It happens, doesn’t it? You meet someone you like. You hang out. You start liking them a lot. Then all of a sudden, they’re embedded in your brain. They inspire your body. And every night, when you go home, and you climb into bed, there they are, stuck in your head, warm and delicious and very, very tempting. And you think about them, even as you roll over and kiss your partner goodnight.
What’s to be done?
Come clean, they say. Tell your lover you’re in love with someone else. Tell the someone you’re in love with. It’s the honest thing to do. It’s easier said than done, of course. What if you’re left alone, rebuked, rejected and responsible for wreaking harm and hurt and unhappiness?
So keep it quiet, you think. You’ll get over it, in time. It’s not worth the risk. It’s not worth the heartache. It’s not worth it, this will pass. Just enjoy the flirtation. Enjoy the fantasy. Don’t cross the line.
But, in those moments before sleep – those quite, still, woebegone moments – you wonder, ‘what if it’s love?’
Herewith, today’s question: When do you jump?
It’s easy to say ‘you’ll just know’. As if ‘real’ love comes and announces itself – ‘hi, I’m the one you’ve been searching for – time to take the plunge!’. But were that the case, the world would be a very different place. People would leave relationships easily because no-one would stand in the way of that which was real. People would understand. Love would conquer all.
Love can, of course, but you have to know when it’s there first.
There is a difference between love, and that which love is not. Like desire for example. Desire, as recently captured by French philosopher Alain Badiou, “focuses on the other, always in a somewhat fetishist[ic] manner, on particular objects, like breasts, buttocks and cock...”.
In other words, desire objectifies. You lust after things. But, Badiou argues In Praise of Love, you cannot love them. For love is not about having. Love is giving. It is profound and encompassing – it’s connection sprung from an unfathomable place. In contrast to desire, Badiou writes, “love focuses on the very being of the other... The declaration of love marks the transition from chance to destiny and that's why it is so perilous and so burdened with a kind of horrifying stage fright”.
With this in mind, a story:
“He sent me a text to see what I was up to. I’m having dinner, and I’m planning to go out later. I suggest we meet up.
So, we do.
Bit of background at this point. I’ve grown incredibly close to him. Too close, perhaps. And I’ve been struggling with these feelings that have developed. This is because he’s in a relationship. I’m not one to ‘cut another’s grass’ as they say.
Anyways, I finish dinner and head out. We meet. He’s drunk. I am too, a bit. And the confession happens. But it’s not me confessing.
He tells me he loves me. He says he’d be with me in a second if it wasn’t for his girlfriend. He gets very touchy-feely. He holds my hand. Then he nuzzles into my neck. I’m startled, but not really surprised. In that instant all the instants before coalesce; I want him so badly. I want to kiss him – he wants to kiss me. We both know this. But we don’t. He leaves. My heart hurts. I try not to show it.
The next day, I send him a message. I get a reply. But he’s distant. He’s vague. He says he’s 'keeping his distance'.
Meanwhile, I’m left wondering, why did he do that? Does he love me? Do I love him? What should I do now?”
Is it love? How can she tell? What is he thinking? What do they do? These are the questions that go around and around in the heads of those who’ve been there. Would he be treating her this way if his current relationship were happy – if he were really in love with his partner? Would she be wise to pursue her feelings if she believes they are true?
These situations are never easy, but matters of the heart rarely are. To my mind, the best way forward requires some reasonable discussion between all parties involved. I’m an idealist though, and I hope sensibility and integrity prevails in predicaments otherwise ruined by insecure egos.
Still, surely relationships deserve honesty? Surely it is better to ask ‘am I in love?’ not just quietly, in your head, but aloud and with whom you would love. Surely, in this case, she should talk with him, he should talk with his girlfriend, and everyone should talk with their hearts? And then, pending answers, action should be taken.
Because here’s the thing about jumping: You’ll always land somewhere else.
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