I always pick books up, read a chapter or two, set them down for weeks and then pick them back up later to read a few more. If you recall a few posts back I recommended Gloria Steinem’s Revolution from Within. And as usual, I then didn’t finish it… but a few nights ago I started reading it again and flipped directly to the chapter titled Romance versus Love. I’ve attempted to write about the difference here and here – and it’s been a running theme on this blog. The big questions being – what is love, what does love mean to us as single moms, as single women and why do we always seem to choose the wrong men? Had I found this book then, I would have found that Steinem has already sorted it all out for us.
I wanted to share some of her thoughts, as I found them completely awesome.
It’s not easy to generalize about love. Like each person who feels its invisible filaments stretching to another person, it is unique in each instance. Unlike romance, whose plots are uniform enough to be conveyed by shorthand – “if-I-can’t-have-you-no-one-will,” “transitional affair,” “middle-aged crazy,” “the other woman,” “wartime romance,” and so on – love has no standard storyline and no agenda except to deepen the joys and cushion the blows of very individual lives. As Robin Morgan sums up in The Anatomy of Freedom, “Hate generalizes, love specifies.” And romance generalizes, too. When we look for a missing part of ourselves in other people, we blog out their uniqueness. Since most of us have been deprived along gender lines, we generalize about the “opposite sex”, thus rendering it a blank screen on which we project our hopes (in romance) or our fears (in hate). No wonder romane turns so easily to hate, and vice versa.
Steinem continues to write that, as described by those who experience them, the characteristics of love are remarkably similar to the marks of high self-esteem. You’ll have to pick up the book to read the details of each, but here are the characteristics of love:
1. Each partner feels loved for an authentic self. You have to discover the independent part of yourself first, before you can love another.
2. Each one knows she or he could get along without the other – but doesn’t wish to. Free choice is essential to love. We can’t say yes to anyone unless we can also say no.
3. There is plenty of room for playfulness, lightness, and humor. When two realities bump up against each other in intimacy, romance views the contradictions with anger or disillusionment, but love acknowledges them with humor. Romance is inflexible because it tries to predict and control, while love is open-handed and can improvise.
4. Each partner feels empathy for each other. You feel each other’s pain and joy.
5. Love is not about power. Romance is a means to the end of self-completion, but love is an end in itself. Or, as Margaret Anderson put it, “In real love, you want the other person’s good. In romantic love you want the other person.” If we love someone, we want them to continue being the essence of themselves. If so, then we can’t absorb or change them.
And then this, she adds, “All of this sounds like common sense – but unfortunately, it isn’t common. There are many more people trying to meet the right person than to become the right person.”
You can buy the book here. Do it and we can intermittently read along together. Love you, mamas!