Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Being Completed By Romance

In contemplating the nature of love and the many forms the word is associated with, I’m reminded of the movie Matrix: Revolutions in which Neo confronts a computer program who declares his ability to love another program who he calls his daughter. When asked by Neo how a program can love the gentleman and father notes the word has no inherent meaning, rather only referencing the felt connection that exists by virtue of declaring it so.

While the love noted by the movie character is that associated with the love of a father for his daughter, it is the “connection” piece that I want to focus on, primarily as it is associated with romantic love (other forms or love in general can wait for another entry). I think it can be noted without too much in the way of protest that if there were no people to express a romantic love, then such would not exist, at least in so far as we understand the term. It is, like all emotions and their physiological instantiation, something that at least at some level must take into consideration the referential point of the creature expressing it. This is not to indicate that love of all kinds is completely encapsulated by referencing only the person(s) expressing it, creating as it were some love-flatland, but without this reference there is a distinct loss in contemplating its nature. Therefore, to understand romantic love it is best to figure out what this connection is usually exemplified within.

Romantic love seems to come in two stages: the first and easiest is that associated with the intense and often immediate infatuation or interest between two (or more) people, its grand energy derived from the newness of the situation allowing the explosive projection of hopes, dreams and fantasies; the second stage is close to this as it is often felt during periods of intense emotional energy and the creation of some event, often a trip or special experience. The first stage in polyamorous circles is that often described as New Relationship Energy (NRE) and is the stuff of rueful amusement and joy, but also wariness because of its tendency to drive people towards bad decisions. The second stage is usually found in established relationship connections both positively in those special shared moments or negatively where the parties involved want to "rekindle the fire" or in some situations create an experience so as not to look at the bad lying around at their feet.

The connection, particularly in stage one, is almost entirely one of projected intent, where each person is hoping the other fulfills their poetically impressive desires to be “fulfilled” or “made whole.” The metaphorical language here is illuminating. When someone operates under the notion that they are trying to be “made whole” it infers the notion that they are not currently of one piece or are lacking in some vital aspect, leaving themselves not quite fully alive. The usage of fire as a metaphor for the passions can easily here be connected to the fires underlying creativity or creation and therefore of building a "new life together" (notably in romance novels where this seems the only legitimate form of love the author feels their readers need or want).

Quite often, however, the piece found does not in fact “complete” anything or even fit properly, except of course during the first stage of romantic love when, let's face, the frontal lobes have been dumped like a broken transmission in a car. That this is the stage where the intent is focused less on the other party involved and more on the projection of a need being met is no doubt why being “made whole” is so often replaced later on with “falling to pieces.”

Response: I agree with everything you say with one exception. Not all people enter romantic love with the intention of being made whole. I would say that, unless the one is fairly stable to begin with an entrance to any romantic love will only hinder stability as one person grows to depend more on another. In a more mature romantic relationship (where both parties feel basically complete and are looking for a partner to enjoy life and fulfill more long term goals with) I believe there is a great deal more longevity possible.

You may be right that in particular cases, romantic love is not considered in the context of being “made whole.” As with any generality there are always exceptions. However, I still think the general principle holds.

The reason I say this is due to the particular ways in which love in the romantic sense is typically discussed. Phrases such as being “completed” and “made whole” are more typical when romantic love is the context. It would be very peculiar for a father to express the love he has for his child as “completing” him or “making him whole.” I hazard to guess that such language is not used because the form of love a parent has for a child is like what one has for a subordinate. I don’t mean to belittle the experience, on the contrary, I don't consider any form of love to be more special than any other though certainly particular forms of it, like the one in question here, are prone to more poetic license and irrationality than others. What I'm expressing is the fact that a child is in no way capable of meeting the full needs of an adult and thus love is expressed more in terms of protection and concern.

True, if a person enters a relationship with a less than moderately stable mentality, what often occurs is a relational dependency. Now, I have spoken before about attachments and how dependency is an inevitable aspect of existence, though like before notice here that I am using the term dependence not slavery. It is the latter term where the person does not find fruition of self but abject subservience or sublimation of self to the other. Consider how the term is used in other contexts, like in the case of “he’s a hopeless romantic” or even in describing the historical period after the enlightenment as “romantic.” The similarity of these two examples is one of being beyond reason, delving almost into delusion, where it is assumed that reality simply doesn’t allow for certain thoughts to be actualized, thus being thought to be classified as “romantic.”

Now take this information and apply it back to the notion of romantic love as so far discussed. As I explained earlier, romantic love is typically used to describe the beginning of a relationship and later on into longer-term relationships though more about situations rather than a mode of being. Romantic love is what is typically meant when someone says that the couple has “kept the love alive.” (Forgive my mono-centered wording here as there are a vast number of variations in romantic entanglements which can involve more than two people.) There is usually a sense of euphoria and a significantly reduced sense of individuality when the thought is dwelled upon. Here then is the continuation of the notion of “being completed” and a sense of being absent a piece that has now been given, it is the very loss of individualness which drives the metaphoric principle in a form of the snake biting its own tail. Incidentally, it's little wonder that we often use the phrase “crazy in love.” Love at this level is a little form of madness, not in the frothing at the mouth sense (though hey there's always whip-cream fun), but in the sense of lacking something and therefore placing us in the position of promoting ourselves as puzzles missing pieces.

I’m not saying that any of this makes romantic love wrong. On the contrary, it is not romantic love that is the problem but our worship of it as a society and the concomitant belief that there is an essential part of ourselves that is lacking, putting us always in a position of want rather than growth. There are many notions concerning our emotions packed with metaphorical entailments we are not aware of, romantic love is but one of them. When we take these ideas apart we are not doing so to get rid of them, romantic love in particular is a glorious and fun-filled adventure that I have experienced before and enjoy going through as it continues to happen.

To live a life of romance where "wholeness" is already experienced from each one of our existential places can keep us from later "falling to pieces." We are not trying to fill a lack but find new ways of expressing the human ability to love in many forms and in an ever-expanding way.


The preceding is an exchange I had online discussing the nature of romantic love. The section in bold is a point made by the person I was engaging with. As is the nature of online discussions, initial written points are not always so polished and with that in mind I have gone through and redone my thoughts to reflect my current thinking and help with flow of information. I say this to be upfront and honest about the nature of this entry as I don't want to give a false impression as to either my writing or the conversation that occurred.

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