When I was young, I thought that finding the perfect love was driven by fate and that my mere openness to looking for a treasured lover would lead to a Camelot existence. In other words, I sincerely thought finding a companion would be an effortless endeavor, passive in nature; not something I would choose, but rather something I would simply "stumble upon" one day.
And, of course, the rest of that romantic myth would be that my Holy Grail human companion and I would find a flawless, “happily ever after” existence since we were "made" for each other. I wasn't alone in this philosophy by any means. We Americans are pretty unique globally in that we trust in love to change our lives. We think a magical spell will enchant our lives through securing a spouse.
Just recently I read the work of Brianna Wiest, an American writer, author and essayist. She is currently an editorial director at Thought Catalog, where her writing continues to accrue tens of millions of page views. Her first book, a compilation of her published essays, was a bestseller in its category. The book is titled The Human Element.
Wiest echoes my experience so much that I want to use some of her ideas in this post. I think an appropriate Wiest quote for this entry might be: "The love you really want is your own." Before you consider the beautiful simplicity of this statement about companionship, let me elaborate some of Brianna Wiest's ideas.
Wiest informs us that studies have shown that the love in marriages chosen for love fades after about two years, but love in arranged marriages grows gradually and eventually actually surpasses measures of love in traditional marriages at about the five year mark.
Arranged marriages? The very idea rankles romantics. But, could it be possible that arranged marriages are often happier marriages because choice is relinquished; whereas, Western culture escalates ridiculous fears about settling with a lover because we put so much value on our ability to choose? Wiest believes, as individuals, we put even more value on the idea that this love will somehow “save” us.
Most of us prefer to see marriage as "a binding to bliss." In doing so, we often overlook the fact that marriage is, in some un-romanticized sense, a legal contract to cohabitate, possibly procreate and care for one another until the end of our lives. Close to one-half of all such blissful unions end in disaster when the flames of love turn to embers -- families dissolve, homes disappear, and lovers become lifelong enemies.
Wiest contends that when we believe "love must give us what we cannot give ourselves," that philosophy leads to so many breakups and divorces. Damn, that is a hard, cold smack of reality; however, it is simply undeniable when we admit our misconceptions about what a lover must constantly provide us concerning our unique, selfish desires. That is, unless you are the only human who doesn't have a host of these needs of self-gratification.
We have been led to believe we need that absolute soul mate, and we become paralyzed with the prospect of holding out for fated perfection, as if that person will complete our life. We become so optimistic in searching for "the one" that “not settling” for anything less leads to oversight and damaging breakup after breakup on the road to finding something known as "our one true love."
Brianna Wiest writes ...
"Anecdotal evidence, from our lives, and from the lives of those far more experienced than we, shows us that love is something you do have to choose. The flame we have come to associate with love -- be it passion or lust or just plain old affection -- requires rekindling through the years. You have to commit.
"We can choose to love someone through difficult times. We can choose to be with them despite the fact that they don’t fulfill the checklist of what we, at one point, deemed perfect. We choose to love people. But, can we choose who we love? Evidently yes.
"The point is that love is not something you find, it is something you become and then choose to share. It is not a label, but it is a choice."
So, why is it we are taught love is the only thing we need, yet we so often don’t realize that the only way it can expand and project and manifest into and through everything in our lives … is if it begins with us and in us. Perhaps we are largely unskilled in using our own attributes of self-instructive "love education."
Wiest believes we don't understand how to use our hearts and minds "in tandem" when we seek a lover: she thinks "the heart is the map and the mind is the compass." And, isn't it true we are often taught to polarize these most precious tools? In some matters, we are expected to be ruled by our hearts, and, in others, we are taught to use exclusively our minds. Wiest says, "Love is really a consistent state of being in communion with body, mind, and soul. It is a daily commitment to learn what it means to love someone else, in small, practical, mindful ways."
Here is an interesting thought about human attraction: if you are caught up in trying to make yourself objectively appealing to the opposite (or same) sex, as opposed to really finding who you are and then attracting someone who appreciates that person, are you making a fatal relationship mistake? Are you selling out yourself?
Consider once more Wiest's contention: "The love you really want is your own." I think that is a revelation of the utmost personal concern. I know from Psychology 101 that achieving self-actualization is at the zenith of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. I'm sure you remember the Popeye-the-Sailor-type-quote, don't you: "What a man can be, he must be"?
(A. Maslow. Motivation and personality.1954)
Very few of us attain important self-actualization. When it comes to matters of romance and sharing human love it may seem selfish to consider anything but sharing our hearts and several other of our hot body parts, yet passion and hormones can promise a lifelong of arduous commitment as they seal the deal with the required licensure.
Brianna Wiest says this may be a problem to finding lasting companionship ...
"You aren’t clear on your intentions about what you want, and that’s because you’re still trying to edit and enhance them to appease, impress or elicit someone else’s approval.
"In other words, you can’t be honest about what you want because you aren’t comfortable with the truth of who you are. So long as you are functioning from that mindset, you are filtering your life, and whether or not you see the love in it, through how well it fits the 'image.'”
Read Brianna Wiest's "Thought Catalog" blog for yourself. I think you will enjoy it immensely. Click here: