I’ve touched before on my dissatisfaction with our cultural ideas around romantic love, in posts such as Being in Love. Considering my personal experiences of attachment issues, loneliness, abusive relationships, and being stalked, I’ve done a lot of thinking about love in my life. It’s certainly clear to me that we get confused about love and obsession and often tangle the two together – one doesn’t have to watch a lot of romantic comedies (or kid’s movies!) to find examples of that. This confusion has certainly cost me dearly at times, when I thought that I was rewarding persistence, or that if the other person felt so strongly about me then maybe they were seeing some possibility for us that I’d missed.
Narcissism is another quality that we get confused with love, and tangle into our romantic relationships. I’ve been dating Rose for over a year now, and it’s wonderful and life changing and unforgettable and sometimes damn hard work. (for both of us, not that she’s hard work, but that our relationship is hard work) Considering that I’m a multiple, that we each have trauma histories, and that we’re gay (ie vulnerable to issues such as prejudice, judgement, and ignorance from our communities), this is entirely to be expected. Sometimes I find it helps to remind myself of a truth it’s easy to forget: that Rose was not put here on this earth to become my perfect partner.
She is in fact an entirely separate person, with her own journey. That her path and mine have crossed is joyful and wonderful. That she has tremendous skills in supporting and loving another fierce, dark, vulnerable person is something I’m grateful for. That she has wonderful qualities of compassion, loyalty, and honesty is something I admire. But when I’m scared for us and how vulnerable our little family is (on so many levels, financially, socially) or how vulnerable I feel at times when the skills she lacks (or we both lack, like budgeting), or her choices are not what I’d have chosen in my perfect partner, it can be hard to remember that that is not actually her role in life. It is also a liberating realisation, because it likewise frees me from trying to fit or be fitted to an idea she has in her head about her perfect partner. We each of us are free to be who we are, and then to engage compassionately with the ways in which that can be hard or painful at times, and to rejoice in the unexpected blessings that a partnership between equals who are different and who are free can bring. Sometimes I think one of the greatest challenges in life is learning how to afford others the freedoms we so deeply crave for ourselves.
So we live alongside these ghosts, these dreams of idealised partners. We learn skills and take responsibility for the times we hurt each other. We build a relationship together that’s deeply passionate and loving, and also values freedom and authenticity. We celebrate not only our similarities but also our differences. We work to be good partners, a good team, to bring wonderful things to each other’s lives. But we breathe beyond that role and we live outside of that relationship also. Our lives remain our own. Love is not the key that locks the trap. There’s something frightening, but also profoundly exciting about not writing our partners into our own life story as supporting characters and trying to make them into our best version of them, but respecting and honouring that they star in their own story, that they are separate, and that for a time we are privileged to share their life and know their love.