In today’s post, we will touch on two more sorrows of love from this essay on Romantic Realism. The third sorrow is “I didn’t make the right choice…” The essay goes on to suggest that in times of trouble, we can be haunted by a searing, devastating thought: that we made the wrong choice. We come to this conclusion for a couple of reasons:
- We made the wrong choice because we were very lonely. “We weren’t calmly choosing from dozens of candidates, as we might be when identifying a fridge or a computer. We were struggling to fill an urgent need with whomever we could find. We would have needed to be utterly at peace with the prospect of many years of solitude in order to have any chance of choosing with requisite pickiness and wisdom. But most of us hate being single even more than we love the partner who eventually spares us being so.”
- Celibate life becomes a nightmare. “When sex was only available within marriage, people recognised that this led many types to settle down for the wrong reasons: to obtain something that was artificially restricted in society as a whole.”
- “There is a psychological reason too for our poor choices: we feel actively drawn to the wrong people. We believe we seek happiness in love, but what it seems we often actually seek is familiarity – which may well complicate any plans we might have for happiness. We long to recreate in adult relationships some of the feelings we knew in childhood.” I strongly encourage readers to delve into this part of the essay with full attention. It speaks to what Imago theory calls the “unconscious relationship agenda,” aka picking a partner who will evoke in us our early childhood wounds
On to the next sorrow of love, “I wish I was still single.”
- “We can be so conscious of the troubles of our present lives that we are naturally drawn to look back and remember the nicer aspects of solitude. We remember being able to get up whenever we wanted; we recall not having to fret about where we threw things. We remember how inoffensive our own bad habits were when we were the only ones to witness them,” and so on.
- “But memory is a hugely unreliable and therefore reckless instrument, however our powers of recall have a huge impact on how we assess our lives in the present. We know just enough about how to romanticize our single days in order to poison our conjugal ones.”
- The author goes on to suggest a hypotheticl scenario in which a documentary is made of our lives when single, capturing some of the more lonely and sorrowful realities – “they’d capture our face at 5.30pm on a winter Friday afternoon, as the sun was setting and we knew we’d be alone till we reached the office on Monday morning. They’d observe us looking across the room at someone at a party, longing for their kindly face, but lacking any courage to go up and address them. They’d capture us spending a lot of time at our parents’ house, growing increasingly tetchy in their company. They’d show us struggling to know what to do when the fridge stopped working or we felt a terrible pain in the middle of the night. We’d be required to view this documentary at regular intervals just after bruising fights with our partners. It would provide crucial evidence – which our own memories are so good at strategically omitting – of how less than ideal the single state can be. We would realize that though we are sad now, we were also very sad then. We would accept, with good grace and a touch of dark humor, that life simply gives us few opportunities to be content.”
Stay tuned for more sorrows of love. Until then, peace.