Tuesday, May 20, 2008

What can you expect from love?

Please read this. It's an essay from The New York Times about love, and I don't think I could have said what this woman says any better than she does. Especially the part about always wanting men to stay and the transient nature of our modern relationships.

On a related note, the article in the New York magazine this week about men, cheating, monogamy, sex, etc, here.

My married friend Katie asked me the other day if i was sytematically dating every commitment-phobe in New York. I didn't know how to answer her. I mean, isn't everyone a commitment-phobe in this town, myself included? I have just passed the 2-year anniversary of the break-up of my longest, most meaningful relationship, which lasted 3 years. And it is just within the past month or so that I have come to a point where I am willing, nay, wanting, to enter into another committed, monogamous, "possibly going somewhere" relationship. I fully understand the hookup mentality, the friends with benefits, the late-night booty calls. I understand the separation between love and sex, feelings and fulfilling a need, intimacy and orgasm. I understand why we do it. In my case, I did it because I wasn't emotionally ready or available to enter into a relationship. A "friend" of mine is biding time and having fun until he's ready start looking for a wife. Another "friend" is 35, with no real career, who is a self-proclaimed commitment-phobe because he is afraid of becoming the absent father that he had.

When it comes down to the real root of it, we are all broken, and most of us realize that love isn't what we need to be fixed. We've been around the block a few times, we've been hurt, cheated on, lied to. We've had our expectations crushed. We've had our feelings not returned. It is so much easier to find someone to have a good time with, to have sex with, to spend a night with every once in awhile, than to think about a real commitment. Because commitment isn't fun. It's not exciting, or thrilling. It's monogamy, boredom, having to put up with someone else's bad habits. It is long-term. And for many of us who come from broken homes or whose parents had terrible marriages, it is fighting, and anger, and resentment. It is heartbreak and failure. And it is simply not realistic.

I still don't know if I believe that a happy, monogamous marriage is possible. And I'm still not sure that it's something I ever want to gamble on.

The New York mag article mentioned a book called The Ethical Slut. Here's the quote they used, in the context of polyamory, which (if i understand correctly) is having a primary relationship with many sexual partners: "With practice, we can develop an intimacy based on warmth and mutual respect, much freer than desperation, neediness, or the blind insanity of falling in love."

On some level, in order to have noncommittal "encounters," you have to have this kind of shallow intimacy, where you care about and respect the other person, but without the proprietariness, or jealousy, or, consequently, love. It is based on warmth and mutual respect. They are yours when you are with them, and you don't ask about what they do outside of that. What I don't know is if these kind of "relationships" are sustainable long-term. I kind of want the blind insanity of falling in love, don't you? And why can't you have monogamy without desperation or neediness? I think you can. I ordered the book from the library. I'll let you know how it goes (that is, if I can manage to read a book that isn't fiction. I usually get a couple chapters in and abandon ship).

I guess, in the end, we all have to decide what works for us. But is what works and what we want the same thing? I asked my friend Pat the other day whether I date (excuse the cliche) all the wrong guys. His answer surprised me. He said no, I didn't date the "wrong" guys (what does that mean anyway?), but that I was continually hopeful that each of the guys I dated was going to be the right one. It's that hope, I think, that has led me to this place where I'm tired of meaningless hookups, and I'm tired of the shallow "mutual respect and warmth" that stands in as a shoddy pinch-hitter for love. Really, at the end of the day, I'm just plain tired. But what can you do? I still, deep down, want mind-bending, heart-palpitating, I can't help but love you love that, when the dust settles, effortlessly (or effortly, for that matter) morphs into the kind of long-term, in it for the long haul, deep commitment and intimacy and friendship that can be sustained throughout a lifetime. And, honestly, deep down I do believe it's possible. I don't think it's easy to find or to keep or that a whole hell of a lot of people have it, but without that hope, that belief that it is attainable, that i deserve it, that i someday will have it, well, what's the point of continuing to date all of these not right guys if there isn't the possibility that i'm going to find the right one? Hell, maybe I've found him already, and I just don't know it yet.

What do you think?


"Cast the First Stone" is my first novel. There is a downloadable sample on my website. Check it out! said...


Okie said...

I don't know.

Who does?

One thing I do know: Everyone has an ideal something -- vacation, education, book, friend, church, apartment, car, cafe, lighting preference for conversation. Lovers are no different. But an ideal is an ideal because it's devoid of reality.

On our cab ride home from your apartment on Friday, Leslie chatted with the cab driver all the way home. He was Palestinian and has lived in NY for the past 18 years. Through Leslie's questioning, we found out about his wife, family, job, land in Palestine, high blood pressure, grandkids, etc. We also found out that he had an arranged marriage.

What blew my mind was that he had very American ideas about everything. But he had an arranged marriage; that set him apart. And he was happy. He even said his wife was pretty.

In the same way we dramatize the act of writing, we also dramatize the idea of a partner.

This is just one perspective. Not my philosophy in a nut.

little miss gnomide said...

nicely said, Okie.