Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Is it love, or the idea of love?

Note: This blog is not about anyone in particular. As with anything I write here, it’s a commentary on something I see in droves. In this case, it’s something very common in society but particularly acute lately among people I know.

Too many single people are in love with the idea of love.

What is the idea of love? It’s when you feel all the trappings of being in love, without an actual object of affection. It’s when you hinge your happiness on Mr. or Ms. Right without having met anyone who fits that description. It’s pining about the allegedly better life that comes with being in a relationship, raising kids and/or living within the perimeter of a white picket fence. It’s the giving of the heart to the hypothetical. I used to call it “having a lot of love to give,” back when I thought being single was a shortcoming.

The idea of love is not love. It’s a destructive impostor. It’s an abusive partner. It undermines your self-esteem, compels you to settle for less and, ironically enough, makes you less appealing as a person.

So, please, for your sake and the sake of everyone around you, end the relationship with the idea of a relationship. End it. End it end it end it. Now!

I’m not coming from a smug place of relationship satisfaction in saying that. I’m single, 34, have never been married, have no kids, work odd hours and live 2,000 miles from 90 percent of the people I know. My longest-ever relationships were eight months and five months, and those were 15 and 10 years ago, respectively. I currently have no prospects on the horizon. When it comes to coupling, I’m undoubtedly more pathetic than you.

But I don’t care. Not even remotely. My attitude is, if it happens, it happens — if not, at least I have my space and every cool thing I do. I did care once upon a time, but I changed my tune long ago. And I’m much better off for it. Here’s why you, idea-of-love lover, would be too:

The idea of love undermines your self-esteem. We all know (or are) single people who constantly complain about how single they are. Inevitably, they think this problem (of course it’s a problem) has something to do with them being inadequate human beings. In many cases, they’re actually awesome people with terrific personalities, fulfilling pursuits and a list of accomplishments that would move the needle on a scale. But they don’t have a boyfriend or girlfriend, so they think it’s all for naught. They bemoan what they don’t have instead of appreciating what they do have, and what promise the future holds in any number of unfathomable ways. Relationship scorecards can bring even the best person down for no reason. Are you one of them?

So you’re more likely to settle. When I think back to my favorite dates, not one of them came into my life when I was looking. Oftentimes, I was actively not looking. If you’re looking for someone, eventually you will find them. That’s the problem. Love is organic; it either happens or it doesn’t. When you’re trying too hard, you are less likely to end up with someone truly special, but rather someone you’ve convinced yourself is right. This mindset will let you overlook glaring compatibility issues out of the sense that you can’t do any better. Is that the kind of “happiness” you aspire to?

The idea of love, ironically, makes you less appealing. A common reaction to all of this is, “But I’m doing everything right and I’m still not finding anybody. Why can’t I?” Well, are you saying that to anyone who will listen? Desperation is a serious turnoff.

Much has been discussed on the Internet lately about the rampant idea that everyone is entitled to a significant other (a term I hate very much for a million reasons, but most of its synonyms are also stupid, so let’s go with it). Whenever I hear that, I think, “You really believe ‘I deserve love’ is attractive?” Many years ago, I pleaded for months to a girlfriend who had broken up with me. I played to my yearning, not to her needs, and couldn’t fathom why that didn’t compel her to sprint back into my arms. She never did, and I don’t blame her now. (We became good friends once I grew up.)

It’s one thing to casually mention in conversation that you’ve never been lucky in love (and even longing isn't that bad in small doses). It’s another to bemoan it. The bemoaning is what makes it a turnoff. It gives the impression that you are insecure and will thus glom onto anyone. You might be looking for the perfect person, but they won’t bite if they feel like you’re more in love with the idea of them than the actual person that they are. I want someone who likes me for me, rather than who likes me for being a check on a checklist.

All you can truly do to attract love is to be the best, kindest and most interesting person you can be. Do what you do. Control what you can control, and don't try to control what you can't. Be as upbeat as you can. Leave something mysterious. Don’t give a damn. It’s amazing what (and who) can happen when the pressure’s off.

Love is great, but the idea of love is an abusive partner. Break up immediately.

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