“One of the basic rules of the universe is that nothing is perfect. Perfection simply doesn't exist.” - Stephen Hawking
There is an old adage, the more we have the more we can give. This is true of temporal things as I can’t give money if I have no money, I can’t give time if I have no time, I can't give of a skill set I don't possess, but it is also true of spiritual things. If I have no love in me I can’t give love out. If I have no emotional energy in me, I can’t give emotional energy out.
From this it naturally follows that I can’t love another unless I love myself. Not a vain self-love, but an inner belief in my own intrinsic worth. This sense of self can only be truly strong if it emanates from within, or as Stephen Fry once quipped: “you can't suck it off another's tits, it has to lactate in your own.”
But here is a dangerous fork in the road, if my sense of self-worth grows disproportionate I may run the risk of becoming a self-made man who believes in his creator. Or perhaps in a lesser form of apotheosis, a person who values his love and energy so highly that he fears rejection to the point of never placing himself on the starting line of life. Always living within a “safe” boundary which, far from contributing to inner strength, provides a false sense of security. Without a true test, without a genuine load on the heart or a positive outlet for energy a person simply isn't “match fit”. It is the emotional equivalent of someone watching the world’s strongest man competition and thinking they could dead-lift a thousand pounds at will without the intermediate training require. The old “I could do it, I just choose not to.”
This is not to say that I should leap into any and every relationship which is on offer. Contrary to a belief which I often hear spouted, simply because two people are single does not mean they are well suited. But what makes for a good match? Certainly sexual chemistry is key. If that box is ticked then what is clear from the great partnerships is they are built, not beamed down from heaven in a golden chariot. Forged in the quotidian, day to day, not a miracle beyond control. Some questions which seem to come up time and again when talking to people in passionate loving relationships:
- Are they a genuine help mate or just someone your heart tells you is your ideal?
- Are they capable of giving to the relationship as much as they receive from it?
- Do they have the introspection to see their own faults and the failings of their own arguments?
- Are they as willing to be changed as much as they are keen to be the agent of change?
In short, self-awareness takes over from self-love as the key driver to building a great relationship for while self-love will get you to the starting block, give you the confidence to test the waters, it can, and I have often seen will, prevent a lasting relationship from forming because it creates a pseudo ideal. A wall which a potential mate must vault in a single bound to prove they are the one. But if the wall is built ever taller the higher a person knows someone can leap, it becomes a wall no one will ever successfully clear.
The romantics out there may see this as depressing, or rage against it as callus, cruel and untrue. But I too am a romantic, and it is because of this I don't see hopelessness and despair in such a truth, rather it fills me with the hope of a long, lasting, rewarding and fulfilling relationship: triggered by chemistry, formed in friendship and sustained and made permanent though a desire to work each and every day to make the partnership stronger.
But how can I think that you may say? How can my heart be romantic if it holds to a truth of Love which is mundane, even workmanlike? Because of the people I know who are in long and lasting relationships. Because their lives together are forged and sustained by a day to day desire to care for their own heart, to cherish their partners soul and to do what it takes to ensure both have a happy and fulfilled life together. If they had had an overdeveloped self-love, a notion of self which doesn't accommodate or shape and change in rhythm with the beating of their soulmates heart, the frictions of toilet seats up, anniversaries forgotten, an “I love you” once not said, would have fractured the partnership.
In many cases this was only achieved after what a pilot would term control reversal. This is a situation in which flight controls act in the reverse manner to their design. If a pilot is unaware of the situation, their instinct will actually cause a crash, not avert one. Sometimes relationships function in this way. We adopt a pattern to help us through a difficult situation in our lives, but the crutch to ease the pain becomes a new way of walking which in time feels “right”. To all the world we are hobbling along, but from our perspective it is the very best method of walking. Our heart can be crippled in just such a manner. We surround ourselves with words and things which reinforce our inner most desire, but because of the disjointed nature of our walk we will be unable to keep up or even make the distance to the life we want. Gradually this turns into a narrative that a situation isn't right, or if it feels good, just wasn't meant to be. But like a pilots control reversal it can just be a case of challenging our intuitive knowledge, running toward not from a situation and accepting the possibility that our heart and self-love might be leading us away from the future we so ardently desire. As Doug Hastings put it in Strictly Ballroom:
“We had the chance but we were scared. We walked away. We lived our lives in fear!”
For those who do not live their lives in fear, who do make the distance, do convert chemistry into a lasting partnership, it is often a result of their capacity to look beyond a perfect ideal, their desire to forge a lasting relationship, their ability to synchronise their breathing with their partners. In short, it is because instead of making up their mind something was not right and hardening their heart further, they chose to allow the walls which they had erected to slowly melt away; after which a glorious city of love was revealed.Posted in: Philosophy