In talking with some of my single friends who are dating, I've become curious about what draws people to each other. Why do you choose a certain online profile? Why do you have 'click' with one person but not another?
We are seeking togetherness, but what is it that makes us choose?
Of course, my personal experience influences my thinking on this. Why did I choose to fall in love with John? What was it about him that made him different? In my 20's I would have cited physical attraction (John and I have huge chemistry), intelligence, sense of fun, etc. but in my 40's looking back I wonder if that was really it? What if I didn't choose John based on his identity, but chose him based on what I thought he would do for my identity? I grew up with a lot of fear. What if part of my reason for choosing John had to do with selecting someone who I perceived would keep me safe? (He is really strong and completely unafraid of conflict.) Or what if I chose him simply based on the way I believed he perceived me? What if I liked that version of myself and wanted to keep him around so that was reflected?
What if romantic love is much more about our own identity than the other persons?
As cynical as that sounds, I do believe in romantic love. John and I have a marriage with a healthy dose of romance. (And John I hope you are cool with where my thoughts are taking me with this today. I'm writing trying to find something that seems just there under the surface.)
John Welwood writes...The words 'I love you,' spoken in moments of genuine appreciation, wonder or caring arise from something perfectly pure within us--the capacity to open ourselves and say yes without reserve. Such moments of pure openheartedness bring us as close to natural perfection as we can come in this life. The warm and radiant yes of the heart is perfect, like the sun, in bringing all things to life and nourishing all that is truly human.
Even if we choose based on selfish reasons—who-I-am rather than who-he/she-is or who-we-are-together—there still remains this great capacity for openness in a romantic relationship that breaks through to the more. But again, I don't think this is about the other person. All of the feelings, that willingness to be deeply and completely open comes from us. Something about that other person inspires enough trust that we take that step. We are willing to put aside our fear and guardedness and live from a place of love.
I believe it breaks down at the moment we get hurt. Something happens real or imagined and we are less willing to be as open. But what if we could? What if we could stay?
One of the beautiful truths of my Christian faith is the path of forgiveness. Forgiveness allows people to stay. It creates a way to stay open and in that space that 'brings all things to life and nourishing all that is truly human." One of the reasons I think marriage matters is that it creates a condition where you have to 'stay open and stay put.' (Or at least it makes you stay put long enough so that you can figure out how to get back to open again.)
Love, romance, marriage isn't perfect, and it completely breaks down if only one in the couple is living in openness. But I've come to understand that we have a lot of cultural baggage surrounding the idea of how it is supposed to happen and what it is supposed to be. At the end of the day, we choose. (Mostly on selfish reasons even if that is difficult to admit.) And maybe part of the key to romance has to do with taking responsibility for our own identity rather than laying that on our partner. After that, our job is simply to stay open. As open as we can possibly be. Because that is where the potential lies.