I’ve been doing some research for the book proposal I have been writing (more on that later) and have come across a book called Labyrinth of Desire: Women, Passion and Romantic Obsession by Rosemary Sullivan. In it she investigates the reason we love the way we do. She uses a lot of literary references, which, actually is my only criticism on the book, because I find I want more real life ones (hence the book proposal). But some of her ideas are interesting.
“Falling in love will usually occur at a time of transition. We may not be conscious of it, but something has ended so something new must begin. We are young and ready to begin our lives, or marriages fall apart. Romantic obsession comes when we need to fill an emptiness, a sense of radical insufficiency within.”
To me, this is the essence of the pitfall of love after loss. We are at a dramatic point of transition, trying to fill a void, an emptiness within ourselves, trying, through the mirror of another to find ourselves again.
I’ve often heard/read that our relationships are reflections of ourselves, but for some reason it has never quite made sense to me. I think it was this sentence in Labyrinth that struck me:
“The lover is a vicarious route to some essential part of herself that she does not yet fully recognize of understand. Love is a necessary obession. But is it another we are searching for, or the missing half of ourselves?”
It got me thinking to the various men in my life and what was lacking in me or what I was seeking in them that attracted me to them and I realized that our common bond was always loss. It hit me square between the eyes. Shit. I hate it when things are so damned obvious.
The sucker punch is when I realize that this was even true in my last relationship, and so loss continues to be what I subconsciously seek in a partner. I seek a reflection of my own loneliness. Which totally sucks. I thought I was in a healthy place, able to seek healthy relationships.
I guess I should be happy to at least recognize that this has become a trend. I suspect its a common trend among those of us experiencing loss. We seek others who will reflect that loss back in some way. It’s hard at my age to find people unaffected by loss, so perhaps the whole thing is just one big coincidence, but my gut tells me there is some kernel of truth to the whole mirror idea.
Another powerful idea that this book has provided me, is this:
“For a woman, complete candor in a man is erotic… Women will say that when falling in love, men suddenly open up, and are able to be vulnerable. A man will often unconsciously seduce a woman with the narrative of his own loneliness. And a young woman often misconstrues these confessions as an expression of sensitivity. His willingness to tell her of his loneliness is a gift. She feels unique in her capacity to understand him.”
I wonder if this is true? Are women really suckers for a good sob story? I think what struck me was the sense of special-ness that I know I have sometimes felt within a relationship, as if I, and I alone had been given the keys to a secret kingdom. There is no doubt there was an allure to this.
But here is the real kicker:
“Perhaps all romantic love is the search for a defense against emptiness. And perhaps the more desperate the search, the more obsessive the love. To fear being alone is natural. We need intimates, not least to help us discover ourselves… It’s love that brings us, if only briefly, a sense of being not separate, of being matched, mirrored, met. It is a returning to what life should have been.”
And there it is, the loss thing again. “Returning to what life should have been.”
OK, so we have self-knowledge. Now what?