Ok, so falling in love is supposed to wreck your life. Now what?

I had a friend read yesterday’s post about how falling in love is supposed to wreck your life, and say “Yeah, ok. I’ve been there. We’ve been there, falling in love, lit on fire like the buddhist monk on that Rage Against the Machine album cover.” (below)

light-yourself-on-fire

“There’s a ton of raw energy created when you fall in love with someone, so what on earth are you supposed to do with that energy?”

I had 2 good married friends of mine respond with their take on what love feels like on the other side of the conflagration of being “in love.” I’m going to share parts of what they both said below.

I intentionally left this side out of what I wrote yesterday because I was talking to the part of all of us that has literally been incinerated in love for someone else. I wanted to give voice to that painful experience of being in love because I think it has an incredibly useful purpose to bind us to another human being for live, but then after the passion fades in about two years, the real work begins.

There is being in love, and then there is loving someone. Being in love with someone only gets you to the threshold of loving someone. And then (pardon the metaphor) both parties have to carry one another across into the house they now need to make a home.

Here’s a mix of what I wanted to say and what my two married friends said. All the good stuff will come from them, I’m sure.

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I think you are absolutely right that the passionate side of “falling in love” is there to get us out of ourselves, off the couch, away from the video game, and into the saddle. Without that fire, we wouldn’t have a reason to get out and do productive things with our lives.

The energy of being “in love” gets us over the hump and gets us to dive into a strange land, very much as you said. But once that sort of compulsive, fiery, passionate element has achieved that first task of getting us in the saddle, it’s usefulness wanes.

I would say that if that is what “being in love” is, then “being in love” and just plain “love” are almost unrelated, except that being in love can (and, ideally, should) precede actual love. The purpose of love is not to have passion.

The purpose of love, and especially good love is something that is so good, homely, clean, and filling that prior to experiencing it, you almost can’t have a category for it. 

So, we are given the “in love feeling” to give us a powerful enough motivation that is filled with all our normal passions, in order to get us on a road that might lead us to real love that the feeling of being on fire never would have conceived, and nobody teaches us to chase.

Any compulsion we might have is beside the point once we get to actual love.

The brief madness is just there to help us get ourselves in the right position.

So given all that, I don’t think the experience of addiction is very healthy past the initial stages of a relationship. Co-dependency means you are constantly needing something. And if you constantly need something, then it is very hard to either be at peace or to love. Every interpersonal exchange becomes an existential struggle to get that thing you need.

When I read your post, one of the first things that popped into my head thinking about how I think of love was the story of Elias in the cave. To paraphrase, God had told Elias he would come to him, so Elias stepped out of the cave to wait for God. There was a great fire, but God was not in the fire. There was a great storm, but God was not in the storm. There was a great earthquake, but God was not in the earthquake. Then there was a gentle breeze. And God was in the gentle breeze.

Love is in the gentle breeze.

The storm and fire and earthquake are just to get us out of the cave. That’s what gets us outside of ourselves long enough to actually experience the quiet, calming, gentleness of what real love actually is. The fire and the earthquake wrest us out of our sleep and ego and force us to be open to what good things are waiting just outside.

If being “in love” is like getting a hit of coke every other day with the hell of withdrawal in between hits, then actual love is like the purest oxygen and clearest water in every breath and sip the rest of your life.

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Being in love is supposed to wreck your life, yes. But that’s because there is something so much better right outside your door. The passion and excitement of being in love isn’t the end all / be all. It’s just the thing that gets our attention, the thing that makes us get up off the couch, and I think it creates some of those powerful memories and experiences that solidify our love for the other.

But it’s the cool breeze when the other person is there and not saying anything when love truly shows itself.

It’s the small effort, the tiny going out of your way, that shows the other person you know them and care for them and have their heart in mind.

The fire has the potential to burn us, and for those of us who have suffered heartbreak, the burns can cauterize our hearts if we let it. We can begin to fear love, which I think is tragic.

The fire we feel is designed to connect two people, but the real love comes after in a million small ways. And the small ways of loving are where we truly love the other person, and finally allow them to love us.

Hope this helps. 

Austin W. Gunter.

austingunter

I’m Austin. I live in San Francisco, practice Tai Chi, have rheumatoid arthritis, listen to a lot of loud music, and host a lot of dinner parties. Want more? Start here.

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