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‘What is love?’ Those of a certain vintage may instantly think of the 1993 pop hit from Haddaway on hearing that question. It does, though, go back a little further. It has troubled the minds of our greatest thinkers through the ages.
Lovemaking and breaking
Some believe in soulmates, that there is a matching partner “out there” for each one of us, and in finding that match we’ll discover true love. The more scientifically-minded amongst us are somewhat sceptical of such a view. If we all do have a soulmate, going by the number of broken or very troubled relationships, it would appear most have failed to find “the one”.
Fair enough, it’s not the case that a soulmate relationship must be free from conflict and hardship. Now that would be truly delving into the realms of fantasy.
No, the thinking is more along the lines of ‘love conquers all’. That is to say, when problems arise, genuine soulmates have a deep desire to sort them out. If this is clearly lacking, it’s probably best to move on.
When it comes to sexual relationships, discovering — or at least believing — that a mistake has been made after children have been brought into being complicates things quite a bit. Moving on isn’t that straightforward. Or at least it shouldn’t be if the welfare of the innocent children is sufficiently considered. This welfare is particularly important when we’re talking about pre-adolescent children.
‘The concept of true love and soulmates seems far-fetched.’
There’s no simple solution to such a situation. It could be that one is in a bad place mentally, has been pushed to the limit by the “other half” and simply can’t stand being in her company. Yet, just walking away from it all is one of the last options for the caring parent.
In most cases, but not all, it’s the man — assuming he has been and wants to remain a reliable father — who more acutely faces the leave dilemma. This is in the sense that the care of the children will largely be left to the mother. The man risks becoming something of an enforced-by-law fleeting father.
Whatever the circumstances and fallout, there is a school of thought that blames today’s more promiscuous society and an associated toxic individualism for the “destruction” of the traditional family unit.
At the first sign of relationship difficulties, many look for the exit door rather than search for a fix. This is made easier in places where separation and divorce are not the taboos they once were. That we’re more interconnected than ever before could also be seen as a factor. Attractive alternatives, if only superficially, are never far away.
In such an environment, the concept of true love and soulmates seems far-fetched.
Easy come, easy go
This brings us to the idea that love, of the everlasting kind that is, isn’t something that comes naturally. It’s a changeable of-the-moment emotion. We can fall out of love in the same way as we fall in love — granted the former is often harder to do, with jealousy and self-pity playing significant parts.
This isn’t just in the romantic sphere. It can be seen in both family and platonic relationships. (I write as someone who has never really experienced deep love in the romantic sense. Most affairs of the past have been merely lustful, with little desire to build them into anything more meaningful.)
Thus, any kind of relationship requires regular maintenance. There’ll inevitably be some give and take. At its heart, though, are honesty and trust. Without those, it’s either doomed to fail or will be beset with continuous problems. Indeed, it would be better for all concerned if it were the former.
So, what is love? When it comes to romantic relationships specifically, I’m not exactly an authority on the matter.
Nonetheless, what I can proffer — and like most things in life — is that it is something that requires care and attention. It might appear to come rather easily but it’s sure to go even more easily without giving it the devotion it deserves.
Alas, on this front, we are often more aware of the shortcomings of others than our own.
Listen to Wrong Way’s Colombia Cast podcast here.