Assortments of Thought

When Seeking True Love

Posted on: August 29th, 2014

To become romantically involved with another person–to go through the highs of being attracted to someone and spending time with them, but then again the lows of relationships not quite working out or otherwise ending–is among the very core of human experience. Poets, songwriters, and other creative people have thus made it a subject of their works for ages, for this very reason. And indeed it isn’t always easy or straightforward, but most especially so for people seeking “true love”–or, that is, genuinely caring, enduring, monogamous relationships–if only because then, the stakes are even so very much higher. Yet perhaps early experiences with dating and various cultural pressures make the whole journey to finding a lifelong companion even harder than is should be, by encouraging patterns and approaches that are at best ill-advised. Indeed, maybe the key is to simply realize that what one is seeking is a dearest friend before anything else; that finding such a companion oughtn’t to be rushed; and that if it never happens, well, being alone isn’t exactly a bad fate either, particularly if the only alternative was to have been with someone who wasn’t that dear, true companion one had always sought. While the process of finding a lifelong companion is certainly much more complicated than this even–involving the entirety of one’s motivations for seeking a true love relationship and one’s suitability and preparedness for it, and an acknowledgement that there simply aren’t any guarantees ultimately–nonetheless, perhaps the journey doesn’t have to be quite as difficult as it so often is. And so just maybe, the aim of finding true love is one we might all more successfully chance just from recognizing a few basic things about it, and perhaps seeking it with such a good approach we should, for the freedom to seek it at all, is, after all, really quite special.

Relationships can be of several types besides the “true love” kind though, and it’s important at the outset to be aware of this, in order to see how enduring, caring, and monogamous relationships might best be sought. Indeed, perhaps the simplest type of relationship is what we might call transient, or one in which two people remain together for a short while, but before long separate and each move on to others. Such relationships are, in general, those arising from casual dating, and are often the precursors to finding true love, as one can seldom recognize a lifelong companion too quickly. Nonetheless, such relationships, while perhaps monogamous and maybe even caring, are by definition not enduring. Then there’s what we might call functional relationships, or ones in which two people are only together over some practical consideration. Maybe said people are simply afraid to end an otherwise failed or at least unfulfilling relationship; want the recognition from society of being a couple; are only staying together in order to protect family or children; or are locked up in a cycle of abuse. (This last type, of course, might better be called dys-functional, although for our purposes here, we’ll stick with the original classification.) No matter the situation, such relationships are enduring and perhaps even monogamous, but not caring. On the other hand, some people get involved with more than one person at a time–most typically sexually–in what we might simply call non-monogamous relationships. Since any such relationship actually involves two or more concurrent ones (just in some way divided among three or more people), they could be enduring and arguably even caring, but certainly not monogamous. Finally, relationships can easily be of miscellaneous types as well, involving, say, two people who only get together on occasion for sex, or two friends who actually care about one another far more than they ever admit. The key point from all this is though, many types of relationships exist that might be fulfilling to many people and even perfectly moral (just so long as everyone affected knows what everyone else is doing; it is not okay to mislead someone, for instance, or to do anything behind their back or the backs of their other partners of which all involved haven’t approved), but to be true love, the relationship must be enduring, caring, and monogamous, all at once. Such is the truly magical one–the one that has featured so prominently in the arts for centuries–and the one whose successful attainment I’ll attempt to outline here.

In seeking such a relationship then, perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind is that one is, after all, seeking a caring, enduring, monogamous relationship, and so one is seeking nothing less than one’s dearest friend. Fundamentally, this is simply the only consideration involved; that before someone to spend time with; someone to have around to help with things; someone to have sex with; or someone to satisfy some list of criteria; the person one is seeking is one’s dearest friend. That is, not just someone to spend time with, but someone one enjoys spending time with; and not just someone to have around for support, but someone one actually feels comfortable confiding in, and someone one cares enough about to support in return. And, most certainly, while sex in any form is a wonderful way for couples to enjoy themselves, it too mustn’t be placed before caring, but rather enjoyed, in part, as a result of caring. Lastly, it must always be kept in mind that while lists of desired qualities in a companion can be useful, nevertheless, such lists are only meant to assist in finding one’s dearest friend, not as definitive guides. That is, while things such as smoking or not smoking; liking or not liking pets; wanting or not wanting kids; having attained various levels of education or income; holding particular religious or political views; or innumerable other such things can certainly be important, still, whether a person is one’s ideal companion or not, is ultimately something that no list of criteria can quantify. Ultimately then, realizing that someone is one’s true companion, is simply something that has to be felt, perhaps, in time.

Indeed, knowing what one is seeking is definitely not the same as recognizing it–or even nearly as easy–and so the next thing to realize in seeking true love is that it oughtn’t ever to be rushed or hurried. This is, admittedly, where the journey starts to become difficult, yet it’s also where critical mistakes or misjudgments are so easy to make. Fundamentally, perhaps, the problem is simply that it takes time to truly get to know someone–to see their bad points and their better points, and how they react in various situations–such that even if someone seems to be one’s ideal companion initially, the final, best judgement on this simply can’t be made until after several months at least of involvement. In particular, the feeling of “love at first sight” can be especially misleading (and hard to resist, incidentally, not to mention that “falling in love” with someone has a way of readily happening), yet ensuring that one has seen what another person is truly like is simply imperative, if one is to best chance finding true love. To this end, one could even go so far as to avoid active dating (which, if taken to an extreme, is too akin to shopping for the perfect product anyway; something that the search for true love should never be), instead taking the passive approach of just waiting to see who may or may not appear in one’s life. In other words, rather than try to accelerate the finding of one’s companion, one could instead just rely on the acquaintances and friendships one makes during daily life–be it at work, school, various social activities, or whatever–until, suddenly, that special person one is seeking is simply there one day. (This approach has the side benefit, incidentally, of letting one know something about their prospective companion even before romantic involvement itself begins.) Regardless of the specific approach taken though, again, the key is to simply avoid rushing into any commitment; or, of becoming so certain, so soon, that someone one has found is indeed one’s ideal companion, until one can nearly know for sure.

Of course, never “forcing” a commitment could mean waiting for one’s dearest friend indefinitely; and yet unless one wants to rethink their objective a bit, in seeking true love, this is perhaps the last of the basic things that simply mustn’t be denied or ignored. And though it might seem unbearable to one who seeks true love so much, the simple fact is, one’s ideal companion, even if really out there, may never appear in one’s life. Which is to say, unless one decides instead to risk committing to a relationship reasonably expected to fall short of true love, then aside from transient relationships from time to time, one must accept the possibility of spending one’s life alone. Yet “spending one’s life alone” needn’t be a bad thing, and realizing this is perhaps the key to overcoming a lonely, desperate fear of it. For much of what a true love relationship embodies, already is or at least can be present in one’s life in other ways. For instance, friends and family can provide all the friendship one needs, and friendship, incidentally, that would remain even if true love was ever to be found. Further, without resorting to random and emotionally-vacant sex, masturbation can provide most of the pleasure one could ever want, particularly if one seeks out some of the wonderful, quality sex toys that have long since been out on the market (for women and men alike). Now granted, friends for emotional support and toys for sexual support don’t precisely equate to a true love relationship; there’s just something about sharing one’s life with another that only true love can provide. Nevertheless, holding out hope for one’s lifelong companion to appear simply does not condemn oneself to an unhappy, unfulfilling life no matter how it ultimately plays out, and if one is to best chance finding true love, accepting and even embracing this fact is essential. (And as for concerns about having or not having kids, please see the first endnote.)

While knowing then what one is seeking; that it oughtn’t to be rushed; and that it’s okay if it never happens is perhaps the core of how to best chance finding true love, there are other, subtler points to consider as well. They center around one’s motivations, suitability, and preparedness for true love, as well as one’s acceptance of grander realities. In terms of motivation, for instance, one should ideally be concerned only with finding someone to love who returns that love in turn; and yet, unfortunately, we are all more complicated than that. We might all seek true love in part to “remedy” aspects of our lives, and when such motivations become the overriding force, the result is nothing less than ignorance or even outright violation of the core foundation of successfully seeking it. The classic example is when a young person, unhappy with some aspect of their home life, seeks an enduring relationship as a way out. Maybe their family or guardians are outright abusive or neglectful, or perhaps just not as caring as they should be; but whatever the reason, one is not happy, and sees a relationship as the way out. Of course though, people of all ages might be unhappy with their life for any number of other reasons, but over all of which they might see getting involved with someone as a “solution”. But, if all one’s really motivated to find is simply a relationship so as to get away or “solve” something, then no matter what type of relationship one is seeking (though perhaps the greater the illusion, the harsher the fall), it’s likely that one won’t find it, and will instead end up with even more problems and unhappiness than before. (Of course, sometimes we all have to do what we have to do, when we’re up against the wall; but if one is seeking a relationship as a “solution”, as least one shouldn’t have any illusions about it, and should try to be honest about it with the other person as well.)

Then, of course, there’s the more benign motivation of simple pressure to seek an enduring relationship–be it from friends, family, all of society and culture, or just oneself. As a result of such pressure, of course, one may end up “settling” for someone who certainly isn’t one’s dearest friend and companion. Again though, seeking a relationship over any such motivation undermines the core foundation of successfully seeking true love, and, in any case, is likely to lead to something less than happiness. The real point of all this is, then, that in upholding the core principles of successfully seeking true love, realistically, one may not have the purest of motivations; and yet, all the same, one should at least be aware of underlying, undermining motivations, and should aim to keep them in check.

Sometimes though, alas, even the purest of motivations may lead to unhappiness, if in fact one lacks the capacity or capability to follow up on those motivations. This is a particularly tricky point, because just as we all grow and change throughout our individual lives, so too do we grow and change throughout our shared lives with others, such that challenges along the way are only natural. Nonetheless, no matter how purely one wants an enduring, caring, monogamous relationship, if one simply isn’t suited to it, then perhaps a true love relationship just isn’t feasible, and one should seek other types of relationships instead. Sharing one’s life with another simply demands that one can give a lot, and, even more significantly, that one is willing to give all that. For instance, someone with a particularly demanding job and/or family or friends requiring help and support may simply not have enough time to spend with a companion, while someone who for whatever reason continually moves on to new places would, if nothing else, require someone who would willingly travel alongside.

The heart of this whole point is though, that whether one chooses to celebrate their union with their dearest friend; simply live with them, eschewing any ceremony; and, either way, perhaps maintain a long-distance relationship (difficult and less likely, but doable); whether one ever takes an explicit vow or not, in any true love relationship, there always comes a point when such a commitment is nonetheless made. And regardless of the specifics, the basic content is always the same: a commitment to share one’s life, and, to all reasonable expectations and in spite of human failings, love and support one’s dearest friend moving forward, to the exclusion of any and all others. If one cannot honestly and faithfully make such a commitment with a specific other, then that other isn’t one’s ideal companion; but if one cannot honestly and faithfully make that commitment with anyone, then one simply isn’t suited to true love. Interestingly, such an inability could simply be because one has already made such a commitment, except to an ideal or cause; a greater purpose one cares about so much that a romantic commitment simply can’t compete. Even if it’s as mundane though as just not being able to commit to one person–whether emotionally, sexually, financially, or whatever–there isn’t a problem; one should just acknowledge that true love isn’t suited to them, and seek other types of relationships instead. In short then, even with the right motivations, successfully seeking true love requires a certain suitability as well.

When motivations and suitability check out though, then, perhaps, one is ready to successfully seek true love, although there remain ways in which one should ideally be prepared. Since, again, we all grow and change throughout our lives, “being prepared” isn’t a necessity; much will inevitably be learned throughout the journey of seeking true love, potentially spanning quite a range of issues. Still, if there are particularly noteworthy challenges or history in one’s life, then reflecting on those challenges and, if need be, working past them is nonetheless highly advisable. Perhaps the hardest challenge one may have, is having been raised in an unhappy or downright abusive environment, and possibly having been abused oneself. In such a situation, one has had the misfortune of bad examples to follow at least–if not the misfortune of already having been a direct victim of abuse–and so may be prone to either committing abuse in one’s own future relationships in turn, or else in tolerating it. When one has been exposed to abuse then, one must be firm with one’s self about what it was truly like; why it was wrong; and how it should be firmly left in the past.

Of course though, even without an abusive history, we all have a tendency to feel bad about ourselves; for instance to think we aren’t pretty or handsome over some feature of our bodies (be it our teeth, hair, weight, or any number of other such things). Feeling that we aren’t “good enough” though is a prelude to trouble, and an effective way to inadvertently sabotage any chance of finding happy relationships, true love or otherwise. Should one feel any shame or embarrassment then about one’s natural body, beyond a mere desire to look a little different (being happy with one’s body and absolutely loving everything about it are, after all, not the same thing), one should work to get past it. (One idea is to simply stand or sit naked occasionally in front of a mirror, becoming more comfortable and accepting of one’s body over time.) Overall then, while there isn’t any necessity to “prepare” for seeking true love, for some more substantial things at least, it is nonetheless helpful to reflect a bit beforehand, even once motivations and suitability have checked out. (And as for concerns, perhaps, over having a medical condition, see the second endnote.)

Ultimately though, regardless of motivations, suitability, and preparedness and even whether one knows what one is seeking; will not rush it; and accepts the possibility of never finding it; there are simply no guarantees in the quest for true love. Such is true for virtually all of life’s desires, of course, and yet the desire to have a lifelong companion is perhaps so deep–and then an ongoing relationship so substantial and life-altering–that acknowledging such grander realities is the final thing that anyone seeking true love may wish to do. Largely, it’s just acknowledging the uncertainty of where a relationship will eventually lead, the only certain part being that it will someday end. None of us can ever know how our “true love” will feel about us years ahead or what they might do, and, perhaps even worse, how we may eventually feel about them. Two individuals sharing a life is simply a tall order, something that major life changes can easily bring down, not to mention that realistically, as easy as it is to fall in love, so too against all our best intentions can we inadvertently and unfortunately drop out of love. And so any success in finding true love can easily go up in smoke, whether quite suddenly or else, worse, gradually, and then one is at the very least left with a relationship that’s no longer caring or monogamous, or, perhaps ideally by such a point, no relationship at all. And while any true love relationship will involve challenges–nearly all of which can be overcome to potentially strengthen the relationship–still, in some cases, it just won’t work out.

Either way, of course, death will eventually come to every true love relationship, and perhaps even quite a bit earlier for one partner than the other. And so arises the more mystical and spiritual reality of true love, matching the very magic that it offers to begin with: that on the grandest of scales, there cannot even be such a thing as a true love relationship, even if we presume that no afterlife awaits us. Death must always preclude the enduring aspect of it, or at the very least break periods of enduring love apart; and then, realistically, whether in the time following one’s companion’s death or, perhaps, between or within reincarnated lifetimes, one may easily find other caring and monogamous relationships all over again. Indeed, to think that each one of us has exactly one and only one true love is folly (finding a dearest friend is hard, yes, much harder even than falling in love, but it’s not quite that hard), even if the scope of consideration is just all the people in one’s country or else across the world, much less in an afterlife or reincarnated lifetimes and such. (Indeed, if we imagine several lifetimes all leading to the same afterlife, we may all have many “true loves” awaiting us there, each of whom has many true loves of their own.) And, if we imagine that the ultimate purpose of life is something other than finding and maintaining a true love relationship, then all this is only reasonable. Still though, in seeking a caring, enduring, monogamous relationship, it must be recognized that it will not be eternal, such that if eternal love is what we seek, we must adjust our expectations a bit to either welcome true love relationships lasting only as long as they possibly can, or else avoid seeking true love altogether. In short then, even with following the best practices in seeking true love, be it a sad and premature end or simply the limitations and consequences of death and potential life after death, any enduring, caring, monogamous relationship is necessarily something less than eternal, and this is the final big thing that all seeking such a relationship might wish to contemplate.

If we recognize just a few basic things about it then, then just maybe, the aim of finding true love is one we might all more successfully chance. And despite the hardships and missteps so often involved, it almost seems that it shouldn’t be so difficult after all: just seek but don’t rush or settle on finding a dearest friend, and check motivations, suitability, and preparedness along the way. Of course though, as reasonable as this all may or may not be, the emotions and feelings we all go through in seeking relationships (true love or otherwise) are reasonable in a different way, such that no matter how we choose to act or what we do, it’s likely to hurt along the way no matter what. That’s setting aside even the inherent risks and potential misgivings of trusting other people–particularly in such an intimate and personal way as what romantic involvement calls for–not to mention (for straight people at least) all the little difficulties that may arise from men and women seeing one another as substantially different, rather than as different, certainly, but still the same–in all the ways that determine how one person should treat and view another. Really though, perhaps the practical core of successfully seeking true love, is just to get past early experiences with dating or cultural pressures that may lead one astray–as by fostering an inclination to conform to how others are going about it, for instance–to instead not find someone just to have someone to be with, or to gain support from, or to “show off”, or whatnot. (How others act or what they expect is not always the best guide on what’s good, in other words, yet we all take cues from those around us all the same.)

At any rate, despite the uncertainties ever-present, true love can be more successfully sought, and really, both for our own sakes and with a little historical reflection, it probably should be so sought–assuming it’s to be sought at all. After all, throughout much of history and even in parts of the world still today, “true love” was either non-existent as a concept or else not permitted, with arranged marriages or parental permission or whatnot insisted upon instead. To be able to freely seek one’s true love is thus a remarkable state of affairs, so remarkable and special that to blunder it over a bad approach–to blunder one’s chances of finding a relationship that’s not only enduring and monogamous, but in addition, actually caring as well–is really quite unfortunate. May all of us who seek true love better chance finding it then, and may we all do so successfully … finding love and happiness for at least many years to come.

Endnote 1:

A distinct yet closely-related matter to that of finding true love is that of having children, particularly since two people in love are often seen as the ideal guardians of a child. Indeed, because of this, establishing an enduring relationship is often seen as the necessary step before having children, and so a desire to have children–be it of a prospective parent or of a family member of a prospective parent–is often a significant factor in the search for a companion. (Of course, one may already have children to begin with, or may easily come across others that do.) Nonetheless, even factoring in children, the suggestions above remain much the same. So long as a child is to be raised by two people in a relationship, it’s all the more important that that relationship be caring and enduring if not monogamous as well, for this bodes the best for the child’s happiness and well-being. Further, although being a single parent is more challenging than not, if the alternative would be having a partner that isn’t so great a parent, perhaps, because they’re not even that good of a companion, then being a single parent would be preferable. (This could of course be achieved with a person not seeking any long-term relationship or involvement, although the better approach would be adoption, or else the services of a sperm- or egg-donor program.) Finally, just as a relationship isn’t necessary for a happy and fulfilling life, so too is a child not necessary for such a life, even though, as with true love, there’s nothing that can quite replace the experience of having and raising children. Therefore, whether there’s a desire for children or not (or one already has children), again, no rushing or settling should be done in finding a companion, and motivations, suitability, and preparedness (both for the relationship and then, now, regarding children too) should all be checked as well. Reflecting on motivations, suitability, and preparedness for children does of course involve points not covered here, but, in essence, the suggestions remain the same.

Endnote 2:

Beyond concerns over personal appearance, having any number of various medical conditions or disabilities might warrant some preparation before seeking true love as well. Indeed, conditions that impact physical or mental functioning–whether all the time or just during attacks–may be difficult for others to accept, while obviously, those that require caregiving may be even more so. (Although in the latter case, hiring a caregiver for much of the time is probably the better idea, rather than figuring on a romantic companion to assist or nurse.) Further, of course, incurable sexually transmitted infections may be difficult for others to accept as well, not least of all for being transmissible, and therefore requiring the other person to either just accept contracting the condition themselves, or else always be practicing safer sex so as to minimize the risk. With any medical condition then, it is probably best to let a prospective companion know very early on (as soon as a relationship looks to be becoming serious, or, if applicable, before sexual relations begin), but to also be prepared for rejection. And though rejection over having some disease or impairment hurts, still, holding out to find that dearest friend–now someone who can accept and love in spite of some condition–is more important than ever. (Also more important than ever, of course, is to wait long enough before committing, to know for sure how accepting that other person really is.) Finally, any self-esteem issues over having some condition ought to be worked on as well, for perhaps there’s no disease, impairment, condition, or whatever that precludes true love with somebody out there (barring, of course, mental impairment to the extent of one having no sense of self). Indeed, though perhaps more challenging than some, having a medical condition is simply another factor to tackle–another that can be tackled–in seeking true love, such that it simply warrants some additional reflection and preparation.

©2014, D.S. Applemin. All rights reserved.

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