The romantic self. If any of the six selves (see “The YOU Network” [Mar. 24th] for all six) deserves their own post, it’s this one. The desire to love. Or, more specifically, the desire to love something and then feel a sense of completeness once that “something” has been attained and THEN, equally importantly, the returning or rewarding of that emotion by the object of desire. Great. Awesome. While I fully intend to get into the nitty gritty of that last statement, the true reason for writing this post is to thoroughly answer the ultimate relationship self question:
Is it possible to reach the ideal self in this system without finding, loving, and being loved BY, a significant other?
Let’s start by examining why finding your husband/wife/life partner is so sought after. Aside from the occasional monk on a mountain or hermit in a cave, we are social creatures. We rely on one another for growth, support, nourishment, success, and a whole slew of things. Relationships are key to life and there is no type of relationship that exemplifies this idea than that of the healthy romantic relationship. Not only does it serve to fulfill all the needs mentioned above, but it also has a exclusivity to it. One person who has a special focus in one other person. When it comes to your friends, you are one of a group of their friends. When it comes to your teacher, you are one of a group of their students. When it comes to your significant other, you are their ONLY significant other (we’re talking standard healthy relationships here, remember, ha). Just as they are your only significant other. There is power in the fact that your relationship is unique amongst all your relationships with everyone else in the world.
Sure, the same could be said about your best friend or your parents, but the parent-child relationship is one that is expected to part. The whole goal of it is to create an individual, you, who is prepared to go out into the world and create your own life separate from them. As for a romantic relationship versus a best friendship, it’s a tad trickier. The best friend is someone who you can depend on, someone who helps you to grow, someone there for you in your darkest hours. Unfortunately, you can’t rely on your best friend for intimacy. Passion. Sexual stimulus. Its the physical side, that special part of the romantic connection, that gives the best friend a run for their money. Unless, of course, your lover IS your best friend in which case…well played.
The government likes romantic relationships because they create nuclear families which are more stable, spend more, and are a generally better economic tool. Religions like romantic relationships because they produce hopefully well-adjusted spawn to continue the religion into the future. Society likes romantic relationships because they feel so darn good and religion and media tell us that its all part of our destinies and the fulfillment of the American dream. Media likes romantic relationships because society does. Whatever the reason, they’re mutual, they’re exclusive, they’re physical, they’re sexual, they rock.
We also have men or women with many wives or husbands. It follows the same principles above because of the sexual aspect…just more of a handful.
And for the sake of mentioning them: relationships that are fruitlessly arranged or involve cheating, abuse, or any other array of unhealthy and non-romantic things are NOT a part of the point of this post in any way, shape, or form. After all they are none of them ideal.
This brings us to the main event. Can we reach our ideal romantic selves without a significant other. The answer: yes.
While I stressed the physical and sexual side of the romantic self above, that was more as a means to separate it from other types of mutual healthy relationships than to establish sex as a required piece of the self itself. You see, dear readers, the only ingredients needed to fulfill is romantic self are a) an object of desire, b) an exclusive connection to it, and c) passion towards it.
We here the phrase “married to our jobs”. Truth be told, some people kind of are! Or their hobbies. Or, in some odd cases, certain objects (you’ve heard of those people who marry bridges and monuments). It’s a sort of connection that comes with a level of passion that is at a level so far greater than it is towards any other aspect of their lives that a deep love results and they are fulfilled. Take those who have decided to take a vow of chastity and sincerely devote their lives to a deity. The priests and nuns of the world. They are fulfilled. Take that hermit I mentioned earlier who, defying the norms of the human condition, craves the art of being at once alone and one with nature. Their passion lies in their solitude. They are fulfilled.
This alternate path of reaching the ideal self is ripe with options and not for everyone. Be it social conditioning or our biological needs, for some of us even the thought of living out the rest of our days this way seems all but terrible. Three of the biggest deterrents come in the forms of children, sex, and mutuality. People like kids. We are raised to have them. Plus, the idea of continuing our personal legacies in the form of a little version of us, hopefully embodying our strengths and void of our weaknesses, is a pretty powerful driving force for relationships in the first place.
Sex. Ohhhhh sex. It’s a thing we tend to like. It’s a thing we tend to want; expect from life. The romantic self is inseparable from it in the minds of many, but, if a person can feel exclusive passion towards something that sexual intimacy with is impossible then the sexual intimacy, one can assume, becomes replaced with other physical forms of expression. To the artist “married” to his work, the painting becomes the sexual experience. To the religious devoted to God, doing God’s work becomes the sexual experience or, since that’s kind of awkward, the apex of passionate exclusivity.
Lastly, there’s mutuality. The idea that the thing you love, loves you back in a tangible way. A painting won’t give the artist a hug when they’ve had a bad day. The squirrels aren’t going to bake the hermit a cake on his birthday. Even the priest will say that God loves him back but the “tangible” and the exclusive aspects are majorly lacking. In this situation, a strong core self is extremely necessary. With that highly tuned sense of self, confidence, and overall awareness, the desire for getting those tangible rewards for the love you give is greatly lessened. Add to that the exclusive passion towards one’s romantic object and being loved back becomes a non-issue in reaching the ideal romantic self.
By the way, a strong core is just as required in the romantic relationship. The last thing any partner wants in a healthy and not at all abusive relationship is to be partnered up with the “needy” one.
In conclusion, while nature, nurture, and the world at large tend to point in the direction of the standard one-on-one romance to fill the romantic self, there are alternatives that, with ample passion and desire, are capable of doing that job very differently but just as well.