Thursday, February 15, 2007

Love, thy name is Misery

In keeping with the Love theme...

I was at lunch with the officemates yesterday and it being Valentine's Day, the conversation turned to the dreaded L word. How important is it in a lasting relationship? And what the hell is it? Im of the opinion that love is not that important. It was probably what brought you together, but it won't sustain the relationship. Things like respect, commitment, responsibility are more important than love, which could be just a fleeting chemical reaction. There was general disagreement of course, because of the almost mystical definition of what love is, and the romantic notions the officemates have about it. Some were of the opinion that respect, commitment, and responsibility fall under its banner, to which I objected because one could have respect, commitment, and responsibility even without it and are therefore independent of it. Arranged marriages, for example, could be lasting even if there isnt any love in it. The sense of duty--to family, to society, to traditions--counts as a major force in keeping the relationship going, and who knows? Something like love could actually spring forth from it. And even if it doesnt, it would still work. And the persons involved might even be happy with the arrangement, especially if they believe that love isnt a requirement. Contrast that to all your relationships before where love was involved. If it were the most important, then why didnt it last? Clearly, for a lasting relationship, you need more than love, if you need love at all. Perhaps all it needs to be is mutually beneficial.

But even if we had difficulty agreeing on a definition of love, everyone seemed to agree that one of its characteristics, if we are to consider it 'true,' is selflessness. Giving without expecting anything in return. I agreed to this as well, and put forth this proposition: We can be sure, absolutely sure, that a love we feel for another person is true if it makes us miserable. If love is all giving, without expecting anything in return, without getting anything--anything--in return, then love makes us miserable. For humans, selfish creature that they are, can only be happy by getting, whether it is a smile, a sense of satisfaction, a kind word, or a ton of cash. Those who say that they are happy with giving are still getting something from the act of giving. It makes them feel good. When giving to an object of our love, we are happiest if the loved one gives something back. It is not loving that makes us happy, it's being loved in return that does. If we are being loved in return, if it makes us happy, if we are getting something from the relationship, we can not be sure if the love we're giving to the other person is genuine, because we can never be sure if the love we're giving is a truly selfless act, and therefore true love. We can only be sure about the truth of our love if we arent getting anything in return, but we still give, and this makes us miserable. Consider: if your love is true and you dont ask anything in return--not faithfulness, not respect, not courtesy, nothing--would you be happy if your girlfriend boinks other guys? If you would, you need to have your head examined.

But, but, but... love is supposed to make you happy, doesnt it? Love gives you wings, makes you soar, and all those Hallmark-y things it's supposed to do to you. Eee-eeeengk. Again, it is not loving someone that does that to you, it is being loved by someone that does it, which is really a selfish thing. And that's what we humans are: we're selfish. That's why selfless acts are so anomalous, so remarkable, so noble. Loving makes us superhuman. But it doesnt make us happy.

And it doesnt help keep us together, despite what the song says. Love being a selfless act is inimical to making a relationship last, a relationship being based on mutual benefit, and is therefore not selfless, and incompatible with love. My advice therefore to the officemates: seek a mutually beneficial relationship if you want it to last and treat love as if it were a minor distraction that youll eventually outgrow as the relationship matures.

Was I being facetious? Im not telling.

1 comment:

emmie johnson said...
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