When you think of love, what immediately pops into your mind?
I’m a little ashamed to admit that my mind most immediately jumps to my favorite rom-coms — When Harry Met Sally, Keeping the Faith or the 1980s TV show Moonlighting (Remember that?) I can’t get enough of the ups and downs of lovers kept apart by inopportune timing, religious differences, family resistance, or seemingly incompatible personalities. These obstacles are always somehow overcome by these meant-to-be lovers who eventually end in “happily-ever-afters.”
I’m apparently not the only one who buys into this overly simplistic pop culture narrative about love. In an On Being podcast, author Alain de Botton talked about his popular 2016 article “Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person.”
“That’s right,” he says. “We are strangely obsessed by the run-up to love. And what we call a love story is really just the beginning of a love story, but we leave that out.”
I can recall the dirty pink binding of my childhood hardback copy of Cinderella disintegrating, pages falling to the floor every time I gingerly opened it, even before I was in junior high. So when I was barely double digits old, I believed that the prince and the girl always get together in the end and that life was then perfect — even if I rarely saw stories about what that life actually entailed.
This “Romantic view,” as de Botton calls it, infiltrates so much of our lives and relationships, not just romantic ones. This Romantic View of love gets reflected in our practices around Christmas. We are very interested in the adventure and tribulations leading up to birth of Jesus — cuddly, cute and allegedly quiet in the manger — but not nearly as interested in the difficulties, the hard sacrifices and the intense discomfort of loving our neighbors/enemies (among many other unlikely candidates) that Jesus teaches later in his life.
But here’s something that our intense interest in de Botton’s article betrays: We are actually interested in the long-haul, not only in the romantic leadings-up to love. He said in the On Being interview: “Most of us, we’re interested in long-term relationships. We’re not just interested in the moment that gets us into love; we’re interested in the survival of love over time.”
That’s what the Jesus narrative does. It shows us how God got born here on earth to experience the entire, unpleasant range of human love — the betrayal of close friends, the retribution when he stands up to oppressive state leaders, the loneliness of answering God’s call while surrounded by well-intentioned, but clueless followers.
This Christmas of 2020 with its “normal” rituals turned upside down may be the perfect invitation to feel into and learn more clearly the infuriating complexity of living out perfect love in an intensely imperfect world. “We need to swap the Romantic view for a tragic (and at points comedic) awareness that every human will frustrate, anger, annoy, madden and disappoint us — and we will (without any malice) do the same to them,” de Botton writes.
Let’s move together in this annoying, maddening, disappointing love that not only applies to romantic couplings, but to all loving relationships in which we find ourselves involved.
Join me for feeling into the complexity of love this year in my popular Releasing 2020 Yoga/Meditation event, which is 1-3 p.m. ET, Dec. 31 — a fantastic opportunity to release what you no longer want from 2020, carry forward what you’ve learned, and welcome what is to come in 2021. Spaces are limited, so sign up today!