Love Is Something You Do

Paul Spinrad, in a guest post at BoingBoing, asked himself the question, "Did I want to occupy myself playing a big version of Solitaire to prove I could win, or did I want to open up and love?" What follows is his brief, wise reflection on love and relationships:

During our courtship, my wife Wendy challenged me again and again, with firmness and understanding, to engage with her honestly and completely, no matter what it meant. She led me to the promised land where we could be ourselves fully while delighting in and being committed to each other– all those things that people wisely recite as their wedding vows. If you want more detail, buy me a beer.

An essential part of this happy destiny is that Wendy is not what I had hoped for, i.e. not simply a hot girl version of the man I wanted to be. I've read memoirs by successful men where the chapter on love runs: "I met the girl who was obviously perfect for me, and then I applied all my power and craft to win her over. It was tough going, and she tested me, but I succeeded." That's it. You learn nothing about her, and the guy seems to learn nothing about himself. Yawn! For some men, maybe the pride of that conquest is enough to keep a fire burning, but given what Wendy and I have now, it sounds like dullsville. When I contrast it to the dynamic collaboration that I have with Wendy, who shares my values but is otherwise so fascinatingly different, I just smile at how much we have to look forward to.

I did want to be famous once– what if I had succeeded and then used that power to win someone to whom this mattered? I would deny that she was just a trophy based on how smart and accomplished people considered her to be, conveniently avoiding the underlying question of her real role in my inner life: a prop for my self-image. I like to think that I'm deep enough that we may have eventually found true intimacy anyway, but I can't be sure. Considering the effort it took Wendy to bring me out, I wonder whether I would have just lived my entire life in fabulous black-and-white, believing that emotional availability meant simply choosing someone rather than taking the ongoing risk of sharing emotional truth. But mastering the art of surfing the truth together is exhilarating, a connection out to the universe that makes me feel alive. Thank you, Wendy, my love, for saving me from a caricature of life!

12 comments on “Love Is Something You Do
  • “I wonder whether I would have just lived my entire life in fabulous black-and-white, believing that emotional availability meant simply choosing someone rather than taking the ongoing risk of sharing emotional truth.”

    There’s nothing more attractive, more of a ‘turn on’, or more seductive then someone who you regard as your opposite-sex superior giving to you a complete emotional vulnerability, much like a childing being given a special extremely rare baseball card by our Dad; the instinct to treasure and respect this delicate, easily ripped paper heightens your respect like no other (which I’ve been led to believe by Oprah and Dr Phil is the cornerstone of a successful relationship, so here’s to hoping).

  • One of the things that came up for me in your asking it was that is choosing to give someone the power to hurt you and to know, in fact, that perhaps especially if you do love “right” (as though there were such a thing), that it’s GOING to hurt because love also inevitably means the experience of loss – and to move into that and towards that bravely as an act of love is an amazing thing.

    Ken Wilbur said something to the effect that if love doesn’t flay you open, you don’t know what it is.

  • Leaving your emotional well being (ie, your feelings) in the hands of another, letting their approval determine whether you live with a broken heart or not, and accepting this broken heart.

    How many people in love still try and play the game, with calculated moves, and personal psychologoical coaching to convince themselves that they’re in control? How many people people are dishonest about their feelings towards someone as to not give them any ‘power’ in the relationship? If you do this, you’re selling your love short. Love is about risk.

  • I once said to my therapist, about a guy I was in a relationship with, “I just don’t ever want him to feel sad or lonely or hurt.” It was pointed out to me what an immature, limiting, flawed concept of love this was. As it was explained to me, grown-up love inevitably involves pain, because growth is painful. Learning to suffer well, which seems to have become my life’s very hard work (dammit! And also: Yay!), is absolutely necessary to have this true intimacy and adult love.

  • “If you want more detail, buy me a beer.”

    He left out the only part that could be illuminating! The rest of the post is just a gush of platitudes about how good the result feels. What was the *process* like, that’s what I’d like to hear.

  • Agreed but I don’t think it was all platitudes – the idea that a healthy
    relationship isn’t about a conqueror and a conquered but rather an on-going,
    dynamic give and take, I thought was well put.

  • The process is likely different for everyone. As Ben said, “a healthy relationship isn’t about a conqueror and a conquered but rather an on-going, dynamic give and take.”

    Personally, I was unable to give and take until I accepted the consequences of being myself. I only took in order to fulfill something inside I thought I was missing (“a hot girl version of the man I wanted to be”). I lacked self-acceptance and the ability to love myself. The process for me was through a spiritual and ego deflating program in a time of desperation. Once I loved and accepted myself, I learned I could be loved for being myself, totally. That opened me up for the possibility of true love through giving of myself and allowing others to do the same. I know my areas of vulnerability and am comfortable with them, which allows me to expose them to others.

    It was then that I found my wife, she was in the same place. Together we are one, we share everything, from emotions, fears, expectations. We accept ourselves therefor we accept each other. We realize no one else can make us truly happy but that it comes from within each of us individually. Then we grow together through life, sharing along the way everything, constantly communicating. It’s an amazing thing. We can tell within seconds if something is wrong, we feel it from each other, we allow each other to be human. But it all comes back to being “OK” with ourselves as individuals – so getting to that place was the process. We know (we talk about it) that without each other we would be OK, sure it would suck…bad, but we don’t depend on each other for our happiness. Having someone to share life’s successes and failures with makes it all more real and rewarding.

    My wife said something the other day that put this in perspective. Her mother was killed when she was 20 years old, she said “after my mother died, nothing in life was ever as good as it could be. Don’t get me wrong, things are good and even great, but when something great happens to you, the first person you want to share it with is your mother.”

    That’s what our relationship is like.

  • I have never been rich or famous, but I will let you know if it is hard to find this when I am oozing with dough.

    However, dont take what you have for granted. I dont think many people ever take the time to self-reflect enough.

  • Forget the source of this—>the experience of falling in love is invariably temporary. It is only after you fall out of love, that you have the ability to develop genuine love for someone. It then becomes a choice. Love is never about NOT having a choice. Love has nothing to do with dependence.

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