repeat and how we confront it is crucial. Those who believe in destiny and soul mates will be more likely to start questioning whether this is “the one” indeed, while those who take relationships more in stride and equate them to a journey, will be more likely to look for solutions, work out compromises and treat what comes up as a roadblock to be surmounted with ingenuity.
Russian novels aside, what we believe, even our notions of love and relationships, might be rooted in how we were raised.
If we start a relationship believing in its perfection from the outset, we are doomed. Working towards a goal–not necessarily of perfection–over time, through collaboration, repetition and trying hard, will more likely result in a healthier relationship down the line.
It was actually the foolishness of Madame Bovary who made me see that love at first sight, “the one” and waiting for something good to happen is a load of bullshit.
“Love, she thought, must come suddenly, with great outbursts and lightning, a hurricane of the skies, which falls upon life, revolutionises it, roots up the will like a leaf, and sweeps the whole heart into the abyss.”
Love can certainly do that. But what matters most is how we learn to climb out of that temporary abyss, with patience, resilience and a tolerance for boredom. Even the most exciting journeys, after all, have their share of hours spent chugging along.
Paris images found in the public domain