My friend, and sometimes collaborator, Michael Wolff and I have been on this planet for 150 years. During that time, we have clocked up five marriages and thirteen children between us.
So the topic of love, soul mates and lifelong relationships has taken up a lot of conversation over the years. And we have both come to the same conclusion. Michael has beautifully summed it up here in this heartfelt piece of prose.
I’ve never cared for the expression “Falling in love” It’s always sounded to me like some sort of careless accident. Falling’s never a good idea anyway, it nearly always results in pain.
Choosing is an entirely another matter. And even choice can hurt because choosing in matters of love can be flawed and disappointing.
The problem is often a misconception of attraction. I’ve been thinking about attraction and of course I only really understand it from my own point of view. This, I think is how attraction works. It’s an internalised system of matching. From a very early age, probably around 3 or 4, many individuals start cataloguing what they find attractive in others and what repels them. I certainly did.
For example if a little boy of four is smacked around the chops by a curly headed blonde, then that may be it for curly headed blondes forever.
Little by little a catalogue of stereotypical images of attractive people are stored in the brain, they come from pre-erotic and erotic glimpses of people or from films, dreams, books, magazines and a variety of images.
Then as relative maturity arrives we start searching for ‘the one’. We look hopefully and tirelessly at almost everyone we see until we settle for a look-a-like, someone who appears to resemble a stereotype already in our cerebral catalogue.
Instantly we click and fuse the image of the one we’ve just noticed into the one we already have in mind and our hormones and a whole variety of chemicals and electrical impulses start to get busy.
That way we control these images so that who we’ve picked matches what already attracts us and then, through some magical focussing and subconscious superimposition, we fall in love with the perfect image we’ve personified as the person we think we see.
We even impose the attributes we’ve already fantasised about and wished on the images in our catalogue of attractive people and imagine who we now see as the same person.
Then after a chemical flurry of wonderful good times together and happy sexual joy, gradually, and sometimes very gradually, whatever relationship we believe we’re in flexes to reveal the adaptations we’ve had to make until the real person we’ve chosen turns up, and we find their resemblance to what we had in mind is minimal.
How disappointing that can be.
Thank God really meeting people, finding oneself ‘becoming’ in love, and loving a person for who they are is an entirely different, wondrous and delightful cup of very rare tea.
I’ve found that love is really a job. It’s serious undertaking that can bring happiness beyond any dreams or wishes.
The job: to give your partner a greater and richer experience of themselves than they can achieve alone, and then, even harder, to be able to receive the same enriched sense of yourself from them.
I think this is the most beautiful and useful description of a relationship...
“Let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other's cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow.”