|Picture taken from here
We have different experience, opinions and different things to say about love. The definition and the way we experience ‘love’, especially romantic love typically changes as we grow older, added more experience to our life, and as we get to know ourselves better. The ideal frame would be growing out of infatuation and obsession we had over our teenager years, when nothing else in the world matter but that particular one person. We stopped seeing someone else just and only for the fun in it, to have someone whose hands we can hold for 2 hrs straight in the cinema or to have someone accompany us for a fancy dinner. Instead of making our partner as a show-off material, we started to see them as a potential life-long partner, and soon, getting to know each other within a good quality time together become more important than hitting the “it-hangout-spots” to show everyone you belong to each other. By this time, we started to see love and relationship as something deeper in value.
In the country where I came from, there seems to be an unspoken and unwritten rule — the social rule about marriage. Women of early 20s received quite a massive amount of questions if around this time they haven’t got a steady partner just yet. It is still a strange thing here, to see women around the age of 20 living single life and enjoying it immensely. It is strange to see these women pursuing their career, go back to university to study or travel to amazing places in the world — practically being busy with themselves, instead of making the effort to be noticed by eligible young men around them and then to date them and get married as soon as possible.
Which means I am pretty much in a dreadful situation anytime big family meetings are up, because instead of asking how is it going with my numerous applications to international organization or where I would go travel next, my extended family will be starting the noble speech on how I really should put my energy on finding potential mating partner, even before the word “single” could escape my lips.
Recently my mom even told me that she would love to have a grandchild and looked at me and my brother with her puppy eyes. Yes, she gave me a puppy eyes look on this matter.
(I would blame that on the amount she spent browsing Facebook and the fact that almost all of her active Facebook friends’ main activity is to post them-cuddling-their-grandchildren photos).
I could go rampant on talking about how much amount of responsibility, unselfish attitude and very deep thinking we should take before we even think about “having children”. But let’s not go there for a while. Let’s stick up with the basic.
On Being Alone
It amazes me how people around me could insist so much on finding happiness by having a partner, whether as a boyfriend / girlfriend, or as husband / wife. I often wonder, that if these people’s sole and ultimate goal in life is to achieve happiness by finding their “other-half”. Either that, or the social system has dictated us so much it even told us that normally, people would become happy when they secured a steady partner.
The fact that people were so sure they need others to make them happy is already disturbing from the first place. Because nobody is responsible for others’ happiness. Your partner is not responsible of your happiness, or vice versa. If you can not be happy when you are alone, how is it possible that being with other person will fix thing and make you happier? Where does that ridiculous thought came from? One can’t help but to wonder if all along we have been looking at this the wrong way.
You need to be able to enjoy being alone, to be able to find the joy of life when you are alone. You need to be familiar with your alone-ness, let it sink to your soul, until you find yourself and able to appreciate it: appreciate yourself as a human being, as a whole person. You need to realize first how happy you are being just you, and that you enjoy your own soul’s company and that you know what happiness is to you and you don’t define it by what others can do for you (example: by loving you, accompanying you to whatever you mean by forever etc).
I think that only by then, you can also start to see others, as the person that they are. Otherwise, you would depend on them to be able to feel happy, whole and complete. You would reduce them into something else, you would want them to transform so they fit your ideal figure of a partner. You would want to possess them and practically addicted to their presence. It is the scariest thing because then you fail to see your partner / love interest / crush as completely another whole human being who has their own needs, wants and their own life just like you do. You will go downright to shrinking the nature of love; which is to appreciate the other, into possessive nature; in which you feel the urge to make them yours and yours only.
That is, being alone – and learn how to feel happy about it is in other word reaching for your own deepest core, realizing something really private in there (and realize other people possess this private element too) to the point that you understand however bonded you are with someone else, you are still your own self and there is a part of you untouchable by others, reserved to you and God himself. You understand this then: that love was never meant to be about possessing someone else. It is about going to the deepest part of a person and appreciating them as a free being of themselves.
On Falling In Love
One of my earliest memory of falling in love could be traced back to the period between 4th to 6th grade, approximately 12 years ago. He was my classmate, a leader by nature, I assumed quite smart, and he did not care about me at all.
I practically fell in love at the first sight with him, with all the glory a 4th grader could use in describing falling in love phenomena. The ignorance this boy displayed to me fueled my somewhat burning passion at that time. When he finally acknowledge me as fellow human being in his class and began talking to me, it evoked different fantasies everyday of how our conversation will go. I had this scenarios played in my mind and imagining him responding in certain ways. By falling in love at the first sight, I build this idea of who he was, my idea of him. I did not know him, barely had any significant conversation with him, did not know what he likes or what he dislikes, I just like him and happy with the idea of loving him.
I don’t say that the feeling was not real. It was there, burning and intense. Now that I sit here and tried to recall that particular experience, I thought probably it was quite scary for little me to feel really strong about someone I barely knew. Then it took some more years, some more brokenhearted experiences, some serious discussion and brain-picking sessions with friends and previous lovers to arrive at the conclusion I have today. Falling in love at the first sight is impossible. You could have Adoring at the First Sight or Curious at the First Sight, but you can’t have Falling in Love at the First Sight. I think even when moms and dads look at their baby for the first time they don’t fall in love instantly. Because yes, that baby is their flesh-and-blood, but still, back to point number one, he or she is still a free being, a self, someone they do not know (yet).
Then through time, through emotional events and some dramas of daily life, there is a bond, an attachment formed and then you slowly fall in love. All in all I’d say it is a time consuming process, to fall in love with someone. Because you need to know who that person is, going through philosophical debates about life as well as simple everyday conversation, finding out their perspectives and outlook about this world and only then you give a chance for love to grow (de Botton, 2006)*.
I think the world we know as today is constructed from various different ideas. Certain things are collectively known to us humans, big thanks to our ancestors who left us with mythology, symbolism, legend and romantic tales as well. The idea of falling in love may as well rooted deeply from a very, very, very old practice. Most of you probably already familiar with the story Plato once told, or maybe its variation from different cultures. Plato told a story of how human was once born with two faces, four arms and four legs and because the ancient gods feared them, Zeus decided to split those humans and thus, we are forever cursed to wander the earth looking for our better half, our soulmate, destined being who will understand us like no other and that there is no greater joy than simply lying side by side with them.
Totally romantic. Totally fatal.
If what Plato proposed was true, then falling in love at the first sight will be the one possible explanation on how to find our soulmate, as we screen every single person come across our life. The lengthy time it took us to fall in love then, would not be on the time we spent to go to the deepest part of this person and realize we want to stay with them anyway, but rather on the time we spent to do a quick-screen on everyone to see if his or her arms and legs were once glued to ours. The fall, then, would be an instant process, happened just because the universe intended us to finally find each other. Now, I do not deny the magic of certain spark we felt to another person. But to declare that we have fallen in love with that person will require more than a spark and a 5 minutes encounter on a random event.
On Demanding, Depending and Committing to Other
That is why, you can always tell the difference of a mature and immature love through a series of characteristics. Mature love will in the end granted an absolute freedom to the person you love. Because you have loved them with no regret nor worries that you will be left completely miserable and unable to move on with your life in case the person chooses to leave. The same will apply to people who chose to be alone out of fear they will ruin their fragile life and poor old heart in case the loved one for example, died. But the mature love, the perfect one will cast out fears. Because you do not build your world on the other person, which by the way is the most selfish act one can commit to the other. Why would you put that kind of responsibility, of keeping your world whole and intact on another person’s shoulder?
When you are able to love a person without any burden or fear, you would love them freely. This also applies to people who loves someone who doesn’t love them back. It won’t matter. Because a mature love will be a secure, free of jealousy (for example he/she in fact loves someone else) that doesn’t demand or depend to other person to make you feel complete, or simply to love you back. You know that in the end, they are not the only reason of you existing in the world. You are not afraid of the possibility of them leaving you for other person (or loving other person from the first place), because you have a firm ground that even if they hold a significant role you would be as happy as you are before they were here. This is called “joy” and unlike happiness, which is naturally given to you by others, joy is not given, so it can not be taken either by them leaving you.
Here is the what may seems like a paradox: this does not originate in you not trying to make the relationship work, or letting go without any effort to maintain the love and the relationship you have. It may be looked like that, like you lack the passion to keep your loved ones, to ensure them you belong to each other or it probably looked like you don’t care if that person leaves or stays. But on the contrary, this fearless attitude originated from the understanding you have that the other person, however you love them is still a free being on their own. You know you can’t literally have a person, because they belong to themselves. And as much as you do, they are free to choose, they have their own needs and wants and loving them should not rob them of this basic right.
When you have a mature love, you would allow your loved ones to explore themselves to the fullest. You would want them to find their own soul and if that involves leaving you, you will appreciate it because loving them is not about forcing them to stay and make them yours anymore. Loving is about to appreciate your loved ones as a human being, a whole person you have no control over.
It does not mean you ceased to feel euphoric, less excited to see them or less crazy in love. You could — should be madly in love but with an understanding that the most important thing is to get to know them to the deepest part they allowed you to and decide that you are still crazy about them after that. You are madly in love with them for who they really are, not for your idea of them.
Immature love on the other hand, will leave you insecure, constantly demanding, constantly depending on others to hold you together in one piece. People change and so do you. You will end up constantly asking your partner to adapt to your changes without acknowledging his own process of becoming himself. you will also left devastated when reality hit that it is never going to work between the two of you. Immature love will make what feels like more and more irrational demand and eventually will leave both parties exhausted. If the love you have is an immature one, you will easily get jealous over everything. You fear the day they discover that you are not the one they’re looking for.
I think that in the end, mature love will most likely conclude in a marriage as a form of commitment. But different with couples that enter marriage with immature love, those with mature love consciously choose to be married to each other. The commitment they have has long passed the commitment to simply stay with each other or make it work. It is a commitment consciously taken without external pressure to share life with each other to its fullest. It also means that both parties committed to allow their partner to go as close as possible to each other’s deepest part of self.
But of course, as always, this is my mere observation. As one of my best friend’s (and an experienced lover, apparently) have multiple times said to me, I lacked the experience of being in love and being in a relationship, so what can I say? This is simply an apprentice point of view and as most of you have probably guessed, I am still crawling, learning, and obviously making mistakes in the term of falling in love. Between the racing thoughts, overlapping ideas and so many events unfolding with a top speed in my life, having pieces of thoughts like this hanging on the corner of my head actually reminds me that I am, still, a young adult processing and learning about life. That obvious but often forgotten fact astounded me and, of course, relieving somehow. See you around!
*) De botton, A. (2006). Essays in love. London: Pan MacMillan.