I have a 24-year old friend with whom I usually share my girly existential questions. Lately, my questions have been around the meaning of love, falling in love, and how relationships work. So one of these nights, I asked him with exasperation why the hell things can’t be easy in matters of ‘romance’.
My friend told me that maybe I should just leave this subject aside and simply go partying. Maybe it was his age speaking, maybe it was the fact that he doesn’t know the answer either. However, he continued saying that relationships are just like that, there is always a runner and a chaser, and you can’t be the one trying to make things work for 70% of the time, because the other person will either get comfy or run away for good. What he said made perfect sense, it fits very well with any psychology ‘game theory’ and all the’Sex & the City’ type of drama (I’m the brunette -introvert form of Carrie Bradshaw for sure). But I had to ask him… is it always going to be like this? Will we always have to calculate how much time and effort we’re putting on? Will we always have to play the chase and run game in turns? That sounds just ridiculously ridiculous.
My friend answered that it is only a game if there is a clear intention to make the other person our ‘dog’. I got his point but an important question remained within my soul: is that really what you should aim for on your 30s? Should we really settle ourselves for such shitty dynamic and call it romantic love? I don’t want to play games anymore and there is something deep in my soul telling me that it is just not right, you can’t say you love someone if you have a conscious or unconscious intention of making them your ‘dog’. I sadly know that’s what happens in many relationships, but no, I refuse myself to have any more of that.
Interestingly enough, on the following day I looked at my navigation bar and I noticed I still had a tab open on the Plum Village’s website. I gave it another look and decided to see what I could find in the talks section. Hoping to find something to give my soul a rest, I made three clicks and there it was, a video of Thich Nhat Hanh on True Love. In a nutshell, he says that according to Buddhist teachings there are four fully required elements to experience True Love:
- If you can’t make the other person happy, then it’s not True Love
- If you can’t take care of your suffering and the other person’s suffering, then it’s not True Love
- If you make the other person cry or you cry all the time, then it’s not True Love
- If you and the other person are two separated beings, then it’s not True Love (“Your problem is my problem” kind of thing)
My soul was now more at ease and my heart spoke directly to me. The reason why it never works out for me it’s because I’m looking for True Love. I don’t want a selfish love or just some nice picture on the wall. All that talk of “you have to be your own happiness” is only a half-truth: as whole human beings we are made to connect with others and that connection is fueled by shared emotions, positive or negative. You can only be a certain amount of happy by yourself. And you can’t be happy with another if the person doesn’t even acknowledge your own suffering.
If you or your partner are constantly unhappy or crying, then how can it be love? If you or the other person are always feeling anxious and wary of what will happen next, then it’s not True Love; it can’t be. Some people may accuse me of being picky and it seems that no matter how many boys are out there for me, as my office mate usually says, I can’t settle for less than what my soul asks for. And in order to be fully happy, I need all those elements that Thich spoke about. I need to feel that I’m seen and felt by the other person and I guess it’s just hard to find that in the time we live in, where feelings are made of plastic and people are treated like dogs, as my 24-year old friend says.