Tuesday, July 14, 2009

And then the Leprechaun buggered off with the pot o' gold...

So, due to certain events and recent decisions I've dealt with in my life, I feel a strong need to write about the nature of Love, Relationships, and Dating in Modern Society.

The whole topic is rubbish, though, so why not root out the real source of the problem.

Just as I believe the Rebellion spirit that lives in us is the result of heavy indoctrination during youth, I fear that the modern concept of romance is likewise culturally ingrained into us. Raised on fairy tales of Sleeping Beauty and Prince Charming, it is essentially inevitable for children to grow up with severely warped perspectives on relationships. I personally had the misfortune of spending my formative years regarding these things, sequestered away in my church youth group, but more on that later.

The fundamental problem is the delusion of "The Perfect Other". Likely stemming from the Judeo-Christian that God is watching out for you, the idea essentially is that there is a Mr./Mrs. Right out there, just waiting for you. This sort of thinking can only exist in a universe that allows for an all powerful/all knowing God, or Fate, which is the same thing with a more secular coat of paint on it. Now, I won't deny that even in my social circle, I have married friends who I cannot imagine being involved with anyone else. That is a reactionary attitude, though. I cannot imagine them with other people, mainly because I have not really seen either of them with other people. The concept is foreign to me, likely not encouraging to the couple (who wants to imagine their significant other with anyone else?), and therefore largely frowned upon. Personal experience and social graces combine forces, and suddenly it's Destiny.

Except it's not Destiny. It's not Fate, or God, or any other invisible force. It is a convoluted combination of personal chemistry and compatibility, genetic predisposition, and a significant amount of compromise and work on the part of the people actually in the relationship. Those couples who were "made for each other" are likely the first ones to point out to you exactly how hard it is to live with their spouse/significant other, and will easily rattle off several issues that they are currently in the process of hammering out. They are still together because their personalities mesh in just such a way that they can get through with the relationship intact. But that is no guarantee it will last, even for the married ones. It is fallacious thinking to assume permanence simply because it is the way things are now. The couple may have worked through a lot. They may have overcome challenges that likely seemed absolutely insurmountable at the time (I can think of a half dozen examples of the top of my head for at least as many of my married/seriously commited friends). Issues which the couples managed to work through. But, I can also say with confidence that the key factor in every one of these situations was not divine providence. It was not the invisible hand of Fate, Destiny, or the Divine. It was the stubborn persistence of the poor bastards caught in the middle of it. I've watched small issues shatter "perfect" couples. I've seen a lack of persistence destroy casual couple and decades-long marriage alike. The fact that a relationship has not failed yet does not automatically assume that it cannot fail.

There is no such thing as a "soulmate". At best, there is "the ultimate accomplice". Someone who is conspiring with you against the forces of entropy and boredom. When you think about it, monogamous relationships are a bit bizarre for a species with attention spans as short as humans. Yes, they're convenient for stability while raising children, but beyond that, there is a decided lack of incentive to stay involved. There is likely a reason the words "stable" and "stagnant" both begin with the same three letters. I'm no linguist, unfortunately, but I'd be glad to hear from someone with a thought on that. Personally, I have the attention span of the average gray squirrel cranked up on pop rocks and mountain dew. And while I am fully aware that the rest of the human race does not share my weakness (Thank God), my cousin informed me recently that the average human intellect does not usually stray further than 6% off the baseline, one way or the other. Assuming I am truly exceptional, and have literally half the attention span of the most extremely inattentive person, that puts me at either 9% or 12% off the mark, respectively. In class, a full letter grade, but we're not talking about the difference between "Passing with Honors" and "Dismal Failure". This implies that I, with my miserable ability to stay on course, am at the very most, only slightly less capable of keeping my head on track. That means that most other people will eventually get bored by the same lack of variety that bores me (albeit not nearly as quickly). It seems odd that there is this expectation that, even though I have difficulty maintaining a single guiding thought in my head throughout one single paragraph, I will somehow be perfectly fine sticking to a single woman for the rest of my life. And, if some of the more extreme cases are to be believed, that I was supposed to be "true" to her all the way up till now as well.

We are raised on promises of Happily Ever After in Love, as well as other things. It's a load of bollocks, though (God Bless the UK). According to a hero of mine, Harris K Telemacher (as played by Steve Martin), "There is someone for everyone, even if you need a compass, pick axe, and night goggles to find them." I disagree. I believe the formula is that you find someone you are happy with, and then you use the compass, pick axe, and night goggles to keep the relationship together.

Just keep your nerve, batten down the hatches, and with a little luck, you can make it through, with all your friends looking on in awe saying "They were meant to be together."

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