|Your Thoughts on Love|
I recently posted some of my thoughts on love and fidelity in the "Ramblings" page (here). I mentioned, at the end of the piece, that I would welcome anyone's thoughts on my thoughts. I was surprised by the volume, and quality, of the responses. I learned a lot by reading these responses, and they gave me food for thought - allowing me to further refine my own thoughts.
With the authors' permissions, I have reproduced most of the responses I got, most of them in their entirety. Contributors include:
I would still welcome any further ideas that anyone may have on this very interesting subject.
Spanish Barrman, in a novel called The Skook by J.P. Miller, paints a beautiful picture of the relationship that he shares with his unfaithful wife. In this wonderful story Spanish gets himself accidentally trapped in a cave whilst outrunning a group of villains. As his captivity becomes prolonged and survival beckons his resourcefulness, Spanish experiences several moments of clarity. During these moments he realises that he loves his wife for who she truly is. He finally accepts that she has stronger sexual desires than himself and that she actually needs to fulfil them, both inside and outside of the marriage. He realises that what actually bugged him about the marriage was that he had never communicated openly about this with his wife. He had just let things slide while his wife came home late, night after night, with the smell of another man on her. In the cave, Spanish felt grateful that it was himself whom she chose to come home to at the conclusion of every day. He decided that if he was ever to escape from the cave that he would declare his love for this woman and "set her free" (i.e. Communicate openly about the situation and give his wife freedom to do whatever makes her happy). Find "The Skook" if you can (itís out of print) and enjoy it.
Mark, I'd like to hear your thoughts again after you get married. Your thoughts will probably remain unchanged because basically I can relate to and agree with everything you have said. To what degree you practice what you have said will depend on the partner you choose. Also, putting something into practice is the only real test to what we have intellectualised (surely that's a word). It may look good on paper but to what degree would an open relationship be harmful?
Sherry said an interesting thing: Getting married sounds like a hypocritical thing to be doing if you (not you you but everyone else you) intend having multiple partners, even if you do spend most of your time with the one mate. Using the word "marriage" in the traditional Christian Institution of Marriage sense.
Every relationship struggles with the love and fidelity issues. And every relationship that lasts long-term has it's own ways of dealing with these issues. Basically I'm a chick magnet. I enjoy flirting. But I have my priorities. First and foremost I want to keep Sherry. She knows that I don't believe in monogamy and that I have instincts drawing me to other girls. But she also knows that I love her and enjoy living with her more than any other woman, past, present and future. Sherry wouldn't tolerate being shared. I knew this before we got married. I decided I wanted her and I knew what the deal was.
I thought that I wouldn't mind that much if Sherry had an affair. But during our trip to Canada I found myself in a weird situation where I thought she may be having and affair. And with the thought a close reality I didn't like it one little bit. In fact I hated it. Another example of intellectual thoughts not matching up with the practice of it I guess. It turned out that Sherry was not in fact having an affair but that instead my imagination had been working overtime. Just like you had written I thought that an affair may have it's good points like reasserting one's sexuality and reminding oneself that they can arouse someone other than their spouse.
Then you have children and it makes you even more reluctant to bring a third party into your cozy little family.
It's most unfortunate that the English language has so few words for love (like, duh, one). Greek (a language I am only passingly familiar with) has many, including phileo (as in philosophy - love of osophy, and philately - love of postage stamps). Phileo is "brotherly love" - the love I have for my sister. Of course, Greek also gives us eros - hubba hubba - the love you give homage with. "And yes, of course, you also want to bonk their brains out". Greek also gives us agape - the God kind of love. This is the love that is entirely giving (the opposite of the needy love you first refer to). Of course, my familiarity with this word (and the Greek language) comes through my reading of the Bible (the New Testament was written in "Koine" Greek - a surprisingly simple language). It is "agape" love that is so often - too often - used at marriages. I think it would be much more appropriate at a wedding to have some cool passage on the "eros" kind of love (which doesn't mean smutty or lewd, but does mean passionate).
In your considerations of love, I think it's useful to make distinctions between these kinds of love first. My view is that we've got (been given) eros to get us going, but that as time goes by, eros starts to fade, but agape (giving) love grows.
But one thing I do believe (this is in reference to your infidelity/adultery musings), I am aware that sex is a pretty darn major event. Even more so than the "kapow" of it would attest. The big book says, "So they are no longer two, but one." Joined. Glued. In fact, the image I have is of that glue so strong, that the bond can't break. An analogy: I don't know if you saw the TV cabinet I made? I used MDF, the chipboard of the '90s. I used this professional grade glue, that says on the side of the bottle that it's "actually stronger than most woods." And it's true. I tried pulling these two bits of woods apart. The glue holds the wood fibres, and the join doesn't come apart. Of course, if you pull hard enough, something has to give, so the wood itself splinters and breaks up.
So it sounds a bit heavy, and you may not have experienced it like that, but I believe that sex is that glue. It's supposed to be (a part of) what holds people together. So, what I believe is that:
Love - can it be defined? Can you really work out what is true love or not? I think people love differently, and the ones in "successful" relationships are perhaps not so much the ones who love more "wisely," but those who love someone who loves them back in the same way. I like the idea of loving beyond yourself - for the happiness of the other more than yourself - and it feels good (liberating even) to reach the point when you can give without thought of return and without it taking away from yourself. But that requires a selflessness which eventually may become unsustainable. Not that you stop loving, but perhaps your needs (not necessarily needy needs, but basic needs) become more important, and so you start to give more to yourself and less to the other. In an ideal relationship, you love yourself, healthily, and also love the other - very much, but you don't let them get away with shit. I'm talking from my own perspective where I'm not too good at that, partly because deeply ingrained in my subconscious is that to love is to compromise and forgive and give, and that my self-esteem isn't always as healthy as it could be.
I'm not sure I understand any more than before about what love is, or chemistry, or how to know when I have met the man who will be "The One". I've realised, though, that it's not the be-all and end-all of my life - that there's shit loads more to go through before and after that much-awaited event, and that in the meantime I'd better get on with living the life I want. Also, I know that if I can keep giving of myself as freshly and openly each time, every relationship that hasn't worked will have been an opportunity to learn - about life and myself and people. And that takes the pressure off when it doesn't work - which will happen in most cases.
I don't think that everybody has to love "wisely," or learn to love better with each relationship. That is a concept that you and I embrace, being the way we are, but it's not a rule. There isn't a set of steps to climb, it's not a continuum - it's a spectrum. And if you happen to find someone like you, then, that's it. Some people don't even require chemistry or sexual desire or passion - it's an individual choice. Perhaps later, as you experience different things, what was formerly quite adequate becomes insufficient and you can't bridge the gap. There's no doubt in my mind that you have a better chance of making it last with self knowledge and communication and some wisdom - but again, that's purely my opinion
Which brings me to the issue of sexual exclusivity - a touchy one for me. I think that if, within your relationship, you both have the same ideas on sleeping with other people, than there is no issue. In our society, we are not generally brought up with the idea that affairs are okay, but you're quite right - there is nothing intrinsically wrong with it. In fact, it's quite functional (in that it assures dissemination and keeps the species alive). But you might have to live in a polygamous society to have it truly accepted.
Never having experienced it doesn't give you much solid ground to stand on. You would need to be able to handle the vision of your partner - whom you cherish and to whom you have opened your heart - desiring someone else and fucking them. And that's hard, without it changing something in you or the way you perceive them. I hope that you, Mark, can experience that, because only then will you be able to know whether it's okay for you. And that's not being mean. I know I can't handle it. I don't know if I ever will.
Another thought: Why do people get so worked up about fidelity? Why do they get married, for that matter? The answer perhaps lies in why people get together in the first place: You want to find a mate because you're a social creature and because there are things you want to do that you can't do as well on your own - experience new places, lay some foundations as a team, have some stability, and then eventually procreate (which I believe is why we are here - none of that high-flying existential bullshit). If we were a different species, we could mate with different partners each season (and perhaps that instinctive drive is much stronger than we admit), but we're human and our babies take fifteen to twenty years to raise. So it's no surprise that when our partner sleeps elsewhere the stability is shaken - we feel that maybe they won't stick around to be part of the team anymore. And I guess everyone gets lulled into a false sense of security. The only certainty lies in what is said in the present, you can't promise for the future you aren't yet experiencing. And I'm not sure we are meant to be monogamous, either - it's too structured, not trusting enough, and people certainly can't be bound by God or a piece of paper or a ring. The commitment is deeper, more spiritual and fluxes - because that's life.
There maybe are some things you have to stop asking yourself about and just live. Only then will you truly know your answers. Because I know, from experience, that you can only know how you'll react and feel about a situation when you are in it. All the rest is speculation. So get out there and be with that girl who's going to take you to great heights, be okay about you sleeping with others, and give you shit when you deserve it - you need that.
Is there really any global consensus on what "love" is, what it means to be in love, and how you know you're in love?
I personally think that it is an oft-misused and sometimes over-used word. We may "love" our parents, our siblings, our pet. We also may love Thai food, dinner-parties, cycling, skiing, languages, history. We may even love sunny days, or lying in bed with a good book (teddy-bear pyjamas, whatever). But to use the same word to describe the love of another in the relationship partner sense bears no resemblance to the use of the word in the former scenarios. Either we are forced to belittle the intensity of the emotions, the euphoria, the delight and sheer joy experienced when you "love" another person in the sense that most poems, plays, songs, movies, fictional novels try to portray, or we simply don't have an appropriate word in the English language (and many other languages of which I am aware) to describe it. Why is this? Maybe because there is no global viewpoint on exactly what love is. It's far from an exact science (if it were we'd all be quite well sorted out), and it's not even explicable by the non-exact sciences (such as psychology). Rules and codes of behaviour on love fill the pages of religious texts, classical novels and girly mags (I don't know about mags for guys, but I suspect occasionally between the centrefold shots there are probably some lines devoted to it). But, still, no consensus.
So, how do we really know?
I have thought I was in love a number of times. I look back now and know that in some of these situations I was most definitely not in love. But, at the time I thought I was. Well then, what was I? Where was I? Was I really there? Had my mind been overtaken by aliens? Or was it all part of a big cosmic joke with me being the butt of it? Now, that takes me back two years to a most regrettable scenario (maybe "regrettable" is the wrong choice of words - perhaps "forgettable?"). It couldn't all have been for nothing, because it really gave me an opportunity to ponder at length (and I still do) over the issue of what I will refer to as "the honeymoon period" (and I don't mean the conventional marriage-type honeymoon, rather the "rose-tinted glasses" phase of a relationship - the "overwhelming lust" stage ). I have heard that not all relationships have this phase, but I find that difficult to believe and I certainly haven't experienced the lack of it, nor has anyone I have spoken to on the subject. This honeymoon phase, to me, is a blinder!!! You can't do anything but think about the other person, you talk to each other like three-year-olds, and, at the time, nothing else in the world really matters. Your mind is transformed into complete marshmallow (you know, the marshmallow squelch after you've stuck one on the end of a stick and toasted it in a fire for a couple of minutes). This has been the pattern for me, but two years ago it was totally illogical, nonsensical and insane. The guy, Peter, and I had absolutely nothing in common, I had briefly met him on a number of occasions prior to the scenario of which I speak and I had then thought, What an arrogant, odd-looking jerk. Yes, it was a fated rebound (I was still in recovery mode from a seven-year relationship), and I was forewarned by friends. Alas, that rose-tinted-glasses-wearing monster entered, uninvited, and I found myself going on a date with this jerk. From there it was full-on. I really thought I was in love. It didn't last long, thank God! But, subconsciously I suppose, I didn't even introduce him to many of my friends (because of shame? Who knows?) What was it that had reduced my mind to pulp so that I lost all sense of rationality and fooled myself into thinking I was in love with this narcissistic nerd? And I'd already spent much thought and time pondering on love in the past, reading all the crap that those American self-appointed relationship experts publish and make a million on. I'd also read the good stuff. I had resolved to be sensible next time and ease myself into things - to be friends first, take time getting to know the other person. Despite all this, here I was falling for the This is it! feeling. Anyway, that finally ended, well over a year ago now. What did I learn? Good question! I have decided that the 'honeymoon' phase is a means by which more couples "get together" than otherwise would. Before the dawn of realisation hits them. Many have made plans or gone ahead with plans (marriage, children, etc) before the glasses are removed and they can see reality for what it is. It's an essential part of the evolutionary process, but one of which I am now very wary. But, will that stop me from befalling it ever again? I doubt it, because it is too wonderful an experience to want to avoid, yet, perchance, it can also be destructive and dangerous!
In short, I don't really believe any more that the initial lust or honeymoon phase has anything to do with love. Sometimes it does develop into love, but it can't be love initially, unless of course you already know almost everything about that person.
I know the saying: If you love something ..... If it comes back, it's yours .... My feeling is that no one is ever yours. I don't know if you remember the poster I had on the wall when you were growing up from Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet (a wonderful little book to buy), that goes:
Your children are not your children, they are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you. And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the Archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.
This was the most influential piece of writing for me when you were all growing up. It made it so clear to me that I did not have permission to influence the way your lives were going - you were to make your own decisions, your own "learnings." I tried to live by that (to me) beautiful piece of philosophy.
He also writes beautifully about Marriage:
You were born together, and together you shall be for evermore.
You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days.
Aye, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
(The caps are mine) BUT LET THERE BE SPACES IN YOUR TOGETHERNESS.
AND LET THE WINDS OF THE HEAVENS DANCE BETWEEN YOU.
Love one another, but make not a bond of love;
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other's cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together;
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow.
And so on.
I can only speak about Love between two adults from personal experience. The only times that I have had rows with Dad have been (and can still be) when I do want him to change and be the way I want him to be. As I've said before, it's expectations that bring us down. And yet, in the big picture, I love him exactly the way he his - warts and all - the way I want to be loved, the way, I believe, we all want to be loved.
In regards to Point 1 from your definitions of love (about loving the other no matter what they do): I think the being and doing can get a bit blurry here. As I said to you when you were younger, even if you were a serial killer I couldn't love you any the less. I wouldn't actually like, though, what you were doing. No matter what has happened with Dad and me, I've never stopped loving him, even if I've hated what he was doing (an example actually escapes me for the moment).
As for Point 2 (wanting the other to be happy even more than you want to be happy yourself): I'm not sure on this one. I love making Dad happy, putting his needs above my own, but I think it's important to get one's own needs met first, because otherwise there's a note of sacrifice that creeps in, and that can lead to resentment.
In the next paragraph you mention that most people say that they love their partner "because they make me happy." Totally selfishly, I would say that this doesn't apply to me, but what does apply is, "because I am happy when I am with him." Even if he is in Kathmandu, I am with him, and he's with me. That's why I don't miss Dad so much these days - he's always with me. In the earlier days there was more need there and I indeed couldn't "live without him", but back then I was in a different space. The beauty of our relationship is that over the last nearly forty years I believe we have evolved together and are still evolving together, and it gets deeper and richer - has done since the day we married. And then the children came along and gave that Love and evolution a whole new meaning - even richer and more expanding. I love Love.
You ask some deep and probing questions. I don't think our love is entirely unconditional. If Dad or I went out and screwed the brains out of someone else (by the way, it doesn't necessarily have to be the tradesman - why not the CEO of IBM? And why the secretary? Why not Elle Macpherson?), it may not affect our Love but I think it would certainly affect our relationship. Not having had that experience, I can't really say how I'd be, but I think it's part of the standard we set..
No promises? The fact that we married a generation ago and that the promises we made publicly may have something to do with the fact that I can't imagine a relationship which was entirely free. I think that if your alternative (your "declaration of love") was put into place at the very beginning, it may well work. However, as you might have noticed, men and women's thinking are very different. I remember someone once said, "For man, Love is a part-time thing - 'tis woman's whole existence." I think there's certainly truth in the last half of that. And I believe that "men are from Mars and women are from Venus."
I think your thoughts are idealistic, and I mean that in the most complimentary way. I know that Dad and I have grown a lot of the way toward that in our relationship, in that we've "given" each other a lot more space over the years - a lot more freedom, and, as a result of that freedom, we haven't abused it. I do believe it's possible to hurt each other, and you said in Point 2, "You put their needs above your own." This fits in to what I'm saying - or trying to say. I'm not as articulate on paper as you are. I'm also not used to putting my feelings on paper.
I think that my love for Dad is unconditional, but I'm not sure that our relationship is. It hasn't been tested (to my knowledge!), so you're putting me on the spot there.
In regards to a partner having it off with a third party... I think it would be natural to think that you weren't enough for them, and maybe nobody can be. However, I think it says more about the person seeking somewhere else and not respecting the spoken or unspoken commitment than it does for the "wronged" one. "A strong desire to have sex with someone else after ten years in a marriage"? I think it's up to both parties to keep that spark going and introduce elements of surprise into the relationship - to go out on dates with each other, to have one-night stands with each other. If the magic goes out of a relationship it's because the partners start taking each other for granted, and that can be the beginning of the end.
I remember (and I've probably mentioned this before) that when Dad and I were about to be married, Dad's brother-in-law, John, a man of few words, said to us, "Just one word of advice - never underestimate the importance of the other person." That has stuck with me over the years, so that, as far as possible, I've never undermined Dad in public or in front of you children when I didn't agree with what he was saying or doing. These things are important in a relationship.
I do like your "Declaration of Love" better than the Politically motivated "marriage vows," yes, but whence did they originate? From caring?
Look at the number of people we like, and then we spend some time with them and it becomes a little more difficult. And then they come to stay - forever, it seems. The longer they stay the harder it is - simply because both people's stuff starts getting in the way. But I do believe that Love is the bottom line.
To look at your partner anew every morning is so important. To ask yourself, "Would he/she still be attracted to me if we met today? Do I still have those qualities that attracted him/her in the first place?" I don't believe you have to "work" at a relationship. I do believe in playing a lot, laughing a lot, keeping your mouth shut a lot (I'm still working on that one!). The brackets bring me to another point. It's not about working on a relationship, it's about working on me.
Reasserting one's sexuality doesn't depend on being able to get someone else into the sack. It's about reasserting it to yourself. It's like self-worth. If it depends on someone else's praise, then it ain't self-worth. Same with sexuality. There's always going to be someone who thinks you are sexy and there's going to be someone who thinks you ain't. Sexuality, in my book, comes from inside.
Finally, I love your analogy about the bird flying into your life. Surely it could only fly into your life if you were also a beautiful bird that it was attracted to in the first place. Surely you can envision the bird staying with you without feeling the need to put it into a cage. If it's offered caring and nurturing and one's whole heart, surely both birds could fly together in the same direction, with enough space between you to remember your own essential bird-ness.
I have to agree. I personally could never promise to be faithful to someone forever or for the rest of my life. "Forever" is along time, and, considering that I hate breaking promises, I tend not to make a promise unless I know I can keep it, and I wouldn't be able to commit myself to such an unreasonable ask. I'm not necessarily saying that I would go out and bonk someone else, but everyone needs to feel that they are still attractive to their preferred sex. Most people look at me strangely when I tell them this, but I've seen to many marriages where people are comfortable but not necessarily happy. I want to be happy. I want to be part of one of those couples who, after 40 years of marriage, can still walk along the beach hand in hand and still be in love.
I have another problem with marriage: What if you get bored? You know, that rut that couples seem to get stuck in. My husband would have to be the type of person who would let me be (and could be himself) spontaneous, allowing us to break out of the rut. Even if we had children (well, one), I would still need to be spontaneous. I would never want to lose my own identity in my partner. Sure, it may change or evolve, but I would still be me, not just his shadow. Too many things happen in life, good and bad, to make you who you are, and I know I don't want to be anyone else.
I think you should rename the section. Sex and relationships. It seemed to me to be more about that.
When I think of love and especially unconditional love - which I think was what you were getting at, I thought you seemed preoccupied with sex. I think of sex as two things.
- Fun (perhaps meaningful or maybe not), or
- just one way of expressing love.
When I think of love - I remember when my Mum was dying, looking after her and doing all sorts of things that before I never thought I would be capable of. I remember my Dad looking at her and telling her how beautiful she was. He obviously could only see what was inside. These are the types of love that I would like in my life. It's easy to find someone to sleep with - but harder to find someone who wants to be there and hold your hand after 50 years. I wish I had the recipe for it.
The following was emailed to me. It is a transcription of part of a recent Internet chat session, in which my ramblings on Love were discussed. Greg Sullivan was one of the participants. The names of the others have been changed at their request.
<Jack> Greg, Mark's views on love match Robert Heinlein's views and my own, however my decision to obey scripture prevents me from applying them.
* Greg nods
<Greg> He'd love it if you gave him some feedback, your reply is good, the replies on the web site ramble on.
<Herb> they do ramble on, but distil the ideas from them
<Greg> I don't like it all, because everyone obviously thinks love is more important than I want to believe.
<Jack> Greg, do you read Science Fiction at all?
<Greg> not since high school
<Jack> Greg, if you want to explore the implications of his views further, I suggest reading "Time Enough for Love", by Robert Heinlein (deceased). Also "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" explores the theme a bit more in a convict society akin to Botany Bay, but where monogamy was dismissed in order to better provide for the children, which is what most societies place as the priority. (Incidentally, when societies break down in some way, due to internal or external forces or resource constraints, as soon as the issues start impacting kids the air movement device becomes fouled and things start being changed.)
I've read both Time Enough for Love and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Time Enough for Love is one of my all-time favourite science-fiction books. If you can handle sci-fi, give it a read. - Mark
Shortly after I wrote that Love piece I began reading the latest in the Conversations with God series (Book 3). When I reached Chapter 12, I was surprised to see my own thoughts on Love echoed surprisingly closely. It was sometimes spooky to see just how much Neale's (or God's, depending on your viewpoint) thoughts coincided with my own (only he put it much more eloquently). I thought I'd infringe copyright and transcribe the relevant sections (don't tell Neale). I recommend the book, by the way, it's a very interesting, wise, and thought-provoking work.
The "God" character's sentiments are represented below in bold type.
...And if we can have more than one "soul partner," that would explain how it is possible for us to experience those intense "soul partner feelings" with more than one person in a lifetime - and even more than one person at a time!
Then it is possible to love more than one person at a time.
No, no. I mean, with the kind of intense, personal love that we usually reserve for one person - or, at least, one person at a time!
Why would you ever want to "reserve" love? Why would you ever want to hold it "in reserve"?
Because it's not right to love more than one person "that way." It's a betrayal.
Who told you that?
Everybody. Everybody tells me that. My parents told me that. My religion told me that. My society tells me that. Everybody tells me that!
These are some of those "sins of the father" being passed on to the son.
Your own experience teaches you one thing - that loving everyone full out is the most joyful thing you can do. Yet your parents, teachers, ministers tell you something else - that you may only love one person at a time "that way." And we're not just talking about sex here. If you consider one person as special as another in any way, you are often made to feel that you've betrayed that other.
Right! Exactly! That's how we've got it set up!
Then you are not expressing true love, but some counterfeit variety.
Any attempt to restrict the natural expressions of love is a denial of the experience of freedom - and thus a denial of the soul itself.
The soul rebels at any imposition of limitation, and dies a new death each time it accepts boundaries from without.
Aren't these restrictions and constrictions only appropriate, given the behaviours of the race? A man meets a younger woman, falls in love (or "in lust") with her, and leaves his wife, for instance. I only use one example. So there she is, left with the kids and no employment skills at thirty-nine or forty-three - or, worse yet, left high and dry at sixty-four by a sixty-eight-year-old man who's become enamoured of a woman younger than his daughter.
Is it your supposing that the man you describe has ceased to love his sixty-four-year-old wife?
Well, he sure acts like it.
No. It is not his wife he does not love and seeks to escape. It is the limitations he feels placed on him.
Oh, nonsense. It's lust, pure and simple. It's an old geezer simply trying to recapture his youth, wanting to be with a younger woman, unable to curb his childish appetites and keep his promise to the partner who has remained with him through all the tough and lean years.
Of course. You've described it perfectly. Yet nothing you have said has changed a thing I have said. In virtually every case, this man has not stopped loving his wife. It is the limitations that the wife places on him, or those placed on him by the younger woman who will have nothing to do with him if he stays with his wife, that creates the rebellion.
The point I'm trying to make is that the soul will always rebel at limitation. Of any kind. This is what has sparked every revolution in the history of humankind, not just the revolution which causes a man to leave his wife - or a wife to suddenly leave her husband. (Which, by the way, also happens.)
Love is that which is unlimited. There is no beginning and no end to it. No before and no after. Love always was, always is, and always will be.
Now we get back to another word we used before - freedom. For if love is unlimited, then love is ... free. Love is that which is perfectly free.
Now in the human reality, you will find that you always seek to love, and to be loved. You will find that you always yearn for that love to be unlimited. And you will find that you will always wish you could be free to express it.
You will strive as a species to experience a love that is unlimited, eternal, and free. The institution of marriage had been your attempt at creating eternality. With it, you agreed to become partners for life. But this did little to produce a love which was "unlimited" and "free."
Why not? If the marriage is freely chosen, isn't it an expression of freedom? And to say that you are going to demonstrate your love sexually with no one else but your spouse is not a limitation, it's a choice. And a choice is not a limitation, it is the exercise of freedom.
So long as that continues to be the choice, yes.
Well, it has to be. That was the promise.
Yes, and that's where the trouble begins.
Help me here.
.... If the time has come when you have desired this special demonstration with one person alone, then choose it, as you say. Announce it, and declare it. Yet make your declaration an announcement moment-to-moment of your freedom, not your ongoing obligation. For true love is always free, and obligation cannot exist in the space of love.
If you see your decision to express your love in a particular way with only one particular other as a sacred promise, never to be broken, the day may come when you will experience that promise as an obligation - and you will resent it. Yet if you see this decision not as a promise, made only once, but as a free choice, made over and over, that day of resentment will never come.
Remember this: There is only one sacred promise - and that is to tell and live your truth. All other promises are forfeitures of freedom, and that can never be sacred. For freedom is Who You Are. If you forfeit freedom, you forfeit your Self. And that is not a sacrament, that is a blasphemy.
Whew! Those are tough words. Are You saying we should never make promises - that we should never promise anything to anyone?
As most of you are now living your life, there is a lie built into every promise. The lie is that you can know now how you will feel about a thing, and what you will want to do about that thing, on any given tomorrow. You cannot know this if you are living your life as a reactive being - which most of you are.
A second reason people find it difficult to keep promises is that they come into conflict with authenticity.
What do you mean?
I mean that their evolving truth about a thing differs from what they said their truth would always be. And so, they are deeply conflicted. What to obey - my truth or my promise?
I have given this advice before:
Betrayal of yourself in order not to betray another is betrayal nonetheless. It is the highest betrayal.
But this would lead to promises being broken all over the place! Nobody's word on anything would matter. Nobody could be counted on for anything!
Oh, so you've been counting on others to keep their word, have you? No wonder you've been so miserable.
Don't I have a right to expect - or at least hope - that other people will keep their word?
Why would you want such a right?
The only reason that another person would not keep their word to you would be because they didn't want to - or felt they couldn't, which is the same thing.
And if a person did not want to keep his word to you, or for some reason felt he just couldn't, why on Earth would you want him to?
Do you really want someone to keep an agreement she does not want to keep? Do you really feel people should be forced to do things they don't feel they can do?
Why would you want to force anyone to do anything against his will?
Well, try this for a reason: because to let them get away with not doing what they said they were going to do would hurt me - or my family.
So in order to avoid injury, you're willing to inflict injury.
I don't see how it injures another simply to ask him to keep his word.
Yet he must see it as injurious, or he would keep it willingly.
So I should suffer the injury, or watch my children and family suffer the injury, rather than "injure" the one who made a promise by simply asking that it be kept?
Do you really think that if you force another to keep a promise that you will have escaped injury?
I tell you this: More damage has been done to others by persons leading lives of quiet desperation (that is, doing what they felt they "had" to do) than ever was done by persons freely doing what they wanted to do.
When you give a person freedom, you remove danger, you don't increase it.
Yes, letting someone "off the hook" on a promise or commitment made to you may look like it will hurt you in the short run, but it will never damage you in the long run, because when you give the other person their freedom, you give yourself freedom as well. And so now you are free of the agonies and the sorrows, the attacks on your dignity and your self-worth that inevitably follow when you force another person to keep a promise to you that he or she does not want to keep.
The longer damage will far outweigh the shorter - as nearly everyone who has tried to hold another person to their word has discovered.
Good grief, I never looked at it like that. I always thought marriage was the ultimate announcement of love.
As you have imagined it, yes, but not as you have constructed it. As you have constructed it, it is the ultimate announcement of fear.
If marriage allowed you to be unlimited, eternal and free in your love, then it would be the ultimate announcement of love.
As things are now, you become married in an effort to lower your love to the level of a promise or a guarantee.
Marriage is an effort to guarantee that "what is so" now will always be so. If you didn't need this guarantee, you would not need marriage. And how do you use this guarantee? First, as a means of creating security (instead of creating security from that which is inside of you), and second, if that security is not forever forthcoming, as a means of punishing each other, for the marriage promise which has been broken can now form the basis of the lawsuit which has been opened.
You have thus found marriage very useful - even if it is for all the wrong reasons.