Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Problem with falling in Love

Our parents were incredibly naive about love.

How it typically begins always makes the inevitability of how it ends so much more perplexing and painful. Image ­© Copyright 2012 Tomasz Wagner, Mananetwork Wedding Photography. Used with permission.

There was once a person you would have moved heaven and earth for. He or she was all sorts of amazing.  Your only problem with this person is that all of the wonderful things that you once loved about them have inexplicably evaporated. You want to know something interesting? The factors that caused the evaporation were always there when you first met. It's just as you got to know them better, they became harder to ignore. It's like the intensity of the good things you loved about them have swapped places with the bad things. Familiar?

Then we need to talk.


Isn't She Lovely?

If you've had enough breakups to write several albums about (I'm looking at you, Taylor Swift), then you tend to develop a sense of cynicism about every new relationship you get into. You forget all the past girls (or boys, as the case may be) that you once loved. You forget how you first met and instantly suffered a fatal dose of Oxytocin poisoning. We've all been there. They could do no wrong. They could say no wrong. You could've lived with this person.

The person that I'm speaking of matched all your key prerequisites:

þ They're in a career you could be proud of.
þ They're intelligent.
þ They love to laugh and they make you laugh
þ They've got a smoking hot body (or are quite attractive).
þ They're both intellectually and sexually satisfying.
þ [Insert ideal mate checklist item here]

...and then you make the mistake of moving in together.

For all intents and purposes, this is someone you could have married. So then why hasn't it happened yet? Or for those of you who got married, why are you now contemplating divorce? 

A Perfect Mess

We live in a society of instant gratification. Everything is push button activated (and in some cases, automated by your very existence). We have come to inexplicably apply the same propensities to love. We always need instant gratification with perfection on top. We want to have the perfect person on the first try, just as how we can get a perfect print for our presentation graphics, perfect coffee at the deli and perfect service delivery at the local DMV.

Similarly, we want the perfect lover every time. We are constantly told "never settle for less than you're worth", only to come to the realization that you may have overestimated your true worth to begin with. As a result, we may either chase after a lover that doesn't exist, or find ourselves applying impossible standards to someone who is a near perfect fit. When the inevitable disappointment sets in, we break up and start the courtship process all over again.

You're quite familiar with this routine, right?

There is a growing number of serial monogamists in the world. Many of us have grown callous and cold, with a block of ice where our hearts used to be. We've read so many self help books, blogs, newspaper articles and advice columns about the billions of ways that love can go wrong, that we inexorably develop an insidiously long list of things that our mate must or must not conform to. The list is so long and so well defined that it automatically eliminates the vast majority of  potential lovers from the gene pool — and to be honest, that includes you.

Many of us in our endless cycle of relationships, become experts on the subject, taking it upon ourselves to share with all whom would listen, about our harvested expertise on love. It stands to reason then that this is precisely why you should avoid all of the "relationship experts" out there. Their expertise is based on trial and failure, not trial and success. The vast majority of them are still single. Taking advice from them is like taking flying lessons from a pilot who has crashed every aircraft they ever flew. So why are you listening to these cynics?

They can't help you either.

The Naivete of Parents

With the skyrocketing divorce rates that abound these days, the increasing liberation of women who can think and choose for themselves and with the higher number of women cheating on men just as much as men do on women, it makes you wonder how it is that some of our parents ever got married in the first place. If your parents aren't married, then it is likely they succumbed to the change in society as it began. We are no longer an innocent species.

While it would be easy to place the blame for the increasing fragility of relationships squarely at the feet of women, I have a sneaking suspicion that such a blame game would not only be inaccurate, but more a function of lazy, bigoted thinking. I think that as the species evolves, we become less and less naive about relationships just as how we are becoming less and less naive about religion. We've just become smarter as a species and thus less forgiving of flaws.

Forty years ago, our parents would have happily gotten married to someone who was just nice to look at. They got married at age 18 in some cases. They usually married very young, often to their high school or college crush. They got married without caring if one of them doesn't want kids. They got married because they went to the same church and turned 21. They got married irrespective of the many character flaws that existed between them that would later drive them up the wall. They claim that it is as a result of the true love they share.

We now know that they were just blissfully stupid.

Our Parents were incredibly naive about love. They never thought that a couple could have sexual incompatibilities and so it would be impractical to get married before having sex. They never thought that their mutual pet peeves could get in the way of their having a long and happy marriage and so they spend the first 7 years of marriage living in near bliss, and the rest of that living in cognitive dissonance masquerading as a happy marriage. It is a loveless marriage that is no longer driven by passion, but rather by a mutual desire to not die alone.

Our parents lied to us. They have grossly overrated the value of falling in love. They do tell you that marriage is hard, but they don't tell you that marriage is unreasonable. In a society that expects you to grow up and show your maturity by getting married, which parent would say that to their child? I've since discovered that there are two sets of people who get married: Those who're as naive as their parents and those who're fully prepared to ignore the bullshit.

The vast majority are in the former category.

Knowing what we know about the psychology of personalities, it takes more balls to jump into a marriage with someone you know you have personality incompatibilities with, but who resonates with 80% of your other personality characteristics than to sky dive from space. It essentially means knowingly forgoing the hope of complete happiness for a semblance of it, by spending your life with someone who is almost there. That brings me to the girl in question.

Looks can kill

Parents may be completely sold on your mate. The thing is, they don't have to live with them. Unlike your parents who went into their marriage completely blind to the many character flaws of each other, we are well aware of all of the character flaws of our lover. Maybe that's our problem. We know too much too soon. But wouldn't that suggest that marriage is only for fools? I suppose that's why they call it "marital bliss" — precisely because ignorance is bliss.

The obvious challenge here is that most of us aren't ignorant. It is not a state of mind that we generally approve of. However, we may find ourselves faced with a cryptic quandary: we are not willing to let this person go, inasmuch as we are not willing to marry them with all that we know. Then again, perhaps we are already married to them and we merely need to formalize the occasion. That is still however, a nightmare many of us are happy to awake from.

And that's what's bothersome.

I have discovered in the dilemma regarding this woman however, that I am biased when it comes to looks. I do find that when she is dolled up, her character flaws are easier to forgive than when she wakes in the morning and her hair is all over the place—literally. That's not a feature of my brain that I can turn on or off. It's just there, like a splinter in the back of my mind, slowly driving me mad. That was the first time I realized that a woman's look could kill.

One evening driving out of my place of work, the most beautiful security guard started to flirt with me. She had the most beautiful eyes, the loveliest hair, softest skin, the most pleasant voice, the sexiest bod, and the cutest smile. In the 30 seconds that we shared giddy smiles and giggles, I completely forgot that she had a loaded 9mm pistol on her waist. I wanted to marry this woman who I had barely met, just because she was beautiful to look at. In that moment, I completely, remorselessly forgot the woman I had thought about marrying before.

Why I enjoy being single

It is not fair to the woman in question that I should be so easily amused by what appeared to me to be nothing more than a security guard who should be a super model. However, when I think about it in purely emotionless terms, I would probably have been stuck in a loveless marriage for most of my life, wondering what could have been had I not asked that security guard for her number. I find that at the end of the day, getting ass is not the problem. The problem is getting ass worth fighting for. This is the key reason for this bewitching dilemma.

So do I think that the security guard is ass that is worth fighting for? Not exactly. Rather, she suitabtly represents something the aforementioned woman does not: hope. For while the aforementioned female will certainly have ticked off most of the the categories that matter to me, the security guard will have ticked off all the key categories that matter to me the most.

For all I know, the security guard could turn out to be a false positive. However, she represents the hope that there are indeed more perfect women out there for me to discover and that there is no sensible reason to hold on to a woman who is quantitatively viable, but not qualitatively enjoyable. I'm a glass half full kind of guy. She always sees the glass half empty. On more occasions than not, we have come to blows about our differing world views.

It's quite depressing, really.

The security guard is by no means anywhere near as educated or as well informed (or perhaps even as intelligent) as the aforementioned woman. But I do know that I enjoy her company many times more. I may not pursue her, but she reminds me of exactly the kind of bubbly personality that I thoroughly enjoy in a woman. I'm a happy person and I enjoy happy people. Right now, there is a married man reading this paragraph who wished he had this epiphany before he got married—and this is precisely why I enjoy being single; I have options.

Why I probably won't marry... yet.

I am firmly of the opinion that marriage is an ancient institution that has become obsolete due to a number of factors; primary of which is the fact that we're not as naive as we used to be. I am by no means discounting the probability that I could get married. Who knows, I may end up marrying the security guard. But there's one thing that I do know: I am not naive enough to overlook certain egregious personality clashes in favour of greater similarities with anyone.

I'll tell you why:

My uncle's wife passed away recently. After her funeral, he confided to me that he would never get married again and that he is glad that it is over. He, like many before him, got married in church at the behest of conforming to social norms. His wife evolved into a religious zealot of Biblical proportions, touting that sex in marriage is only for the purposes of procreation. His marriage only produced one child. You can probably do the math yourselves.

While that is an obviously extreme example, it is still a key example of why the thought of "grin and bear it" doesn't make a great deal of sense to me. Some would say that he could have easily gotten a divorce. But that is outside of the context of a religious marriage — especially when attempting to maintain appearances for the religious elite is paramount.

With that said, divorce isn't exactly an ideal solution either. In my mind, if one is to get married, the idea is to honor the vows, to stick together, for richer or poorer, for better or worse, in sickness and in health, till death do them part. The vows themselves are a bit naive as well, for they do not account for the fact that most human beings have a tolerance limit.

How Children Save Marriages

This trite little dilemma has proven several things to me: The first is that while our parents may have lied, lying was not their intention. The truth is that you have to treat love the same way you treat religion if you mean to have any success at it. You have to go in completely blind (or relatively blind) or you will never enjoy the bliss that the ignorance involved will bring. That is why no matter how often your heart has been broken, no matter how hard it feels, you must love every lover like it's the first time you've ever loved or you will never love again.

Secondly, I realize due to increasing population size, mutations that spike our intelligence are bound to also increase at an exponential rate. This means that each successive generation of humans will be exponentially smarter than the previous. Our parents lived in simpler times when women were subservient and their marriages were long, simple and so blissfully happy.

Today we know too much. We know that love is an electro-chemical reaction. We know it won't last. We know that boredom will set in. We know that will expose our pet peeves and we know this will eventually lead to straying thoughts and ultimately to divorce. We know that the idea of marriage was designed more for survival purposes in primitive times when women were considered assets. We know something else will inevitably fill the void once filled by love.

—hopefully a child.

That's when it occurred to me: A lot of couples get married, then spend the next 2 - 5 years living in wedded bliss. Then, when the burn starts to wear off, they churn out a few children to distract them from their mutual boredom which they spend the next 18 - 30 years bringing into the world (depending on how many kids they have). When the last kid leaves home, they are so happy to be alone again, that the burn is reignited and lasts until one or both of them die.

Isn't fascinating that we humans heap so much hope and expectation on something so pathetic? This proves more than anything that we are nothing more than glorified apes. The moment we start to become so smart that we look down on the primitive nature of our routine as being "outdated" and "obsolete" is the moment we have doomed our species to extinction.

It has already begun. There is an inverse correlation between the level of education a woman has and the number of children she is likely to have. While many college educated career women greet the idea of child bearing with contempt, women like the security guard who are still pursuing a community college education, eagerly look forward to having my children, even though we had just met. Fascinating, isn't it? It is as if education robs women of their nature.


When the ashes of our internet are dug up by an alien species 3,000 years from now when humans have whittled into extinction due to our unsustainable social development, they will probably come across this post and piece together one of the most important parts of the puzzle of why the upright, hairless ape went extinct: We became too smart for our own good.

There are over 7 billion people on this rock. What is the probability that your unique set of personality quirks doesn't have an ideal match somewhere out there? The trouble with most people who compromise when searching for love is that they are too lazy to look far and wide enough for the ideal match. They would rather settle for the 80/20 matches in their immediate vicinity, then begin to espouse ideas of compromise, ultimately compromising your happiness.

What if I told you that you don't have to compromise? The vast majority of the people who fall in love have not found their perfect match. They simply grew feelings of attachment to the one they are with, much in the same way a child develops a psychological bond with a stuffed toy. This is why it still hurts to break up with someone who you know isn't right for you. It hurts for all the same reasons as when you had to decide to throw away your favourite childhood toy.

Do yourselves a favour—don't compromise on love. Life is too short to plan for divorce. There are too many beautiful people out there to become miserable with the one you've found. Don't fall in love just to avoid loneliness. Don't marry because it's the socially acceptable thing to do or because the statistics say you might live longer. Peace of mind is priceless. Your quantum of solace is invaluable. Married people are some of the most miserable people in the world. Divorce rates don't lie. Don't underestimate the value of your freedom. Still want to be in love?

Then learn to love yourself before loving someone else.

E-mail: accordingtoxen[at]gmail[dot]com