Sonya Thomas lcsw

Romantic Realism, Part 7

We are in the home stretch of our series on Romantic Realism.  Today we will be looking at the final two sorrows of love; “Im so lonely in my relationship” and “This is such hard work.”

“It’s hard to admit to feeling lonely within a relationship.  The basic assumption is that no respectable person could ever feel isolated unless they were outside of a couple. Yet in truth, a high degree of loneliness is an inexorable part of being a sensitive, intelligent human. It’s a built-in feature of a complex existence, whatever our relationship status.”  This is one of the bittersweet realities of being in relationship ~ that even though there is someone on whom we can rely to be there, in some moments, we will feel lonely and alone in their presence.  The author goes on to say that “there are areas of what might be called metaphysical (or existential) loneliness which no other person – however well-intentioned – can properly assuage.”  Near the end of his life, the German writer Goethe, who did not lack for social connection, said “no one has ever properly understood me, I have never fully understood anyone; and no one understands anyone else.”  “There are – he was saying – irremovable barriers between the souls of individual people.” It is impossible to not feel lonely, and wholly normal to feel lonely, at times, within a relationship.

Do you find yourself saying that “this relationship has turned out to be too hard?”  Are there the repeated arguments over the details of a shared life?  Do you feel resentful that it has been such a long time since you had some spontaneous fun?  Do you keep count of all the big and small ways your partner has frustrated you or let you down?  It begins to feel like the difficulties are “contrary to the rules of love – and a sign that the relationship itself must be an error.”  This, too, is a legacy of Romanticism, an ideology that promotes the belief that because love is a feeling, we should not have to work at it or develop it as if it were a skill. “But we might be wiser to embrace a notion that love is inherently hard, and that if it feels too hard, this is only because we don’t possess the right set of skills to cope with its arduousness.  Romantic Realism proposes that relationships are not fundamentally different from any other area of human activity we must develop an expertise in.”  This will require us to “learn to grasp the role of our past in our selection of partners, to forgive failure rather than merely admire strength, to determine the other’s distinctive manner of needing love, to cope with laborious, pedantic domestic issues, to acknowledge the difficulties of admitting to our needs  . . . We will be ready for relationships when we accept that our chances of contentment depend on our willingness to go back to a school we were never, sadly, taught we ever really needed.”

Until next time, peace.