Imperfect love

Today I cancelled two meetings and one talk, refused a commission and fell behind on several others. This stuff is pretty important to me – not least because it pays my bills – so I’m pretty pissed off that the flu is KICKING MY ASS.

But anyway, this isn’t meant to be a moan about being ill (though I am really ill so any sympathy is very welcome) or an exercise in self-importance (though the flu could have chosen a less important week to kick my ass)… in classic tangent fashion, it’s actually about marriage, or, at least, about relationships.

Last Thursday, a friend commented that he had never been envious of anyone’s relationship, bar one couple – a couple whose marriage fell apart after the woman was unfaithful. I didn’t really give it much thought – people cheat, marriages end.

Today, I read a piece in the Guardian, in which Charlie Brooker is talking about kinda-maybe-sorta wanting a wife and very astutely makes the following observation: 
“In the face of love’s potential destructive fury, you’re left with three options:

  1. Pull down the emotional shutters and try to avoid it.
  2. Find someone you admire or like, rather than love, and try to make do, rendering both of you miserable in the process.
  3. Throw caution to the wind and gingerly place your fragile, beating heart in the hands of another human being and hope they don’t crush it in their fist for giggles.”

While reading it, I realised that I, like my friend, don’t know one couple whose relationship/marriage I envy. I don’t know one couple that makes me think, “That is what love is meant to look/feel/be like”.

Maybe that’s ok. Real relationships are messy and imperfect – my one certainly is – but I’m still surprised and perhaps saddened by the fact that I don’t know a single couple whose relationship is wonderful and amazing. Is this because I fraternise with pessimists and misanthropes? Is it because I’ve been brought up in a culture of arranged marriage? Is it because I’ve been fed impossible ideals by a diet of unrealistic romcoms? I don’t think so.

I have happy, optimistic, laidback friends; I know people who have had non-arranged marriages and who are miserable (as well as people in arranged ones who are relatively happy); and as for the impossible ideal, I know there’s enduring, all-encompassing love – I just don’t know anyone who has that in their relationship. That been-together-fifty-years-and-still-haven’t-run-out-things-to-say type of love seems to have died in modern times. Do you agree? If not, please convince me. If so, it’s kinda sad, don’t you think?

12 thoughts on “Imperfect love”

  1. Okay, so you’ve not seen it yourself – but do you think that it’s actually possible? Do you have hope that it exists? Do you actually care?

    Here’s a theory. Maybe those who no longer think/never thought that this groovy kind of love exists are the ones who get married; perhaps this is a level of realism that makes a successful union possible? After all, with low expectations you get what you want more easily.

    On the other hand maybe those others who are waiting for something more, the 3s in your list above, are the ones happy to be single in the meantime? It’ll be worth it (hopefully).

    Oh and I haven’t forgotten those in the middle – were probably forced to get married.

    I hope that couples like you speak about do exist – even if it’s not something I manage to achieve. Hope is a good, sometimes enabling thing.

    Finally, can you give me a specific example of what would convince you that a relationship is wonderful and amazing? Is it a specific act or gesture or what?

  2. > Shak

    I have seen/experienced it myself and that’s why I know it’s possible. It’s just sad that people I know don’t have that or, at most, had it at one point but not for very long.

    I agree that having low expectations makes people happier but I think deep down, even the most cynical of us hope/suspect that this type of love exists. I think people that settle for less KNOW that they are settling, even if they choose to deny it. As for those who are waiting for more, I have a lot of respect for them. It takes a lot of courage and tenacity to wait for The One, which is probably why most people give up and marry someone they can build a good, rather than great, life with.

    As for specific examples, I’m not sure if ‘enviable’ relationships are quantifiable but if we’re talking ingredients, there would have to be longevity (maybe longer than five years – anything can be good for a short time… even strangulation feels good initially), there would have to be equality (there’s a scene in ‘The Happening’ where a woman asks ‘Who’s chasing who?’ When the couple stays silent, she says, ‘One’s always chasing the other’, which I think is true of most relationships so that gap between the pair would have to be as small as possible), there would have to be chemistry (a spark that is always evident to people in and out of the relationship) and there has to be a compatibility of personalities (the ability to have interesting and amusing conversations long into the relationship). I’m sure there are other important things I’m forgetting but those are the basics.

    And, yes, absolutely have hope. I think saying enviable love is ‘dead’ like I did is too strong. Maybe it’s just dying.

  3. Your ingredients more or less coincide with Spammy’s Rules of Love: Longevity, Parity, Certainty and Friendship. Of all these I think parity is the most difficult to achieve, partly because you can never really know if you’ve achieved it.

    Finally I forgot to say – I’m envious of any lasting relationship including all. Then again I’m not sure if I qualify being the despo that I am!

  4. I showed my friend this blog post of yours, which got both of us struggling to find an example of a happy-madly-in-love couple. We actually came up with three.

    One old brown couple, who had arranged marriage. Together they have been through a lot, and the way the ‘Uncle’ has been looking after his bedridden wife is love, in my opinion. The look of concern he has in his eyes for her is love.

    The other one, a recently engaged couple. They live together, and travel together. So maybe because they got a chance to live together before marriage, they know what each one of them is getting into. But when I am in their presence I feel love. Just in the way they look at each other.

    The third one, is a long-distance relationship. They have been in the same relationship for 5 years now. I have never once heard my friend say anything bad about her boyfriend. Theirs is a relationship of mutual respect. My friend is white, and the boyfriend is of Turkish descent. So these two could not have been more different. But they make it work, which gives me hope.

    And, let’s not forget Homer and Marge Simpson. Now those two have what it takes…

  5. i think a lot has got to do with the 'everything, now' expectation which has risen to prominence amongst the current generation of would be lovers. we live in an age where everything is at our fingertips, we don't have to wait for anything – we can just google it. we want that promotion tomorrow, we want to see the world today, and we want instantaneous love and for it to be perfect, always. any deviation from that is seen as the end of the world and bang – divorce. its an all too easy option for our generation and one i feel is overused.

    the only truly loving relationships i know are those that exist with the over 60s. it always brings a smile to my face and warmth to my heart to see an old couple walking down a busy london street, holding hands and oblivious to the decay and misery around them. for me, that right there is the goal. thats what my dreams are made of. make no mistake love is hard, it takes time, and these days nobody wants to make that effort when its easier to move onto the next.

    as i've gotten older and experienced more and more heartbreak, i've arrived at a conclusion that with love, as is the case with many other things, its the pursuit which gives us more happiness then the attainment. a wise chinaman many many years ago said that it was a curse to find what you are looking for, and the cynic in me slowly beginning to agree.

    however, i cant help feeling disheartened at the thought. as an indian male who avidly detests bollywood and its influence in setting 'unrealistic expectations of love', i still have that wildly romantic part of me that longs for true love and the perfect relationship. i want to be 60 something, holding my wife's hand and smiling and kissing and more (with a little help of course). i just genuinely believe it'll never happen.

    p.s. please discard my previous comment, it was made in error 🙂

  6. +1 to the above. Although I think it's more to do with expecting it to come for free with no sacrifice/effort than in an instant.

    People now want it all, not realising that something has to give. Unfortunately for most it's relationships rather than careers/social lives/independence.

  7. I am not at all one who belives in loveatfirstsight… and theoneloveforalltime… and last but not least I don't belive in love which conquers all without any effort.

    Realtionshsips, regardless whether these are family ones, between friends or couples, never should be taken for granted and always needs to be worked on.

    But I know couples where I see this special thing or rather feel it. It is never only glory and harmony, I know the pictures behind, but it is a love for the other person which makes me smile every time I see both together. Even if they are fighting!

    So I know this real love of everydays life which for me is more special than every romantic picture. It is a decision to fight and work for this relationship, to have this person you want to tell everything first and which oppinion is so important for oneself. And with whom one can share this moments just lying to each others, breathing deep and feel everything is at it's place.

    I don't think there is THE ONE who is just waiting and perfect for you. But there are persons worth to become the one.


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