In the second part of this post about Love I wanted to share some reflections about love in romantic relationships. I have been thinking a lot about how to frame this, because obviously I want it to be linked to the concept of the blog.
To reassure myself I just kept in mind a beautiful writing from bell hooks saying that writing “…may come from a place of mystery, emerging from the deep deep unconscious surfacing, so that even the writer is awed by what appears. Writing, then, is revelation. It calls up and stirs up. It illuminates.” (in ‘belonging: a culture of place’, p.69). I thought that if she were right there would be something coming out of this post that will be revealing also to me!
I would like to start by sharing a personal story that is the inspiration for what may come next… I have recently started to love a man with whom we began a romantic relationship. Our relationship is rooted on several values that in my experience create the ground for love to be a ‘place of growth and freedom’. These values are authenticity, trust, self-awareness, self-love and love of the other, communication, understanding and respect of each other way of being and each other needs, non-judgment, acceptance of weaknesses, value of vulnerability, among other.
In my understanding love as a place of growth and freedom is the birthplace of a healthy and sustainable relationship. Nowadays romantic relationships are subject to so many hardships and risks that very few people believe in the possibility of nurturing a long lasting relationship with someone. There is so much cynicism and scepticism around love and specifically romantic love, and that creates a vicious cycle where people misbelieve ends up turning reality.
I cannot provide an explanation for why this is happening, yet I know that relationships like our parents generation had, and other before them, are not realistic anymore. Therefore it is unrealistic to expect having a long lasting relationship exactly the same way. Instead it is necessary to update our expectations, desires and hopes to the conditions we live in nowadays. Love is a renewed choice towards which we commit every day. Everyday in our society we have so many stimulus, so many opinions and information, so many available new things (and people), so much of everything… In a changing and dynamic society like ours it is naturally difficult to nurture something that endures.
The secret (perhaps…) is to keep the relationship as a sacred place where we can return after a long day of many new things, many responsibilities, and many burdens. A relationship that lasts is actually a way to keep something ‘old’ in our lives, old means known, and known means safe. Safety is a blissful place to live in and furthermore is a place where it is possible to build new things, to engage in new projects, to growth together, to be oneself, and to belong. Belonging to a stable physical place (symbolically a shelter) and belonging to an emotional place where one can love and be loved.
And what to expect from a romantic relationship? Expectations always determine the way a relationship evolves (or not). Many people talk about lack of freedom when referring to long-term relationships. This freedom encompasses sexual freedom, freedom to do what one wants without having to give any sort of explanation, freedom to decide by oneself, and so on and so forth. Apparently we live in a society where freedoms became so important that people tend to forget (or to ignore) responsibilities. And love is also very much linked to it and when people engage in a mutually loving relationship they care about each other and they take responsibility for each other and the own actions. But responsibility is not opposing to freedom, at least not in my understanding of freedom. So, what is freedom? I like to define freedom as:
- The real possibility to choose (based on several available ideas or alternatives);
- The possibility to express oneself and one’s desires, needs and ideas without fear of being judged, excluded or hurt;
- The possibility to growth;
- The possibility to give up on something driven by one’s will.
I am convinced that if people commit to each other freedom it becomes much easier to also commit to being responsible towards each other.
And what to say about sexual freedom? It seems to be, at least in monogamous relationships, the less compatible with a long lasting relationship. In my understanding the craving for many sexual partners, linked to the incapacity to commit or to constant betrayal, is related to greed and the comtemporary belief that ‘more is better’. Whereas greed is often related to money, power and material goods, I am convinced it can also find expression on the sexual sphere of human life. Greed is about wanting more than one needs and it can be projected also on sexuality, leading to the false assumption that many sexual partners will bring happiness (exactly like in consumerism people link happiness to the possession of material goods that are unnecessary). However it is proven that sexual satisfaction is strongly correlated to intimacy, which is achieved in lost-term relationships where people have the opportunity get to know each other very well.
At the beginning of my post I defined a romantic relationship as a place where freedom and growth are nurtured and welcome. There is no room for ownership in this kind of love and sometimes the commitment to these deep values is also a source of sorrow, as for instance when the well-being of one of the partners is linked to the need to leave the relationship to find answers, self-awareness or even to commit to a new path. I believe this is the foundation of true love, as it is to genuinely commit to be true to oneself, as the only possible way to be true towards the other.
(By the way, bell hooks was right! This post was an authentic revelation to me!)
Endnote1: I would like to underline that with this post I have no intention to make any kind of moralist assumptions. The reference to monogamous relationships refers to my life experience and it is only an example. Contrariwise I believe romantic love can find many different expressions both in terms of the number or partners (on this regard see e.g. this article on polyamory) as in terms of the sex of the partners.
Endnote2: It is nonetheless interesting to notice that ‘googling’ the term ‘romantic love’ the solely type of images that appear are of white heterosexual couples. Red hearts, roses and teddy bears are also included in the available images. I underline this fact as a political statement on the fact that the Internet is still full of prejudices and stereotypes, not to mention racism and homophobia. In capitalist-patriarchal society there is still a very clear conception of how the ‘right couple’ should look like and therefore it is essential to create awareness and work towards acceptance of diversity.