Love as a Means, Not an End

By | 28/12/2014

It’s time to trade the romantic ideal of love, in which just being in love is enough (the very reason why it won’t last), for the kind of relationship that promotes individual growth.

Clearly, there is something wrong with the way we’ve been having romantic relationships; after all, people suffer so much for love. If love is supposed to make us happy, suffering can only mean we’re in the wrong path.

From childhood, we learn that we are not supposed to rationalize or understand love; we should only experience it, as if it were a fascinating kind of magic that makes us feel whole and comforted when we are next to the person who has become unique and special to us.

We learn that reason must not disturb the magic of love and that we have to avoid “contamination” to fully enjoy the delights this emotion brings. But the truth is that this approach hasn’t worked.

Let’s try to go the opposite way, then: let’s think about the subject with honesty and courage. Maybe new beliefs will bring better results.

Let’s focus on just one of the ideas that form our conception of love.

We think that a solid romantic relationship will bring all our problems to an end. This is our romantic ideal: two people meet, fall for each other, create a strong, interdependent connection, feel fulfilled and complete, and dream of leaving everything behind to move to an oasis, where they will live entirely for each other, enjoying the pleasure of having found their “other half.” Nothing seems to be missing.

Nothing they once valued – money, looks, work, social position, etc. – matters anymore. All but love becomes banal, superfluous and easily discarded.

We now know that people who have tried to turn these fantasies into reality did not fare well. As time went by, they realized that an isolated, unchallenging life, focused solely on their romantic relationship, quickly became boring and uninteresting.

We can dream all we want about lost paradises or moving back into our mother’s womb, but we can’t escape the fact that we’re used to a life with certain risks and struggles. We then realize challenges are good for us: they keep us sharp and intrigued.

In a way, the romantic ideal come true is a denial of life. After all, if it means leaving behind everything we’ve lived for up to that point, love is the antitheses of life.

At first, it seems like a good deal, but we are soon bored by the void that comes from relinquishing our lives. From then on, our significant others begin to annoy us and are seen as the reason for our boredom and as uninteresting and uninspired people.

We all know what happens next: the couple breaks up and they each go back to their old lives, feeling like they failed their life’s ideals.

Sick people believe health is all they need. Poor people think money will bring them the happiness they desire. The emotionally needy – that is to say, all of us – believe love is the magical solution that gives meaning to life. What we lack is always idealized, as an elixir of long life and eternal happiness.

On a daily basis, though, the facts show us that’s not true, and this is an important lesson to learn. Our convictions should be based on reality and our projects should be planned in accordance to what works in the real world.

Fantasies and dreams, on the other hand, are connected to psychical processes connected to memories and failures of the past.

We must realize that would have seemed to be a perfect answer for a six-month-old, such as going back to their mother’s womb, is ineffective and intolerable at age 30. That bicycle I didn’t get when I was seven will not solve any of my current problems.

We should stop dreaming about unsatisfying solutions and adapt our dreams to the reality of adult life.

Well, if it is true that love gives us joy, energy and courage – and this is undeniable – then why not direct this new energy to our personal projects?

When we’re in love and feel loved by someone we admire and value, our self-esteem grows, and we feel honorable and strong. We become daring and capable of trying new things, not only in the outside world, but also in terms of understanding our true selves.

Instead of being seen as an end in itself, love should be understood as a way to improve ourselves, curing us from past failures and propelling us into the future. Couples that love this way grow and evolve; their love, under these circumstances, is renewed and revitalized.

Tradução: Amanda Morris