A question that rarely leaves us alone in
love is: what exactly are other people’s
relationships like? The question is far from
disinterested sociological curiosity. What
we urgently seek to know is: are other people
in as much trouble as we are? After a furious
row over nothing very much at eleven at night
or after yet another month that has unfolded
with almost no sex, we wonder how statistically
normal our case might be – precisely because
it threatens to feel like a unique curse.
Most of us have a handful, maybe four or five,
relationships that we know and keep in mind
as standards of what we understand by normality.
Perhaps we met these couples at university
or they live on the street and are at a comparable
stage of life. Without knowing they are playing
this role, these sample couples function for
us as our secret spirit level of love. At
tennis, we notice how kind they are to one
another; as well as how energetic and lithe
they remain. Over dinner, we note how much
respect they show to their respective opinions.
In the taxi on the way home, we spot the tender
way they hold each other’s hands. And, naturally,
we feel both highly abnormal and very wretched
But our assessment of our love stories suffers
from a basic and unfair asymmetry: we know
our own relationships from the inside but
generally only encounter the relationships
of others in heavily edited and sanitised
form from the outside. We see other couples
chiefly in social situations where politeness
and cheeriness are the rule. We take on trust
their blithe summaries of their lives. But
we don’t have access to footage from the
bedroom, the uncut transcriptions of their
rows or their raw nighttime streams of consciousness.
However, we have all this and more about ourselves.
We can’t help but be intently aware of our
own relationships’ sorrows and absurdities:
the cold silences, harsh criticisms, furious
outbursts, episodes of door slamming, bitter
late night denunciations, simmering sexual
disappointments and times of aching loneliness
in the bedroom. Because of this asymmetry,
quite understandably, we come to the conclusion
that our own relationships are a great deal
darker and far more painful than is common.
In times of distress, we fling a definitive
accusation at our partner: ‘no-one else
has to put up with this.’ We need, to be fairer
on ourselves and our beloveds, to create space
in our minds for the scale of our ignorance.
We simply don’t know. We are lacking data.
We owe ourselves a richer picture of love
than we have yet secured. This isn’t prying
or cruel, we just need to better understand
the true nature of the task we’re undertaking.
The truth is that misery – or at least some
kinds of very serious longing and scratchiness
– is the rule, far more than public sources
will ever admit. It’s not that we as a couple
are strangely awful or damned: it’s that
relationships themselves are an essentially
and inescapably difficult project. Part of
the reason we get it so wrong is that we have
the wrong kind of art: the movies we watch
are oddly coy, the novels don’t tell it
how it is. It’s a marker of the problem
that we almost never leave a cinema or close
a novel thinking: that’s just like my life.
The dominant emotion of most relationships
is ambivalence; that is, a complex mixture
of love and hate, contentment and confinement,
loyalty and betrayal. Most loves are too good
to leave, yet too compromised to assure ongoing
profound contentment. They subsist in a grey
zone, where moments of joy bleed into stretches
of melancholy, where at points we sob and
are certain the partner has ruined our lives
and then, the following morning, assisted
by sunshine and black coffee, recover a feeling
of things being basically fine. Image result
for bergman marriage movie If we could properly
see – via tenderly accurate films and novels
and chats in group therapy or with older honest
couples – the reality of pretty much any
relationship we might arrive at a surprising
and deeply heartening conclusion: that our
own relationship is – in fact – two things
above all: very normal and good enough.
Love is a skill that we can learn. Our relationships book calmly guides us with calm and charm through the key issues of relationships to ensure that success in love need not be a matter of good luck. For more, click the link now.