I've been thinking a lot about issues surrounding love and commitment recently.
By way of background, I should start out by saying that my love life has been a little sporatic. I started dating comparatively late, in my early 20's. I was shy in high school, and ended up spending much of my undergraduate years in college at schools and curricula where the male to female ratio made meeting available, single women difficult. After that, I had a couple stable relationships in my mid-20s but was not ready to settle down. My late 20's were dominated by a lone, cruel, demanding mistress: my Ph.D. dissertation. She was a volatile, jealous creature, and though we were very much in love, it seemed that she could brook no rivals for my affections.
Fast forward to the present, three years out of graduate school, enjoying the benefits of stable employment in a vibrant urban cultural landscape, and ten and half months into a relationship with a truly wonderful woman I met through an online personals site. I am in love, ready not to settle but to settle down, and thinking about asking to make this relationship permanent. As I consider this change, I find myself reflecting a lot about the nature of relationships, love, and commitment.
I find, for one thing, that real love is easy when you finally meet the right person. It is disarmingly easy, like breathing in and out. I'm not sure why I find this to be surprising. After all, my parents have been successfully married for forty plus years now and loving each other never seemed to weigh them down in the least. Growing up around them, I see now that their love was quite the opposite; their love was a reinforcing foundation for their lives instead an eternal source of drama.
I am also surprised at how gradually our love has grown. One of my favorite quotes from the movie "Life As A House" goes like this: "Change can be so constant, you don't even feel a difference until there is one." The feeling of love came over me in so gradually that I can't point to a single moment and say "I awoke on that morning, and it all changed for me."
I suppose I'm surprised because I picked up the idea somewhere that real love is supposed to involve a moment of sudden, radical clarity. At that moment, you suddenly feel that this is it, you are in love, and sense that new paths now exist for your life that were only an unconfirmed suspicion before. It is all very dramatic, perhaps making it the inevitable domain of music and literature, drama and film.
I was talking about this with my friend (and hairstylist) J., as she was cutting my hair on Saturday. Two things she said stick with me still. When I mentioned that I was thinking about what it might be like to spend the rest of my life with my girlfriend, she simply said that she spent more time thinking about what life might be like NOT spending the rest of her life with her boyfriend. It was something that I hadn't precisely considered in my previous musings. She also expressed the feeling that a defining moment of clarity where love is concerned would be wonderful, but she's never experienced it either. That reassured me immensely.
In the end, perhaps all I truly know is this: love is the greatest of teachers. If I fully submit to its tutelage, I will see and know things I cannot fully imagine in the here and now, and more importantly perfect myself in ways I barely understand.
on 2003-02-24 at 2:14 p.m.
The Wayback Machine - To Infinity And Beyond