“Life without love is like a tree without blossoms or fruit.” Khalil Gibran
“It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” Alfred Lord Tennyson
“To love is to experience butterflies in one’s stomach – butterflies that make you fly in the sky.” Anonymous
To love someone is a beautiful thing – to have and to hold, in sickness and in health, for richer for poorer, throughs the highs and lows of this roller coaster of a life. Amongst all emotions witnessed by me, love has inflicted the maximum amount of joy but also the maximum amounts of pain. A recent study even categorized the pain of a broken heart as being the second most painful thing a human could ever experience – the first being burnt alive. Each time I have discussed the merits or demerits of falling in love or loving someone unconditionally, I have only and only heard about the benefits of the former. Nobody has spoken about the pitfalls, the agony, the fear and the drama that a love affair entails. Nor has anybody spoken about the heart wrenching pain and emptiness one witnesses when a love affair ends. Only the positives of love seem to be promoted – the romantic dinners & cuddling, the holidays & companionship, the laughter & joy-de-virve. Love is fleeting and tempestuous, but many would argue that the opposite is also true. For all the millions of divorces that take place every year, there are also plenty of happy marriages. What does all this mean?
If a headcount of people ‘happy’ in love compared with those sufferings the pangs of a broken heart were to be undertaken, no prizes for guessing who would win. Personally, for me, love has equated to fear. Even when I have been in the midst of a whirlwind romance, lurking beneath the physical ecstasy was always a considerable amount fear – what if this all ends, what if I get dumped, what if she dies, or gets diagnosed with a deadly disease…And not just between a husband and wife but even between a mother and son, a father and a daughter – the dilemma of whether being in love with the person is a pleasure or a painful burden ridden with failing hope, unmet expectations and unfulfilled promises, remains. Sure, there have been plenty of joyful moments and laughter being with people I have loved, but those too have been transient – the majority of them have been plagued by unmet expectations and questions to how long it will all last.
So the questions that plague me are, are whether the love we all chase so fervently is overrated? Could western notions of consumerism such valentine’s day and romantic Hollywood movies have a role to play in advocating the delusions about love? Is it possible that storybooks such as Cinderalla which all end in “…and they lived happily ever after” have something to do with it? Or could it simply be that we don’t know any better but to fall in love (like everyone else) in the hope that it will bring about a benefit?
Some historical records even state how marriage was a tool constructed to keep the bourgeois under societal control and the lower and middles classes taking care of one another – it was not for the aristocrats and kingship who made not one but many wives and mistresses in various households which they maintained.
I for one was shaken out of my wits when a wise man told me I did not really love my mother. This was preposterous I thought! I loved her dearly and would die for her. But the wise man continued to tell me that I loved her based on certain conditions – would I still love her if she were to disinherit me and bequeath all her property and wealth to my sister instead? Aghast as I was, I replied and said No, I would not continue to love my mother if she were to be so unfair in writing such a WILL. What this simple question taught me was that the supposed love for my mother was based on certain expectations and hopes, and without these being met, the love would simply fly of out the window. Similarly for your spouse; would you still love your darling wife and mother of your children if she were to have an affair or tell you everyday how incompetent you were? Very often, I see physical attraction as being equated with love. The two could not be more different. I could be physically attracted to the chair in my room or my neighbours wife next door but does that mean I am in love with them?
Barring the exception of a mothers love for her children, I learnt that love was a conditional contract between two individuals – you scratch my back and I scratch yours. Fair enough! So then what was all this drama of mushy romance, promises and lovesome future dreams? Rather than love, would not respect for the other be a better emotion to focus ones energies on? Would it not be simply easier to look at every relationship as a duty or better still, as a part of one’s destiny with efforts thrown in to bring about an inner resolve within you to fulfil your responsibilities to the person and be fair and descent with them? If rather than looking at your partner as someone you love, would it not be much easier to change your perspective and look at him or her as someone you appreciate, cherish or admire?
A tool which I have found to be of tremendous help in relating to a loved one is role-play. Role play requires for you to understand that famous Shakespearean quote, All the world’s a stage and we are merely actors! For good reason, our ancient scriptures and philosophies explained the temporary nature of things. Impermanence has been a buzzword widely circulated but barely understood. The person whom you believe to be YOUR wife or YOUR mother is actually not YOURS at all but simply another spirit encapsulated in a physical body living out its karma’s and destiny from its past lives. You have simply been born into the same house or your collective destinies have brought you together for a very short period of time to enliven and exhaust your respective karmic baggage. When you leave this physical body, the relationship with your loved one to which you give so much importance will mean absolutely nothing – for that relationship is only a bodily or physical relationship till the time you are alive. When you die, you will be much more concerned with the evolution, wealth and progress of your own spirit – and care zilch about your relationships and attachments. So why not pretend to be the perfect husband or son or son in law rather than internalize it into your subconscious mind through deep emotions only for it to affect your samskara’s and karmic footprint for lives to come?
The rebuttal I hear most often against the application of the role-play technique is “I cannot be fake or pretend to be something I’m not. I wish for my relationship with so and so person to be genuine and from the heart.” But do you know if you were to start practicing role play and understand the true nature of what your relationship is and how important it is in the grand scheme of things, a lot of benefits will seep through to you? Rather than be the father or husband, if you were to simply play the role of being the father or husband, you would be a lot of more effective in being a much better father and husband. With emotions out of the window you would be more practical, patient and logical in your communications with them. What’s more, you would potentially look at the relationship as simply a ‘dynamic’ that you have to undertake for a temporary period of time (say another 30-40 years till the time you die) since you have been born into the grahastha ashram or social life.
Rather than wish that your partner was less aggressive or your mother less demanding, you would simply accept them for as they are and deal with them with a considerable more pragmatism and understanding. In other words, the dynamic of role play and understanding of the TRUE nature of your relationship would curtail your expectations and you would start to accept the other person on an ‘as is where is basis’ and not how you would want them to be. Acceptance of the others’ shortcomings combined with the wisdom that your relationship with so and so is not really as significant as you deem it to be will bring about a 360 degree shift in perspectives. Try this self-talk and counselling technique and see if it helps. Believe me, if this perspective and attitudinal shift worked for me, I see no reason why it can’t work favorably for you too.
I think Tina Turner summed it so aptly when she sang in her bestselling song, “What’s Love got to do with it? Who needs a heart, when a heart can be broken….!”