Valentine's Day is upon us ... and if I still bought into the premise of it, it could make me feel depressed. The annual celebration of romantic love just brings up longing. This feeling of lack may make good fodder for poetry and love songs -- restimulating a seemingly bottomless craving for romantic fantasy -- but it also brings home the suffering caused by the longing for a perfect love.
Constant craving is a desire gone wild and is a form of psychological suffering, feeding feelings of loneliness, jealousy, failure and inadequacy.
The idea that there is one special person out there who is your perfect match is what I call "the soul mate trap." From an energetic point of view, it is quite an uncertain proposition -- this idea that the only way to achieve intimacy is to find someone to fall in love with who falls in love with you at the same time. What are the odds of that? (Hint: They get worse as you get older.) The whole idea of this approach is enough to make just about anyone feel insecure!
But we are too brainwashed with our culture's romantic ideology, which seems like a narcissistic fantasy that causes more suffering than it's worth (while selling loads of greeting cards and candy).
Everybody desires intimacy -- to be seen and accepted and appreciated for who you are. Intimacy is closeness. The only politically correct pathway to intimacy in western culture -- the one that is constantly promoted in magazines, books, movies, TV and online -- starts out with falling in love, a.k.a. romantic infatuation. From there (if you are old enough) it goes to sex, and then -- if you are lucky ... that is very, very lucky -- it gets to trust and emotional intimacy.
We take it for granted that this highly stimulating, romantic fantasy-based approach is the only true pathway to intimacy. It's culturally incorrect to even question this (wanna be called a "killjoy"?), but it hasn't actually been like this for very long. The pathway to intimacy that begins with choosing on the basis of infatuation started in Europe about 200 years ago (although because of Hollywood and media it is now spreading worldwide like wildfire). Before that, the path to intimacy, even in the western world, began with an arrangement -- i.e., an arranged marriage. This didn't always work to produce intimacy either, but having lived in India for a year, I suspect the odds have been somewhat higher for partnerships that start with an arrangement based on real compatibility (not just chemistry) and practical considerations.
For a lot of us who are getting older (and who are still going to live a long time) and not looking to start a new family, traditional forms of marriage, arranged or otherwise, may not make sense. But marriage is only one type of "arrangement" in our open-minded modern culture. Perhaps two people who are sufficiently attracted to each other -- who are not demanding, all-or-nothing, "love-at-first-sight" types -- to settle into some kind of practical arrangement designed to help or support each other in different ways, is an approach worth moving to, a sort of friends with romantic chemistry, if you will. Real love does not have to spring full-blown at first sight; actually, fantasies are always relatively short-lived projections in our head. The heart is happy to grow love, if given the chance. If this is "settling," that sounds like a good thing!
One chapter in Ken Keyes' book Conscious Person's Guide to Relationships is entitled "Falling in love is not a good basis for involvement." Hmmm ... maybe the arrangement approach works better. To be sure, there would need to be some of the spice of romance (i.e. "chemistry"), but romance is only that -- the spice, not the main course. Obsessing on the romantic aspect is like gorging on sugar cookies before dinner. The main course, the real nourishment, is trust and intimacy. It doesn't matter how you get there. Wanna start with dessert? Most kids do, but as our parents used to tell us, be careful not ruin your appetite for healthy nutrition, and you will suffer less from romantic indigestion. So get together with a friend and give him or her a hug and a kiss!