Loving is not for the weak. We encourage people to love and desire their partner, never really realizing what we’re encouraging them to do. Desire involves wanting and longing. Who among us really wants to want? Who is ready to crave their partner, without the guarantee that the partner will always be there to satisfy their longings?
The reason there are so many mediocre marriages isn’t because so many people are pathological or have imaginary “family diseases.” It’s because the really good marriage will break your heart. In a long term marriage, one partner will bury the other.
The more a person wants and loves a partner, the more painful it will be when he or she loses them. There are all too few people developed enough to stand by themselves, hold their own hand through the loss of a partner, and accept Life on its own terms.
This situation also spells out its solution. It’s growing up to the point that you’re willing to tolerate the loss of a beloved irreplaceable partner.
There’s only one way to avoid that inevitable loss, and many people follow that strategy: Don’t love your partner too well, so that by the time they die, they won’t mean as much to you anymore.
Like many aspects of life, the choice is not whether or not you’re willing to be anxious. The choice is which anxiety you’re going to have, and you’re going to have them, whether you like it or not. You can lose your partner a little every day, or all at once. Nobody ever gets to have a better partner than they are willing to give up.
Willingly loving someone, knowingly setting yourself up for loss – that’s hard for people. It goes beyond resolving sex problems or personal insecurities. It’s an issue of integrity.
Marriage is a people growing machine. It pulls and it pushes you to the point where you can embrace the processes of Life and Love on their own terms.
Like intense intimacy and eroticism, real love is not for kids. It’s not for “wounded children” who can’t soothe themselves. It’s for adults only. We may not like the process, but it makes us capable of profound adult desire.
~ David Schnarch