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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Love I

Well, it was inevitable that, in my musings upon the whole painful, gutting, bruising process of a separation and divorce, I would begin to ponder the one subject that underlies the whole story of marriage.

Poets, writers, artists - we all talk about this thing called 'love'.   It is a word very easily bandied about.  But what does it mean?

I believe I 'loved' and still 'love' my soon-to-be-former husband.  But what is it?  Is it really as simple as 'not ever having to say you're sorry?'

It is a good indication of the vexatious issue of definition that we continually write, sing, or create artefacts around the question of what love is - because as far as I can see, it is a very snaky, amorphous and insubstantial thing.

'Love' is an easy word to say but imbued with a complexity of meanings so confusing it is, frankly, no wonder that it so often ends badly.

For what it's worth, here is what I - after months of studious observation - believe 'love' is.

Perhaps it is the Ceylonese in me, but I believe 'love' is nothing but a transactional process where, by telepathy or 'knowing' or intuition, our rat brain deduces that the man or woman our eyes are perceiving, firstly, has something to offer us.

Because firstly and foremost, we all need to agree that love, above all, is about an exchange.

Sex for money; sex for children; money for security; security for sex; children for companionship; validation for validation; friendship for money;  comfort for validation; or the cheapest (and most short-lived of all), sex for sex.  There are other variables and the various permutations are, most likely infinite.

The difficulty is that, as relationships mature and change, the transactions vary along with it.  That's because intention and expectations  - and the drivers - vary as we age.

In the early stages, it is a hormonal, chemical thing that drives us and, while for some this remains and perhaps even intensifies, for others life gets in the way.  Other drives impose themselves such as reason or logic, everyday practicalities, the business of surviving and just getting on with it.

So it is inevitable that, along the way, contracts are altered.   Caveats may be inserted.  Conditions may be introduced that may have not existed before.

Without full communication, these variations are too easily ignored by one or both parties.  There may be some sleight of hand, some twist of perception involved.

The only way clarity can be achieved in this case, is through constant and habitual dialogue.

But there is one problem.   Dialogue  is often more difficult than it appears.  You think you are having 'it'.  But then you discover, dialogue requires you both to be operating in the same plane.  In other words, 'dialogue' is so difficult to achieve it is postponed or simply does not occur.

As a result misunderstandings happen and before you know it, one has reneged on his or her contractual agreement, communication is impossible as hard feelings like blame insert themselves, and ultimately the relationship lies in flames, taking with it many irreplaceable valuables.

Last night, as I edited the first of the letters that will fly between myself and my soon-to-be former husband, I was as you can imagine a little traumatised and rang my good friend, 'Jane' who is a high ranking and highly experienced clinical psychologist  (I have changed her name to protect her privacy).

Jane is a truly unique human being, hugely intelligent, creative and, of course, kind.  And she just happens to be currently in the process of transitioning genders.

She therefore inhabits a space that I find utterly fascinating at present - being both man and woman - and, as such, offers some intriguing insights into the differences between the two genders.

She explained to me that as her testosterone increased, she was also dealing with an increase in libido that was so intense it was quite uncomfortable.   It seems that sex is a natural driver for men (no surprises there).

She told me that she was starting to react very differently to emotional situations - for example instead of feeling emotion, she felt more inclined to action.  She said her empathic reflexes appeared to be changing.   She was reacting differently to the innumerable tales of woe peddled by her queue of clients.

As well, her thinking was sharpening and her feeling of control had increased.  She appeared more confident than ever to me.

What intrigued me was Jane's observation that science has now proved that the empathic reflexes in people are a reflection of their levels of progesterone and, in men, it is reflective of the original bonds they formed with their mothers.

So it seems that women who might be somewhat emotionally removed from their sons are creating the kind of cyborgs that many women find themselves with.  That is, women who spend more time emotionally connecting with their sons create more emotionally communicative sons, those who might operate more capably on the 'feeling' plane.

But of course, men of a certain generation were generally not encouraged to explore this plane.  There are always exceptions I know but, you have to admit, most men are not great at 'feeling' and usually have the Emotional Intelligence of a shoe.

That may explain why so many of our marital contracts seem to fail.  One partner operates with intense and often blinding feeling while the other?  Well it's just a bit of la-la-la and pass me the hammer.

My friend Cath (who left her own marriage many moons ago) had one great suggestion that may assist in ensuring this does not occur.  She said that all couples should consider a formal process of 'checking in' (perhaps via a counsellor if the level of dialogue is really crap) every five years in their relationship just so they can track where they are.

A regular and routine marital inspection and service might allow closer consideration of the original contract.  Is it still binding?  What little caveats have snuck in?

Overall, I think we all probably take our contracts too lightly and  we allow or tolerate the wrong assumptions and poor information that are so often behind breakdowns.

I guess that's the downside of faith and trust.  They are noble qualities but really, in the end, what they do is cloud judgement, particularly for women who primarily function on an emotional (feeling) plane while men operate on an action (doing) plan (as Jane has pointed out).

As a result, it is commonly unlikely that marital contracts are read and understood in the same way.   And once variations occur - time and age being what they are - it is inevitable that one or the other might actually be blindsided by what unfolds.

It is too late for me and the former man of my life.  But for many who may be reading this, it is not too late for you.

If you haven't done so, if you are still married, I strongly encourage you to have a good look at your marital contract.  Is it what you think it is?  What are the expectations?

Has your contract gone unconditional?  Is it water tight?  And if not, why not?

With just a bit of dialogue, you could preserve the most precious relationship in your universe.

In the meantime, now that I have considered this dichotomy of 'feeling' beings cohabiting with 'doing' beings, I have come to the conclusion that the happiest and most enduring relationships are in fact the ones where couples have achieved the ultimate state...

... The state of simply 'being'.

He does, she feels and together they simply 'are' with the ultimate exchange that of the 'self'.'

That, my friends, is what true love and a happy marriage looks like to me.

If you're there, I applaud you.  And if not?  Get cracking with that dialogue.

It will be worth it.  I promise.











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