[This article is based on my reading of Essays in Love by Alain de Botton and is a sequel to Love Life Cycle: Part 1. This article compared to its predecessor has been much more difficult to write hence the long delay. The end of love is usually a deeply painful affair and empathising somehow transfers the solemn mood]
In a long relationship eventually saying love eventually turns into an abbreviation of a collection of many events. In between, there is boredom, irritation, annoyance and indifference. The feeling that one would be in another relationship slowly creeps in, this is as a direct result of the fact that life is made up of infinite possibilities. You can’t pursue all your ambitions, complete all your life projects and read all the books in your anti-library. This is the paradox of choice, more options scarcely results in increased fulfilment, anyway there’s always a fear of missed opportunities. Just as staying in luxurious villas and driving exotic sports cars, the human-animal is very quick at making ordinary of the exquisite. In that fashion, the wonders of love slowly become invisible and eventually taken for granted. Those living in palaces eventually become unfulfilled though waking up in golden beds. After making the choice to be with someone, eventually, it feels like imprisoning the infinite opportunities into one path, one love story.
However happy we may be with our partner, our love for the necessarily hinders us from pursuing alternatives… Why should we feel this as a loss unless our love for them has begun to wane?
Nothing but irony lies in the fact that former romantic lovers are too easily forgotten, these relationships that had taken years to build and the intense intimacy that was cultivated between the two eventually vanishes. Long enough these memories that filled you to your depth lose their depth and slowly feel distant. Sometimes it’s hard picturing the love that was, it becomes more like trying to back to sleep to finish the dream that woke you.
We are all jealous of our partner’s former lovers, partly because we wish they did really love them and agonize over them. Your partner meeting up with exes is a deal-breaker if not anguish and conflict for most. However, in most cases, if your relationship is healthy, they are forgotten just as you’ll be. Lovers are expendable. Occasional stalking on social media, chance encounters on the streets and malls and that one friend’s wedding. Otherwise, they are as good as dead, a grim reaper of failed loves patiently waiting for the next love in line.
To Love or Not To Love
The height of ambivalence and indifference is when there is a balance in reasons for loving and not-loving. Therein begins the search for the justifications for staying together or breaking up. Friends who at the beginning couldn’t understand the reasons for being together eventually turned into the ones holding the relationship together. They now hold a higher regard of the relationship than its participants.
From within love, as within wealth, a taboo surrounds the means of acquiring and sustaining affection or property. Only in poverty, either of love or money, leads one to question the system…
The proposition of love is however without its caveats, there is a very real possibility of getting into intense happiness, and endless bliss of romance. This, however, comes at the cost of putting all your eggs in one basket and committing, even blindly, to that love. If this is the only life we live then whenever you get what we want, the rational thing becomes to hoard it, own and seek permanence in the fragile. If your current love is the best thing life can give you then one is torn in between the anticipation of an idealistic future and the nostalgia of a love that blew you away. Enjoying the present is never as easy as it sounds.
Definitely there will be arguments, but at this stage, they aren’t due to the surface reasons but the dread in exposing ourselves by loving someone too much. The act of loving someone deeply, put’s one squarely at the lover’s mercy, a fact of love that’s often too taboo to discuss. There is a need to test our partner. Since we’ve bestowed upon then the power to break our hearts, our mental circuitries are on overdrive trying to test their resolve. We are constantly in need of reassurance that our love is airtight. The lovers argue theoretically over the most implausible of allegations just to test the seams of the union. There is also a growing thought of ending the relationship at its peak before the entropy of familiarity and routine drains all the love out of it. At the prime of love, is it better to end it before it ends you?
The End of Love is at its Beginning
Hanging over every loves story is the thought, as horrible as it is unknowable, of how it will end…
The bits of character that were seductive at the beginning eventually become the cause for great irritation, its as if the end was there as it began. Trying to rekindle the lost flame of love by doing “the things we used to do” is usually counter-productive for this very reason. The feeling that your love is drifting away is usually a clarion call for reviving old jokes, watching previously beloved sitcoms and reenacting past romantic dates. Unable to stem the tide of love on the brink by conforming to the past, the despondent lover turns into denial with a pinch of fanatical optimism. Love may be born in an instant but it ends in a slow death, constantly prolonged by two lovers who are both unable to make the tough decisions. Breakdown in communication comes first and my it’s nature difficult to discuss and as a result of one or two parties’ withdrawal. Apathy clouds the relationship, fosters an environment for sulks, rage, bargains and guilt; all desperate cries for help but the uninterested lover’s ears now completely deaf. Humiliation is all you get for still loving against all the facts.
Hate is the hidden script in the letter of love, it’s foundations are shared with the opposite. The woman seduced by her partner’s way of kissing her neck, turning the pages of a book, or telling a jokes watches irritation collect at precisely these points. It is as if the end of love was already contained in the beginning, the ingredients of love’s collapse eerily foreshadowed by those in its creation.
When every decision is difficult, no decision is taken.
At the end of love, the relationship stalls, there is no need to be rash about anything. There are no good decisions so why rush to make any? As if in a game of poker, everyone has their cards tucked close to their chests. By upholding the status quo, the separation becomes slow and prolonged. Waiting for someone else to make the tough decision hands one a strong hand the eventual fallout and blame game. Amicable breakups are simply fallacies. When there is an impasse at the negotiation tables, just as in real life, one of the parties resorts to a kind of romantic terrorism. Terrorism is never about resolving the conflict but a way of lashing out when there are no clear solutions. Romantic terrorism in the form of guilt-trips, jealousy, sulks, tears, rage-induced destruction of property or bodily harm doesn’t reinvigorate love but alienates it. Romantic terrorism is a last ditched attempt to rescue a love doomed by fate, it’s but screams when the plane of love is falling from the sky. Once the love has faded, everything becomes the straws that a drowning man clutches on. Too little too late. There’s no way to bargain your way out of this rut, negotiated desire leads to obligated compliance.
The smallest misdeed is received with a nuclear chain reaction of sulks and frustration. There is no proportionality when it comes to romantic terrorism. A grievance that would have been solved quickly ar the beginning of love now takes hours and days just to get back on the same page. Despite the crazy demands of ordinary terrorists, none is as ludicrous as the romantic terrorists’ desire to be loved. Your lover’s friends are the worst of allies, they’ll welcome their new love with celebration.
There is an irony in comforting someone when they are overcome by emotions and guilt when they open up on how the feelings they had for you are no more. The range of emotions lies from grief, anger, bitter-sweet to relief all accompanied by stinging pain. Sometimes, one of the lovers has already moved on into the arms of another, the relationship you thought you had was on life support. In contemporary society, we all want to be the one who needs the other one the least. The verdict can only be found one way, woe unto the one desperately clinging for love.
At the end of a relationship, it is the one who is not in love who makes the tender speeches.
If you entered the relationship with selfish intentions, isn’t it right your lover to end the relationship with equally selfish reasons? In the relationship postmortem that quickly follows, the question usually is whether the sacrifices made were those of a martyr or those of a rational actor. It is perfectly normal to dissect through the slain relationship to find the actual cause of death. However, human nature takes it a step further by delving into the rabbit hole of conspiracies where reasonable answers are in plain sight. When trust is broken then everything is suspect. Just like Descartes, the grieving lover is forced to question anything that would be lead to the root cause of their suffering. When your confidence in love stabs you in the back, there begins helplessness in controlling one’s destiny. A breakup is a potent existential crisis as they come, a brief moment of insanity.
To love someone is moral only when that love is given free of any expected return, if that love is given simply for the sake of giving love.
Some would argue that being born in a world in which were are cursed to die, we unconsciously seek to kill our relationships. Our corrupted internal clockwork, maybe, with its unfulfilled needs tries its best to make us unhappy. In retrospect, it looks like we are constantly being drawn to the people with whom unhappiness is guaranteed. I’m not a believer in this hypothesis though but it’s a great food for thought. As a budding existentialist, the curse of being unhappy is nothing compared to anguish of living in a world actively devoid of meaning.
In a depressing twist of fate, the end of love ends up being the end of one’s life. More often than not, a proportion of suicide (and even homicides and double homicides) are caused by too much love. There is a danger in following the romantic script of love and putting someone as your be-all and end-all. The devil is in the details, the idea of having a soul mate and being unable to live without someone (even metaphorically) ties closely with the ’till death do us part’ mantra. However, to be frank, there is hardly any love worth dying for. The allure of suicide is the invocation of cosmic justice, all who had wronged would be filled with grief and the whole world would know that love isn’t just but a feeling that is easily forgotten as others do. Unfortunately, you cannot derive pleasure when your existence is no more. Please, do literally anything else than take your life.
The Fake Insights of Moving on
If there is any benefit to be found in the midst of agony, it may perhaps lie in the ability of certain sufferers to take this misery as evidence (however perverse) that they are special.
It’s often astonishing just how much wisdom people claim to have at the end of a relationship. People who have been searching for a sign from the universe that they are unique are drawn to accept a martyr status when shit hits the fan. In a perverse way, just like Jesus, the suffering and anguish brought upon in life emphasizes one’s grandiosity. The perceived ability to be immune to surprise closely follows. With the break-up