A partner who suffers well.
I chanced upon this article entitled, “The Most Overlooked Characteristic of Who You Want to Marry“, and was immediately intrigued.
After all, most articles of this nature tend to extol the usual characteristics one might want to look for in our other-half, such as intelligence, kindness, charming, etc. To therefore claim that the most overlooked characteristic of a person you wish to share your life with is the ability to suffer well is thus both stunning (at first) and brilliant (a second later). Such a view may, at first glance, appear to be pessimistic – after all, looking for a person who suffers well may bring to mind the unintended thought that the harmonious, entwined life ahead will be less picturesque and perfect than our envisioned ideals. A more alarmist take on this matter might even draw parallels with pre-nuptial agreements and claim that such a view will only trigger a self-fulfilling prophecy.
On the other hand, I find it a great suggestion.
I have observed that as I grow older and go through trying periods of life, my perspective on the ideal romantic girl has been changing and evolving as well. In fact, through a cursory excavation of the past and a quick examination of the archaelogy of my love-ideology, it is clear that the extremely idealistic notions I bore in secondary school have since experienced a tectonic shift – in its place is now a form of pragmatic idealism, a somewhat middle ground situated in the spectrum between pragmatic love and idealistic love. It is thus unsurprising that I am in entire agreement with the article, and it also reminded me of another article in similar vein called “How We End Up Marrying the Wrong Person“. Here’s a summary:
- We don’t know ourselves well enough – specifically we don’t know our neuroses well enough. Most ideal partnerships don’t come from two healthy individuals (rare), but rather they come from two demented people who though luck or skill are able to come to a comfortable and non-threatening accommodation between their relative insanities.
- We don’t know our significant other well enough. Our brains are primed to construct entire personalities from very few – but hugely evocative – details. A romanticized and idealized mental image that largely fills up our gaps of knowledge with positive, halo-effected traits.
- Societal trend shifting from marriage of reason (traditional) to marriage of instinct (present-day). Feelings trump reason. Author suggests new paradigm of marriage of psychology, where these feelings are brought under microscopic examination and under the aegis of a matured awareness of each other’s psychology.
- New set of criteria: how are you mad / how can one raise a child together / how can couple grow and develop together / how can couple remain as friends
- Rigid perception that marriage – as opposed to being in a relationship – dilutes happiness. Author raises example of impressionistic art which looks at moments of transient happiness through lens of appreciation and attention. Import this perspective to marriage. Don’t look for the fiction of permanent happiness – simply attend to and appreciate the reality of fleeting joy.
On a tangential note, loving well is an acquired skill – one does not immediately turn into the perfect boyfriend or husband upon entering a relationship or marriage. These occurrences in life do not entrust us with hidden competences that surface upon experiencing these trigger events – rather, I find it better to conceptualise as being entrusted with a gift that we must always remember to cherish.
To find a partner who suffers well,
One should first learn how to suffer well.
Ah, what tangled thoughts.
Part III of ‘10 Ideas on Love‘
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3. The Duality of Love – Love as Experienced Feelings vs Love as Expressed Actions
Another reason why we tend to conflate loneliness and infatuation with love is because our ideas of love tend to get mixed together within our cerebral “salad bowl”. Since certain ideas “taste” better than others, they gain predominance within our minds and lead us to favour them over others; one might even say that battered flavour precedes better favour.
Take, for example, the distinction between “love as a feeling” and “love as an action”. While most of us instinctively grasp the duality of love – understanding its internal component to be love as experienced feelings, and the external component to be love as expressed actions – we also tend to prioritise the internal aspect over the external. This leads us to associate love with sensations while considering actions as a mere subset. The danger with such a mindset is that once we stop feeling loved, we stop giving love as well, which tends to perpetuate a vicious cycle.
Perhaps listening to the stirring songs and watching the touching narratives of the musical, Phantom of the Opera, invoked a spell of romantic nostalgia. Or perhaps it was due to the spontaneous and meandering conversations my friends and I had about romance and our understanding of love during my recent trip to Barcelona. It might even have been a result of the residual traces of abstract, festive romanticism left lodged in an unnoticed corner of my mind during the recently elapsed Valentine’s Day.
Whichever the reason, these occurrences have, either disparately or collectively, triggered the release of the mental dam that has been holding back my reservoir of thoughts on love – a reservoir which has been gradually growing in size over the past many months as I struggled for emotional equilibrium while trying to reconcile the disappointment, detachment and heartache that I have come to associate with love.
Since writing is my favourite form of cathartic release, I have decided to take a snapshot of my thoughts and make a montage out of them.
There comes a point in the madness of writing research papers – as facts, opinions and evaluations tumble haphazardly in the recesses of your mind – when the phantasm of constructed ideas comes to life and threatens to cross over to reality, infecting the paradigms of existing thoughts with particular bizarreness.
For example, in the midst of synthesising splintered ideas in the current research, I have this irrational desire to characterise an identified trend as a harmonisation of certain judicial attitudes. At the same time, a discussion with friends about their incipient love lives left an indelible impression in the present state of my mind. Because these bundles of thoughts were situated so close in proximity, my restless mind has taken the exasperating step of piecing them together, leaving me to deal with the aftermath of this Frankenstein thought experiment.
Now, I have to struggle to understand how ‘harmonisation’ and ‘incipient love lives’ bear any correlation. Hmm… could it be that in the build-up towards the crystallisation of a relationship, the impressions and understandings that bystanders have of the emotional closeness of the parties involved are often vastly different compared to reality? Actually, this sounds like it has potential, let me consider this further.
Given that relationships often progress at erratic rates and that romance regularly ebbs and flows to entirely unpredictable factors, it is highly possible that embryonic couples are developing at such an accelerated pace as to leave uninvolved bystanders biting the dust of relative ignorance.
In such a situation, the harmonisation of the bystander’s conception of this incipient love life with what is actually happening on the ground tends to result in a wide variety of reactions, from bemused disbelief to knowing acceptance. It takes a moment or two to register this “new information, new aesthetics, new insights and understandings” (yes, yes, it’s a paper for Entertainment Law on the Fair Use Defence), after which you perceive the apparent transformation of the relationship to a more intimate stage with greater forbearance (towards their public displays of affection), greater excitement (for the future of their twinning identities) and greater happiness (for them).
Yes, I guess this is a legitimate way of developing this sudden muse. Human flourishing, indeed.
One friend recently asked me what my present theory of love is and, after much consideration, it came upon me that I now see love as an “archaeology of love” – in the sense that our understanding of this nebulous concept is constantly revisited and revamped as the study of our personal romantic history through the excavation of past memories and events uncover new revelations of the self and expectations.
In the aftermath of loss, one’s approach towards love and relationships necessarily evolves to become more cautionary towards the various minefields of attraction that lay invitingly around one.
The things is, it is probably quite easy to let the heart run amok after suffering an emotional backlash because the self is now more vulnerable than ever. At the same time, the natural defensive mechanism of our mind may take over and wall the heart away from any perceived “threat” i.e. romantic possibilities.
Located within this tension of desirability (of emotional closeness) and necessity (of emotional isolation) is the decision one has to make in deciding how one wishes to pave the path forward.
If I were to choose the independent path, then work is always the convenient solution to partitioning the heart away from all intrusions and, perhaps, that is why I am partly hoping for school to start soon. However, the need to have to relocate my school identity in a brave new world within the law faculty where the status quo is inflexible and cliques have long been established – since one’s previously twinned identity is now split and distinct – is making me wish that school never starts.
But it is alright. It is at times when the heart is at its weakest that the mind must stand steadfast. Difficult times create opportunities to bring out the best in a person. For now, the drilling has stopped and the archaeology of my concept of love is frozen in time.
All I need is a way to go forward in the present.