4 Unpleasant Things Nobody Tells You About Being in Love
Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies. Aristotle said that, and it was meant to be more philosophical than romantic. You can take it any way you like -- even if you don't believe in the concept of the soul, you understand the meaning. I don't think he's wrong. I think he's being very poetic and a little Flock of Seagulls, but he's not wrong. He was a philosopher, though, so he probably humped trees and stuff. Right in the sap hole.
Notice how he never specified what bodies he had in mind.
There are likely as many different kinds of love as there are lovers. I have friends I haven't spoken to in years for whom I have a kind of love that is, of course, vastly different than the love I have for that one girl in my life who means everything, and some others who meant this or that. All of them cause me a little pain or a lot of pain, depending on the nature of the relationship, and I think that's where Aristotle's view on love is really most applicable and relevant. Love causes pain, directly or indirectly, and it's not as simple as loving some schlub who cheats on you or treats you like shit -- it's that your soul aches for the trials and tribulations that other body has to endure that you can't endure for them.
That's the love I mean here. That's the love no one tells you about. In fact, people will tell you the exact opposite about love, that it should never cause you pain. If your love doesn't cause pain, you're doing it wrong.
It Needs Work
As a species, we have a grand and pretty fucktarded preoccupation with love. There are literally millions of songs and poems and books and films that have been written about love -- finding it, losing it, wanting it, needing it, taking it for granted, and on and on and on. I would hazard a guess that there is no other topic that has been covered as thoroughly as love ... or as poorly. Love is a battlefield. Love roller coaster. Love gun. If you had no concept of love, pop culture would make you think it was just something that had a shitty beat and maybe came from England.
In point of fact, despite the lamentations of popular music since the 1950s or so, in which every other song about love focused on the way the singer sucked and had lost his special gal, there's kind of a slow-boiling excitement to being in love that I'll just describe as a low-grade kind of joy. Not to diminish it and suggest it's lesser than the joy you feel when you get an onion ring in your fries -- it's just a kind of background thrill that's always there.
They're also another thing Aristotle would have tried to fuck.
Make no mistake -- as a species, we take the things we have for granted. That's why it's readily acknowledged that any relationship has a sort of honeymoon phase where everything is new and exciting, but then fast-forward 15 years and you have Bundy-esque relationships where everything is stale and bitter. That's not true for everyone, but we all let things lapse, and the newness can never last forever, so we grow accustomed to this person we love. They become a stable part of our routine, and we maybe don't have all the reasons we love them present and available in our minds all the time. It's a disservice to ourselves, them, and the notion that we love them at all, but it's often unavoidable.
They'll pick up after you. They love you, after all ... probably.
This doesn't mean every love grows stale; it just means you need to be aware of the person you love and aware of that feeling, that background joy you feel because you are in love, and bring it forward now and then. When you grow too used to another person, even someone you love more than your own life, it's that double-edged sword. You forget to let them know that. You don't buy flowers for no reason, or go out to a nice dinner, or savage each other like wild animals in the shower, because you're so comfortable and accustomed to being Aristotle's two bodies with one soul that you just live. You exist. You forget. That's dangerous territory, man. Work!
Think of your relationship like a delicious steak, perfectly grilled and served up with a beer. Vegans, you can substitute the steak for gentle weeping or whatever you do at barbecues. It's nice, right? You like it. What if you could have it again tomorrow? Fuck yeah, you say. Hell. Have it the day after, too. Fast-forward five years and you're going to hate that steak if you haven't had anything else in the interim. Which doesn't mean you should have an affair -- it means you should do things differently. Keep it fresh. Put in the effort!
You probably don't expect this when you first meet someone who is all that and a bag of chips, as the kids who are tragically stuck in 1999 say, but you can find a lot of purpose in being in love. As in "why am I here?" purpose. The great cosmic kind of existential shit. Deep, right? Like a sexy bog! So much erotic peat.
Love seems almost entirely purposeless when you first find yourself in it. You're being all gooey and lame in the way other people hate: you grope each other in public, every idea the other person has is fucking brilliant, and neither of you has farted yet. So it's pretty sweet and all, but it's built on a shaky foundation. And we accept this because we know that when the fart does come and it rocks that foundation like the spun sugar that it is, and it all tumbles down, if they're still standing next to you, then it was all worth it. And that's when the lack of purpose fades, and you start seeing a real meaning behind why you feel the way you feel, and this one definitely grows in time.
She slowly teaches him how Google works for the 47th time this week because she cares.
If this shit happens right away, then you need to run, because the other person doesn't love you -- they're just insane and needy. If they want to sacrifice their own comforts for yours, or you find them going far and wide out of their way to make you happy, almost to the point of being unreasonable, that's all thanks to this deep-rooted need to make the other person happy, despite whatever might be preventing that. This is why you'll do something stupid, like go to every video store in town to see if they have a copy of Annie because you can't find it on Netflix and she really wants to watch it right now. Appreciate the person who does that if you've had a fairly long relationship, but fear the one who does it after knowing you for three weeks -- that guy's unstable.
Not that you're any better. Wanting to watch Annie and all.
Being legitimately in love with someone else means you want for them and you do for them in addition to yourself. You still like you, you probably want to make sure you have the basic comforts in life, but you want more for the other person and you'll do things to ensure they have it. It's like a job no one hired you for and you don't remember pursuing. But here you are and, if things are going the way they should be, you like it. If you find yourself hating every time your partner asks for a glass of water, then shit went wrong and you probably need to reconsider the nature of your relationship.
Being with someone who you really feel for can be remarkable for your mind and the work you do. Maybe it's part of being a writer, but I feel like everyone needs a muse of some kind, even if they're not particularly creative. You don't need to write hilarious Internet comedy articles that inspire millions and make everyone love you, or even the kind that Gladstone writes, to benefit from some inspiration.
"Uh, no, I haven't seen your onion rings."
Everyone should be able to enjoy that feeling of their mind being fresh and alive and bursting with ideas. That's the sort of thing you feel when you're inspired by someone else.
So what if you don't paint or sculpt or make scene-for-scene, shot-for-shot remakes of porn movies with homemade puppets? Irrelevant. You do something with your life. You make dinner some nights, you go shopping, you converse with each other, you have ideas and thoughts and feelings and so on. Those things can all be inspired. Should be, even. And when you're alone, all that shit suffers. Ever seen the dinner a typical straight male who lives alone makes? Good God. Tater tots and microwave pizza is a perfectly valid meal for a week straight if you're just a dude alone. Need a drink? There's Kool-Aid and gin. You basically become a tech-savvy Smeagol.
"Filthy sneaky womenses, they wants to steal our Stouffer's. We hates them, precious!"
Part of me wants to suggest that the best reason for being in love is boobs, but another part wants to suggest that this is it -- the feeling that another person engenders in you that inspires you to be more than a hapless lump of shit.
As I mentioned earlier, love leads to pain. I don't want that to be misinterpreted, or anyone to start quoting Nazareth song lyrics about it -- that's not what I mean. Sure, lots of people feel like they love someone who abuses them, and that hurts, but that's not really love either so much as a kind of desperate dependence coupled with loneliness and self-worth issues. And at the very least, that person is not loving you back. That's a whole different issue. The thing about the good, normal kind of two-way love is that, even if you both care for each other, and in fact because you both care for each other, you're going to feel pain.
As great as it is to share your life with someone, you have to expect the unexpected. Imagine, just for a moment, that the person who means the most to you in the world gets sick suddenly. Or, oddly worse, not suddenly. Slowly. So every day you watch them slip away from you, just a little bit more. Maybe it lasts for years. That's the kind of gut-wrenching awfulness so bad that there's literally no dick joke I can put in here right now to try to lighten it up. Not one. Not one about a grandpa with balls like pantyhose with two oranges in them hanging low and swinging about like a hunter's bolo, not one about how Donald Trump's withered, olive-smelling dong is probably nestled in a scabrous thicket of gnarled and desiccated pubes, nothing.
Even though it totally is.
This is why Aristotle's airy-fairy definition of love makes sense -- one soul in two bodies share pain. You hurt for that person and they hurt for you, but the experience is always singular, so you don't feel the way they hurt for you. You feel it in a totally one-sided way, so it always feels like it's all on you. Your pain plus their pain together. And if you can stand under that weight still, then congratulations -- you truly love someone. Fucked, isn't it? But in general, the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.
The problem with our modern conception of love is all the stuff I've been mocking so far, all this folk wisdom and Dr. Philisms and dumbfuck sound bites from philosophical think tanks like Arianna Grande or Taylor Swift. Love isn't a catchphrase, it's not a regrettable tattoo, and it's not a pledge to do things for the rest of your life that make no sense. It's a thing you have to do all the time. You do it every day or it doesn't work anymore. And that's why so many relationships fail, because people say dumb shit like "You're my soulmate, I'mma love you forever!" and then they go fuck the neighbor and, well shit, that relationship didn't work out. But how? You were going to love each other forever. You said so!
"I can't even get proper revenge because all the other neighbors smell like olive dong."
People expect love to manifest like any other feeling, like being hungry or sleepy or mildly amused by the antics of the cats of The Big Bang Theory when nothing else is on. But it's a lot more like actually putting the effort into changing the channel, or making a damn meal to stop yourself form being hungry. It requires an investment on your part, and action, and a will to do something. And look, someone told you that. So now you know. So next time you fall in love, you can kick its ass. And every time you have sex, you can picture me.
For more from Felix, check out 4 Stupid Ways Everyone Deals With Breakups and 4 Ways Getting Older Makes You Behave Like an Asshole.
Let Felix know you pictured him during sex, click the Facebook 'share' button below.
Angels are real, and they are bad frickin' news. Robert Brockway's Vicious Circuit series is a punk rock, dark fantasy full of horror and humor. Check out the first two books, and pre-order the third, Kill All Angels, available December 26th.