I’ve discovered my “ideal girl” about half a dozen times so far — and each experience has changed me.
In the second grade, there was Lisa Lane. By the fifth grade, Wendy Ford was the new standard. In the eighth grade, I met Gail James. Nothing immediately came of that, but by the time we were freshmen in college, we finally dated. For the next three years. I almost married her.
As an adult, there have been three other women, each one more perfect — in some way I couldn’t explain — than the previous one. Not a single one of the women has actually been perfect, of course, but I was changed in powerful ways by having loved each of them.
What I’ve slowly learned is that being in love brings out something like a superpower in me. I’m a different person when I’m in love. I can achieve more. I’m a better human being. I become a finer version of myself.
I’m coming to understand that this person is who I need to be all the time. Russian novelist Anton Chekhov understood this more than most.
“Perhaps the feelings that we experience when we are in love represent a normal state,” Chekhov wrote. “Being in love shows a person who he should be.”
Being in love has shown me who I need to be. It has shown me the best that I can become.
There’s probably no experience of life which is more confusing than love. The wisdom we learn about love frequently turns out to be rubbish. We rarely have perfect understanding of what we’re going through, because our emotions leave us feeling something like whiplash — and people who are scared or cynical can teach us to set love aside in favor of other things, especially as we get older.
(In that regard, I’m thinking of the woman and her daughter who I overheard a few days ago and wrote about.)
As we get older, we get more focused on money and success and status in life. We lose touch with our need for love. We often forget what we felt like when we were in love. And we elevate those other priorities over love — to the point that we lose track of what should be our normal state.
It’s not popular today to admit that we really need a partner. We’re supposed to be disdainful of the sort of sappy sentiment that comes with the idea that two people can “complete each other.” We’re supposed to believe that each one of us in an independent island — and we simply make alliances with those on their own islands when those alliances are convenient.
But we’re not supposed to believe we need each other. I believe this is a lie that modern culture is preaching to us.
I believe we need love.
I need one specific partner. Whoever she is, she needs me, too. Each one of us makes the other a better person. We’re not competing with each other for power or control or position. We’re not fighting one another.
We’re partners who work together for the common good of the family unit we’ve built around our relationship.
I know what I can be at my best. When I’m honest with myself, I know that because it’s what I’ve seen in myself when I’ve been in love. I have more self-control. I have more empathy. I have more kindness. I’m more self-sacrificing. And I can achieve more when I’m in love — because I want to do great things for someone who I love.
Modern culture hates the family partnership which is held together with love and understanding and mutual respect. Our dysfunctional culture teaches us to replace these things with pleasure and selfish ego satisfaction. And we wonder why so many of the homes we build are full of strife and unhappiness rather than the love and understanding that we always wanted.
We can’t turn love on and off at will. Life would be simpler if we could. But when love does come and stay, it should be cherished and nurtured. And when there is mutual love and understanding, those things should be the foundations for a lasting and healthy relationship.
Each love of my life has been better in some vital way than the ones that came before it. I have faith that the next one will be the best yet. And I have hope that the next love will be the one which comes and stays for good.
If we will stop looking at love as a passing fancy which will burn itself out with fading sexual energy — and look at it instead as something which shows us what we are at our best — we can transform our lives.
I need to love. And I need to be loved.
I’ve seen what I can be when I have that — and I want it again. I need it again. Maybe you do, too.