Yes, clearly it’s no good to go through the motions and pursue a long-term relationship / marriage if one really doesn’t want to. Society should not compel them to do so. I agree.
Further, I’m with you on the idea that the majority of marriages are full of unhappiness and thus, [usual] end that way [, unhappily]. [I know that many people say they need to settle down and get married to realize their happiness. But as I see it, it's not that we need to be married to be happy; we just need to be romantically, emotionally, and sexually gratified to be happy. These prizes can be obtained without getting married, yes.]
I find much of Dr. Ruth and Howard Stern vulgar, although I do get a real kick out of Stern’s movie Private Parts. Neither of these folks are [necessarily] what I would consider to be [the best] role models for the citizens of a healthy society. [Nonetheless, you can't blame them or the media in general for creating society's (perhaps) excessive interest in sex; we've had that need (yes, need) since the dawn of humanity. So in my opinion, you're giving them too much credit here.
Instead, they, and others like them just encourage a more open society about sex, where it's more normal and accepted for people to voice (and openly seek to gratify) their desires, and this I believeis a good thing. When people can freely live their fantasies, they're healthier, happier, and once relieved of the burdensof unrequited sexual desires, they can be productive in other, more worldly pursuits, like making more money and devoting themselves to more selfless causes. Though at times obnoxious, people like Stern and Ruth do effectively counteract sexual repression, and enable many to 'come out of the closet' and get what they want from the other sex.]
I suppose that the bulk of [yours and my] contention here centers on the definition of love. [Your definition is more practical while mine focuses more on the romantic and sexual aspects of it.] We apparently have different beliefs about it. But this is to be expected. Men and women see things very differently. The evolutionary psychology books I list below theorize as to why this is so and offer ways to reduce [or at least, to understand and accept these differences]. But some disagreement will likely always remain just by sheer virtue of the fact that by necessity, men and women have had to evolve with very different sexual strategies in order to procreate in bloodline-sustaining ways.
You can always find people who’ve achieved success without being “in love”. But I promise you that for every person like this you’d care to cite, I can cite at least one whose success was furthered by passionate love for a mate.
Finally, I’d say that the feelings you speak of [romantic and sexual desire] are in and of themselves not unhealthy. How people behave in response to them however, often is very unhealthy.
So, what do you think love is?
The issue [of love] is not trite to me, nor to the millions of people out there whose romantic lives aren’t what they’d like them to be.
I’m doing what I need to be doing right now. Nope. No [corporate] job. Been there. Done that. I lived that sort of life for nearly twemty years, and it did not accomplish for me the goodness that you’re attributing to it. That is, I created that “right” life some nineteen years ago, and it did not make me happy. I built it, but they [desirable women] did not come.
You say I’m in a rut. But I say I’m in the best place I’ve ever been. I’m happier than ever before, and I am doing what I wish to do (writing, maintaining my technical savvy, DJing [, and caring for my mother]). I’ve accepted, after two decades of hard-core experience that I’ll simply never fit into the corporate paradigm, and the nice thing is that fortunately, I don’t have to. Having lots of money is not so important to me that I wish to sacrifice my health and integrity in order to get it.
Sorry, but [unlike you] I don’t see love-at-first-sight [LAFS] as mere chemical reactions that should be dismissed as human failings. [Indeed, such feelings are at the core of human essence. Besides, if you think about it, all human desires and thought processes in general are based on chemical reactions. Thus, the fact that lust is a chemical reaction does not make it any more trite than any other desire or thought.] Read any modern psychology book and you’ll see that these [failings as you suggest them to be] are actually very mental and highly evolved processes. They are not therefore, simple carnal matters. Check out the following books for corroboration. I’ve studied all these at length:
- The Evolution Of Desire by David M. Buss.
- Love At First Sight by Earl D. Naumann, Ph. D.
- Motivation and Personality by Abraham H. Maslow.
- Survival Of The Prettiest by Nancy Etcoff.
I’d argue that feelings of attraction are supremely important in laying the foundation for long-lasting and happy relationships. They should not be discarded [therefore] or underestimated in importance.
Yes, I agree that in times past, the idea of loving a person for love’s sake alone was a foreign concept, and did not really come into its own until after world war II ended. You’re correct that historically, people married to establish allegiances among families and to combine their wealth and thus, expand their fiscal reach. However, today, folks are looking for more, particularly now that women have achieved a great measure of economic independence from men. This is explained in detail in the book,
- Marriage, A History From Obedience to Intimacy by Stephanie Coontz.
A woman these days need not marry in order to live well, and many, though the numbers are still sadly rather small, are beginning to realize that the mere presence of “deep pockets” in a man does not go nearly as far toward making them happy, as he who they feel attracted to, and who feels likewise toward them; his money and familial connections notwithstanding. Personally, I think we have the better system today. Yes, you may point out that the divorce rates are higher now than ever before, and thereby conclude that our system is worse. But the problems with this conclusion are numerous:
- I suggest that the low [divorce] rates of yester-century occurred because people (particularly women) were far less free. Their roles in such unions were rigidly defined, prescribed, and in many cases, violently enforced. Those who chose not to follow them were shunned, beat up, confined to their rooms, and often killed. Yes, marriages may havelasted longer; but much of the credit for that goes to the coercion that husbands used to restrain and oppress their wives. Women paid for longevity in their marriages with their freedom. Certainly not an ideal situation, and I’m quite glad we don’t live like that in our century, even if it means contending with higher divorce rates as a result.
- People live longer today. So the idea of “’til death do us part” means something very different now than it did in earlier times. It’s far less of a challenge to make a marriage last for ten to twenty years, as opposed to today, where in order to keep that promise, marriages must last thirty to fifty years.
- Longer marriages of today subject couples to greater stresses such as health problems and the increased likelihood that one or the other will have some sort of accident that drastically alters the dynamics of their marriage, and in many cases, damages it irreparably.
- Today’s society is changing at a much greater rate than [in times] past, owing to the development of the mass media and computers, not to mention the better-functioning brains due to better nutrition. It’s far less likely therefore, that couples can avoid extreme value and goal differences, which spell the early demise of so many of today’s marriages, particularly now that so many women have their own careers and no longer must depend on a man for economic sustenance. Without this dependence, it’s easy to see why far fewer people choose to remain in relationships without the feelings of love.
True, modern society may have lost some of its ability to create long-lasting unions. But I believe we’ve gained much more than we lost.
I’ve studied the history for hundreds of hours actually. As noted earlier, I agree with everything you’ve said here about marriages of the past. I’m just thankful that humans have moved beyond these restrictive viewpoints.
[...] I don’t feel that a forever-lasting relationship is a healthy goal. I never stated my goals this way. What I said was that I’m looking for a mutually satisfying relationship that will last for an indefinite period. Indefinite does not mean forever. Whether I have one relationship that lasts for fifty years, or fifty relationships that last one year each makes no real difference to me. As long as I’m relating this way to someone, the duration of the relationship is but of secondary importance.
Yes, hard work, mutual respect, compassion, and empathy are essential ingredients of a healthy love relationship. But what, I ask you, motivates one to exhibit these traits? Many say that it’s duty and sheer willpower. Yes, one can will himself to behave like this just because [he believes] it’s the right thing to do or that he wants to be a good citizen. But I contend that physical attraction is a much stronger motivation than willpower alone, or [willpower] which derives from a duty sense. Now mind, physical attraction cannot replace willpower. In any relationship, there will be those times when it pales, and willpower must step in to help the couple get over this rough spot. But I think of lust as the sugar in the cake, and duty as the flour. Without the sugar, a cake would still be a cake, but would be far less appealing. Without the flour, the cake would not be a cake at all. So lust and duty work together to strengthen the binds of a healthy relationship. It’s not exclusively one or the other. Thus, I don’t see these as opposing forces in relationship because a love affair devoid of either one is unhealthy.
Desperation may indeed be unattractive to some, particularly those who lack sufficient compassion. But like it or not, desperation is a part of life. We’ve been programmed to reject it. Yet it remains. [Besides, one can acknowledge being in need, without being needy. Needing and needy mean two very different things with the former not sharing the negative connotations of the latter.]
I have done everything you suggest [using the pursuit of worldly goals to numb my desires for good sex, great romance, and divine love]. I just didn’t have the good luck with it that you claim to have had.
Yes, [Emmy] and I have a nice friendship, and I’d love to find a similar arrangement with someone with the added pleasure of passion to spice it up.
[Yes,] people are born diverse. My point (allow me to clarify) was that institutions historically have fallen way short of fully recognizing the value of this diversity, and in fact have mounted extreme methods of oppression to combat it (Nazi Germany for example). Fortunately today, there’s a big push to tear down the walls of prejudice that blind people to this innate diversity. When I implied that people weren’t diverse, I meant to say that peoples’ behaviors oppress diversity.
And I appreciate [your encouragement]. I’d just ask that you be careful about appearing overly self-righteous.
Further, the jury is still out on whose mindset [yours or mine] is the more healthy. While I respect your belief system and understand how you came to have it, I’m not convinced that it’s worked any better for you than mine has for me. You’re still single, like me. You still have unfulfilled dreams, just as I do, that you think about much of the time. But unlike me, you seem to bear much resentment toward men. You speak often in very general terms about how men are pigs because all they want is short-term sexual fun. Many are that way, yes. But not all. Not me. Further, I don’t harbor such disgust toward women in general. Thus, [...] are you [really] any more happy than I? How meaningful would such a claim be?