Even if romantic and married couples choose either to make up with or break up from each other whenever they are at odds, it turns out that the myth of Love as romantic perfection is clearly at play. The idea that there should be harmony between them through conforming with each others whims, or the idea that their relationship should be failure-proof are common reasons that propel couples to part ways, merely because of stark differences. These differences are often perceived as irreconcilable, thus causing bitter disillusionment of what used to be a sweet partnership.
No one is exempted from this truth, not even me and Claire, my partner. At times we might assume that since we are being more conscious of our relationship, such hardships might have little possibility. But we are still confronted by difficulties on how we relate to each other, how to conform and submit to our ways of thinking and feeling, and how we deal with these conflicts together. We might have similarities, but our differences are so strong that they are often the reason why our minds clash. Like fishes in troubled waters, one might say that a relationship like ours is always on the rocks. An ideal relationship should always be happy and in harmony. But these are both the illusions of romance. The myth of romance is basically our biological instincts, which are our desire to survive and perpetuate our existence. In that sense, a romantic relationship is either a basis to make a relationship a comfort zone or an eternal state: perfection of connection and how it will perfectly lasts.
Romance makes us realize that our partners are our direct and exact opposite. While we seek to be more similar in ways and interest of our partners, and at some point we would like to have a lasting sameness between each other, we cannot blind ourselves long enough not to see that even if it seems to be the same, our differences are irrefutable. Gender-wise, one is a man, the other is a woman. For same-sex couples, platonic friends, or any other relationships, differences lie on the having different minds and bodies. We might have been with a person for many years, but the mystery of the other’s internal feelings, the quality of their thoughts, the sensation of pains, and the rush of their emotions are unique first person experience that we cannot infiltrate. Nor the other can inflitrate our inner experience. We cannot plug cables to each other. So we remain opposites by this reason alone.
To be accepted and understood despite these differences is a conscious effort of choosing Love to bind us together.
James Frey’s The Key: How to Write Damn Good Fiction Using the Power of Myth, a novel/fiction writing book, was a very unlikely source of insight about this romantic opposites. Frey discussed the myth-based approach in creating a story, and he is very specific on character description based on how mythical stories were structured. He mentioned that the character called the Hero, who is the major protagonist of the story, may have a partner, a character called the Lover. This Hero’s Lover is not a protagonist, but an antagonist. He or she is an exact opposite of the Hero. This is not just to give the story its tension and flavor, but because this, in archetypal and mythical sense, is a theme encoded in many world myths since the dawn of time.
So, everyone is a hero, and each lover is an antagonist. But one is also a lover, and an antagonist to his or her partner. As opposites, couples reveal their true selves in a romantic relationship. They differ from the pettiest habits to the grandest life philosophies. What pains most couples is that even they have a lot of similarities, they are easily appalled by their differences especially if these always cause them to quarrel and argue. By accepting the fact that however favorites, interests, hobbies, careers and sports are similar, their differences will rule them out, and being opposites, each reveals one’s uniqueness and individuality.
What does this revelation teach us about romance and Love? In my personal relationship with Claire, this is a very difficult thing to learn, and like most couples we also tend to contemplate separation because of our differences. But separation because of differences is in fact an absurd move rather than a solution. We might find an ideal partner to have an ideal relationship to replace our troubled ones (which goes back to the myth again), but the fact is that any romantic lover is always an opposite, so the relationship between opposites will absolutely cause for differences again to arise, and the same cycle continues.
Rather than resort to this option, we remind ourselves of our commitment: we commit not to each other, but to our profound and patient understanding of each other. Our differences is a lifetime thing because we are unique by the virtue of our individual existence. To be accepted and understood despite these differences is a conscious effort of choosing Love to bind us together. Love is larger than any differences because it teaches us that being romantic opposites is not about to antagonize but to harmonize, thus living Love as our experience of oneness.
Beyond Romance workshop will be held again in August. Visit this Facebook page for further announcements.