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It's That Breakup Season - The Watchtower of Destruction: The Ferrett's Journal
June 1st, 2011
08:22 am

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It's That Breakup Season
There are weather patterns, I think, among groups of friends; it seems like there are times where everyone is hooking up at the same time, or there's a spate of pregnancies, or it seems like every other week someone's being diagnosed with a new disease.

This season seems to be rife with breakups. And the one thing that's blazingly apparent is this:

Love is the most renewable resource in a relationship, and the least valuable.

Which is to say that our hearts are designed for love. They're love generation machines. And we frequently generate love for people who are wrong for us; I think almost everyone has a relative or two who we love, but can't stand to be around for too long. And so in romantic relationships, we ooze love. It seeps from any little kindness shown us by our partners, any affection, even though that love. It replenishes daily.

You know what doesn't replenish daily? Trust. When your partner breaks a promise, that reservoir does not refill.

You know what doesn't replish daily? Like. When your partner takes that ugly snipe at you, or belches despite you telling him you can't stand her burping contests, that feeling of "I enjoy hanging with them" drops and re-accretes very slowly.

The truth is, by the time most relationships end, love is all that's left. The like meter has plummeted to zero, the trust is bottomed out on a pile of broken promises, but the love? It's still there. It's what's tugging at you like a fishhook in your heart as your bags are packed, you're out the door, you're crying because you love them but that's not enough, that's never enough.

You keep hearing how "love is all you need." That's not true. Love is like the air; it's everywhere, but you can't build castles on it. What you need is a solid foundation of trust and like, and probably a hundred other things I'm forgetting.

What you need is to remember to steward those fragile ecosystems of promises and amiability as though your love depended on it. Because it does.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/113067.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

(53 shouts of denial | Tell me I'm full of it)

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From:jayene
Date:June 1st, 2011 12:36 pm (UTC)
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Well said. When my husband and I made our marriage vows one of the things I insisted be in the vows was a statement of need vs want. I love my husband and he loves me but we don't need each other in our lives, we want each other in our lives. I think that want makes it much stronger then the need.
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From:hooloovooo
Date:June 1st, 2011 02:57 pm (UTC)
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My husband and I have had many talks along the same lines about need vs. want too, and you make a good point that it nicely parallels the love vs. like distinction. We came to the same conclusion that we hate the concept of people needing each other. Neither of us will wither and die without the other because we need each other, but the want is there and it is stronger every day, and ultimately I’d much rather have that.

Of course we all have needs that have to be met, but “need” on that level is a different thing entirely that to me implies a passive, constant drain on another person and doesn’t really require reciprocity. To me, “want” on this level is a very active thing. I love my husband and want him in my life, and therefore I am going to work every moment of every day to keep him happy so that he wants me in the same way as well.


To Ferrett's original point, we love each other, of course, but it is absolutely the like part, the enduring friendship, that makes us truly happy to be together every single day.

From:anonymousalex
Date:June 1st, 2011 01:00 pm (UTC)
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You make a good point, though I don't think these things are as unrelated as your essay makes them sound. When my SO engages in a burping contest (for whatever value of "burping contest" bothers me), if I remind myself that I love that person, it bothers me less. Not just in a theoretical way, but in a gut-level, in-the-moment way.

Which is not to disagree with you and say that love is all you need. (If you just loved them enough, the mistrust and dislike would go away? Definitely not.)

So I definitely agree with your conclusion.

-Alex
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From:ewin
Date:June 1st, 2011 02:01 pm (UTC)
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From a Carolyn Hax column:

Have you ever seen "Like never dies" on a movie poster? Heard a song called "Like is all you need"? Known anyone to hang on those three little words "I like you"?

I think it's safe to say that love is never in danger of being dismissed, discounted or taken for granted.

But like is routinely so. It's the consolation prize, the faint praise to be damned with.

Yet while like can endure without love ever having anything to do with it, love takes a beating when like isn't there to support it. Consider what happens when you don't like the way your beloved treats you or others around you -- or when you don't like what Beloved watches on TV or does for a living or uses to fill spare time; or what topics Beloved chooses to discuss, or how; or whom Beloved chooses to befriend or admire; or how much Beloved contributes to the household chores or coffers; or where Beloved pegs certain priorities.

It's very difficult to sustain love under the pressure of daily exposure to behaviors or traits you don't like -- whether this loved one is family, friend or mate. Even if it doesn't die outright, love can quickly become abstract.

Abstractions do have their place. Love in the abstract is what gets us up in the night when a child cries out, when we're desperate for sleep. It's what flies us cross-country to witness our close friend's wedding, knowing full well that said friend will have about 3.7 quality minutes to spend with us amid various hosting obligations. It's what moves us to account for someone else's well-being even when that person isn't present, and even when attending to their needs might force us to compromise our own.

But when it comes to sharing your day-to-day life without wanting to run screaming, a person's expressions, body language, conversation topics, diversions, quirks, tics and attitude with you need to be pleasing on a purely functional level.

And so when it comes to people writing in about practical problems with people they love, that's the first thing I urge them to consider: Do you like this person, fundamentally? Because that's the bed where the abstraction of love can reliably come to lay its head.


I always loved (and liked) that little essay.
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From:theferrett
Date:June 1st, 2011 10:57 pm (UTC)
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I'd say I love that essay, too, but maybe I DO Like it!
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From:mariadkins
Date:June 1st, 2011 02:03 pm (UTC)
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amen
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From:kibbles
Date:June 1st, 2011 02:07 pm (UTC)
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I disagree about trust. Thankfully that hasn't been the case in our relationship, or it would be long over. No, it doesn't refill every day, but we understand our shared humanity, and know what can be fixed, and love each other enough to fix it. Like, too. Some things balance out the snipes. But we give and take, it's not one sided.
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From:jfargo
Date:June 1st, 2011 02:08 pm (UTC)
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I've slowly come to realize how true this is and it's why I ended my last relationship. The like just wasn't there.
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From:theferrett
Date:June 1st, 2011 10:59 pm (UTC)
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Once the like's gone, it's game over. I've come to realize that over the years.

Thankfully, though Gini stopped loving me for a while, she never fell out of like.
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From:shandra
Date:June 1st, 2011 02:14 pm (UTC)
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Nice post.

I've come to think of goodwill as the foundation of a functional relationship. You need to see your partner in a spirit of goodwill - not that this means you don't speak up when things are not working; part of goodwill is assuming that you can both work through things together. You also need to behave in a spirit of goodwill by trying to make things better, working on your own stuff (within human limits) etc.

Where a relationship starts to fail I think there's a element of what I'm thinking of as badwill introduced. That's where you start to interpret moves on the part of your partner as negative - "lazy" rather than "struggling with motivation" or assumption of bad motivations. And you can also start to behave with badwill, like "well if he were nicer I'd leave the last cookie but instead I'm going to eat it" or whatever.

I've failed at this at points in my life, especially when under particular kinds of stress. But I think I'm gaining some clarity.
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From:jeffpalmatier
Date:June 1st, 2011 02:58 pm (UTC)
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It doesn't seem to occur to some people to give others the benefit of the doubt. I have a strong aversion to others who immediately will jump to the most negative conclusion about others. I couldn't be in a relationship with such a person.
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From:misquoted
Date:June 1st, 2011 02:55 pm (UTC)
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I love that quote: "If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them." (Thoreau)

Also -- I read this poem at a wedding a couple of years ago. It's quite long, but we cut it down for the reading.

I like you and I know why.
I like you because you are a good person to like.
I like you because when I tell you something special, you know it's special
And you remember it a long, long time.
You say, "Remember when you told me something special?"
And both of us remember

When I think something is important
you think it's important too
We have good ideas
When I say something funny, you laugh
I think I'm funny and you think I'm funny too
Hah-hah!

I like you because you know where I'm ticklish
And you don't tickle me there except just a little tiny bit sometimes
But if you do, then I know where to tickle you too

You know how to be silly
That's why I like you
Boy are you ever silly
I never met anybody sillier than me till I met you
I like you because you know when it's time to stop being silly
Maybe day after tomorrow
Maybe never
Too late, it's a quarter past silly!

Sometimes we don't say a word
We snurkle under fences
We spy secret places
If I am a goofus on the roofus hollering my head off
You are one too
If I pretend I am drowning, you pretend you are saving me
If I am getting ready to pop a paper bag,
then you are getting ready to jump
HOORAY!

That's because you really like me
You really like me, don't you?
And I really like you back
And you like me back and I like you back
And that's the way we keep on going every day

If you go away, then I go away too
or if I stay home, you send me a postcard
You don't just say "Well see you around sometime, bye"
I like you a lot because of that
If I go away, I send you a postcard too
And I like you because if we go away together
And if we are in Grand Central Station
And if I get lost
Then you are the one that is yelling for me

And I like you because when I am feeling sad
You don't always cheer me up right away
Sometimes it is better to be sad
You can't stand the others being so googly and gaggly every single minute
You want to think about things
It takes time
I like you because if I am mad at you
Then you are mad at me too
It's awful when the other person isn't
They are so nice and hoo-hoo you could just about punch them in the nose

I like you because if I think I am going to throw up
then you are really sorry
You don't just pretend you are busy looking at the birdies and all that
You say, maybe it was something you ate
You say, the same thing happened to me one time
And the same thing did

If you find two four-leaf clovers, you give me one
If I find four, I give you two
If we only find three, we keep on looking
Sometimes we have good luck, and sometimes we don't
If I break my arm, and if you break your arm too
Then it's fun to have a broken arm
I tell you about mine, you tell me about yours
We are both sorry
We write our names and draw pictures
We show everybody and they wish they had a broken arm too

I like you because I don't know why but
Everything that happens is nicer with you
I can't remember when I didn't like you
It must have been lonesome then
I like you because because because
I forget why I like you but I do

So many reasons
On the 4th of July I like you because it's the 4th of July
On the fifth of July, I like you too
If you and I had some drums and some horns and some horses
If we had some hats and some flags and some fire engines
We could be a HOLIDAY
We could be a CELEBRATION
We could be a WHOLE PARADE

See what I mean?
Even if it was the 999th of July
Even if it was August
Even if it was way down at the bottom of November
Even if it was no place particular in January
I would go on choosing you
And you would go on choosing me
Over and over again

That's how it would happen every time
I don't know why
I guess I don't know why I really like you
Why do I like you
I guess I just like you
I guess I just like you because I like you.


(Sandol Stoddard Warburg)
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From:labelleizzy
Date:June 1st, 2011 06:05 pm (UTC)
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thank you, misquoted, for this poem. this in particular moves me deeply today.

and thank you, theferrett, for starting this discussion. I'm struggling in one of these seasons myself.
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From:stacymckenna
Date:June 1st, 2011 03:10 pm (UTC)
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AMEN
From:(Anonymous)
Date:June 1st, 2011 03:45 pm (UTC)
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worker bees literally work themselves to death. they fly and collect nectar and honey and dont stop all day refusing food, until night when they straggle back to the hive, and begin it again the next day until their very wings are like tattered pieces of tissue paper and then they die, about 30 days after they have been born.

in the winter, a worker bee has no work to do, except a bit of housekeeping, and these bees can live for 3 or 4 months, the entire winter.

but summer bees, they work until their bodies break. Is this love?
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From:zoethe
Date:June 1st, 2011 04:06 pm (UTC)
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No, this is instinct, and not something that comes from choice. So I fail to see how this relates.
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From:fallconsmate
Date:June 1st, 2011 05:09 pm (UTC)
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march three years ago, i looked at my husband and asked "do you love me?" and he said yes. then i asked "are you in love with me?" and he said that while he loved me, he was no longer in love with me. we ended up divorced.

he and i still love one another, but we are not in love. we dont have that infinite whatever-it-is that sustains a relationship any longer. we're friends. we're great co-parents. but we arent partners any longer, and while we've both grieved that, we're ok with it now.

thank you for this. it means a lot to me.
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From:theferrett
Date:June 1st, 2011 11:09 pm (UTC)
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Ouch. That's a tough place to be.

*hugs*
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From:missingkay
Date:June 1st, 2011 06:08 pm (UTC)
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And this is exactly where I am right now :(
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From:theferrett
Date:June 1st, 2011 11:05 pm (UTC)
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I'm so sorry. Let me know if there's anything I can do for you, and I promise I will.
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From:pingback_bot
Date:June 1st, 2011 06:14 pm (UTC)

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From:theferrett
Date:June 1st, 2011 11:06 pm (UTC)
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The work isn't as fun to write songs about, though. NRE's easy. Work is hard.
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