The search for love is ubiquitous. Peruse the internet for five minutes and you’ll be inundated with books, articles, and blogs on such things as how to know if he/she is the one, where to find your soul-mate, ways to keep the romance in the marriage, how to make a good impression on a first date, how to go from friends into lovers, and the ever so original what his fill in the blank (car, cell phone, shoes, etc) says about him. I have absolutely nothing against any of those topics, but where is all the information about the more complicated elements of love? Like the parts that may hurt a little bit, but not enough to cause us to make a big decision. What about the kind that continually tugs at our hearts even as we try our best to ignore it? I’m sure many are all too familiar with the type that seems dormant, but make seasonal reappearances. Much to my chagrin, and probably for others, I haven’t seen any top 10 lists, or how-tos for any of those issues.
I’ve read several articles that give a timeline on how long it should take to get over a relationship. I understand the premise globally, but fundamentally it perplexes me. It seems obvious to me that the circumstances behind the breakup play a huge role in how long it takes to get over someone. The collateral damage from a split due to infidelity versus one secondary to just having differing relationship expectations cannot be the same, right? Picking up the pieces after breaking up with a first love or first sexual partner just has to be a little harder? Furthermore, what if the passionate connection is at its peak, but the romantic union has to end anyway? Scenarios such as one of the partners has to move away suddenly, religious/cultural differences that ultimately can’t be bridged, or one partner’s steadfast insistence on not wanting something the other person is dead set on (like children, having a parent move in, or just defining the relationship). The emotional rollercoaster of immediately going all the way from the penthouse to the cellar has to linger longer than a relationship that was gradually losing steam before finally terminating. This concept makes perfect sense because it’s something many men do routinely, yet mostly subconsciously. When we want to get out of a relationship we will sometimes pull back emotionally a little bit. Not enough to make the woman hate us, but just enough to actually make her want to break up with us. We do this because we think the woman will recover easier and quicker under these conditions, as opposed to an abrupt ending. Does it make a good amount of sense? Not entirely, but men think it somewhat assuages the instantaneous free fall that is so damaging. This may be complete conjecture, but I think the advent of social media may make it even more difficult to get over a breakup. Consider that people are generally posting updates, pictures, and or events on Facebook, Twitter, Flickster, etc, that paint themselves in a positive light. Clearly this isn’t an accurate depiction of someone’s life, but when a jilted lover sees this slanted existence, the band-aid is ripped off all over again. The person who posted the pictures of friends at a bar taking a shot could be just as upset as their former partner, but the perception from the picture is that all is well. Unfortunately we’re currently being trained to imagine these pictures and status updates as perpetual states, instead of what they are … snapshots in time. Albeit mostly selfish, it hurts to think someone has actually gotten over you before you have gotten over them.
As much as I think the circumstances of the breakup provide the blueprint for the extent of the recovery, I actually think the conditions surrounding the development of the relationship play an even bigger role in the recovery process. Consider a woman re-entering the dating scene after getting a divorce. The first good man that she trusts enough to let into her heart and into the lives of her children will be extremely hard to get over if things don’t work out. She would have to lower so many emotional defenses and walls, constructed during and after the marriage went south, to allow this stranger to essentially become a part of her family. In addition, her confidence would already be falsely lower because she just failed at marriage (so to speak) and because she’s completely out of dating practice (who has high self esteem after failing at anything … especially a marriage?). Imagine trying to recover from all of that? Not only would she have to pick up the pieces of her own broken heart, she might have to console her children who became attached to a really fun, engaging, guy who actually cared about them. Even Dr. Phil wouldn’t have enough time in one episode to clean up the emotional wreckage that would create. All joking aside, I can completely relate to this situation. The relationships that I’ve started after a big personal loss were the hardest for me to reconcile. In retrospect it seems so easily explainable. If you start dating someone when you’re down in the dumps they artificially boost your mood, almost like investing money in a business that is destined to fail. When things end, you crash even lower than how you felt when you felt down in the dumps. Essentially the business fails anyway, AND wastes the extra money that was invested in the attempt to keep it afloat.
Unfortunately I have a lot more questions than answers, so I’m sure most of the world does also. I’ve heard conflicting reports on a person’s ability to fully be in love with two people at the same time. I personally don’t think it’s possible, but I’ve never been a polygamist. Although I’ve always thought that polygamy is more about the guy getting pleased, not him equally having love for multiple women. When people remarry after divorce they often say I still love my ex-husband/wife. I understand the concept, but hopefully it’s not romantic love? Clearly there are different kinds of love, but would the new partner be comfortable hearing someone talk about the love they have for their ex? In the same vein what is, or is there, a defined difference between “loving” someone and being “in love” with someone? You’re not going to find anything satisfying on Wikipedia or Wikitionary (and no, I’m not referring to the elementary discussion about love vs. lust or love vs. infatuation). Reading 1Corinthians chapter 13 from the bible provides a great depiction of what the Christian God believes love should be. These verses can be heard at almost any wedding that occurs in a church, but the words, written by the prophet Paul, are clearly not just talking about romantic love. He is describing perfect, completely selfless love that we should express to everyone we encounter. In addition, considering that Corinthians is in the New Testament, most other religions may not share the same viewpoint.
I love love and its whimsical, nebulous, sometimes even cryptic appearance. It would be great if we had more information about the complex aspects of love, but then again maybe it wouldn’t. Having a finite description of something so abstract renders it definable. Really love can’t be wholly definable, because human behavior, emotion, and thinking can never be fully elucidated. I guess that’s what makes it all so alluring. I may not fully understand love, but obviously that’s not a prerequisite to love, since no one else does either.