This is a post that happens when you watch romantic period dramas, read Neruda, Gibran, Rumi and Pessoa, and then fall into a deep, late night conversation with a like-minded friend.
So then, this beautiful love that came up for discussion is not that initial phase of exuberance and passion we fall into when we first meet someone we find attractive.
It’s also not that steady, deep bond which develops and grows over time.
This is a special love – love no. 3.
Because the first kind will fade and hopefully keep reigniting for a lifetime, and the second will hopefully and periodically be struck by magic so that it keeps growing.
Both make sense. Both are approved by family, friends and society.
But love no. 3 (maybe it should be a perfume!) is statistically quite rare, complicated and extremely challenging. It is the envy of the world even though most of the time, it ends up being abandoned. And everyone around will usually advise against it, because when it succeeds, this love is as splendid as it is incomprehensible. And such extraordinary things threaten ‘normality’, cause discomfort, and frankly, not a small measure of jealousy.
This love is one that by all measures of logic and well known psychological (and social) standards shouldn’t exist, let alone persist. And in practice, rarely occurs, and is even more rarely fully embraced.
It’s the love of people who at their core are very similar. Outwardly however, their personalities, conditioning, choices, lifestyles, inclinations, social circles, overall environments and even goals manifest very differently, if not in complete opposition.
Usually one person is practical, logically inclined, pragmatic, focused on tangible things like money and career, likes to plan, prefers to predict and create a sense of control, dislikes change and surprises, prefers comfort and planning even adventures. Fiercely independent and often solitary, for this type, self-sufficiency is a priority, while vulnerability is anathema.
The other person is, of course, highly emotional even if also possibly a thinker. They put heart first, focus on spirituality and feelings, dislike practicalities and planning, seek depth and exploration, love surprises, romanticize change, resist being controlled but get bored being alone. While not necessarily extroverts, these types like a noisier life and constant companionship, even in moments of silence. Vulnerability and sharing are priorities, while failing to express feelings is death.
Can these people possibly be more different? No wonder it’s expected they will clash and exasperate each other. Because the other is so unlike their usual type, neither understands why they feel such intense feelings, and why being together is the most natural thing in the world, while also seeming like having to sail with killer pirates in dense fog on the seas of an unknown planet.
Overwhelming familiarity exists alongside an overwhelming mystery. Happiness comes with a level of torment and genuine discomfort to the point of panic precisely because it is so complete and incomprehensible. They feel exalted, blissful, and at peace, yet also frustrated and confused, oscillating between total acceptance and fierce denial.
Some call this the love of twin souls, twin flames, soul mates. In more earthly terms, these are people who at their core are very much alike, and their dynamic just happens to mirror in each other the parts of themselves that they haven’t developed. In this kind of connection, people are totally and completely naked, body and soul. Neither one can hide from the other those things about themselves that they don’t wish anyone to see or don’t want to look at.
And that’s the problem.
Psychologists and poets provide pretty much the same diagnosis.
The logical person doesn’t know what to do with such an intense emotional experience partly because that’s their personality, but mostly because they’re used to emotions creating an unsafe, unsettling place which leads to suffering and dependence. They don’t like change because they have witnessed chaos and chaos hurts. They prefer complete independence, solitude and quiet because they’ve been conditioned to know mostly disrespect of personal space, toxic competition, guilt and disappointment. To share means to owe or to lose. To depend on anyone brings shame or obligation. Vulnerability means weakness, broken boundaries and ultimately pain.
The emotional person resists practicalities because their personality steers them towards more emotional approaches. But the resistance mainly exists because they’ve witnessed practical things lead to a sterile, punishing life. They seek change because they’ve seen how stagnation creates only poverty and a deeply unhappy environment. They are often desperate to create more noise and a crowded space because to them, solitude has always been an experience of abandonment and indifference. Being open and feeling is everything because it’s the only way to avoid being abandoned and in pain.
Neither one of these people know what a safe space, a stable dynamic that is open, loving, supportive and healthy feels like. And their great love allows them to recognize each other at the deepest level. They both know, and see. The problem is they see everything…in each other and in themselves. All that is real and all that needs to change.
And yes, both want and understand the need for balance. They appreciate both logic and emotion, want adventure and excitement within a stable framework, love spontaneity, enjoy challenge, are curious to learn new things and experience the thrill of expansive love while respecting their own and each other’s space.
To work, both need to hold space for themselves and each other, and re-learn what health, safety, sharing, compromise, and trust actually mean. They both need the courage to let go of their baggage, unlearn what contaminated their beautiful spirits and start fresh walking side by side.
It’s very difficult. And not because loving isn’t easy, but because the process of allowing love to exist and grow is so difficult. How to let go of so much conditioning, so much fear. How to trust so completely and be so vulnerable?
There is a way to make it work even if few are willing or able to go there. For the most part, these lucky people who find each other and this type of connection end up turning away and letting go.
Gibran explains it all so well.
When love beckons to you, follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep.
And when his wings enfold you yield to him,
Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.
And when he speaks to you believe in him,
Though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden.
For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you.
Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.
Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,
So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.
Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself
He threshes you to make your naked.
He sifts you to free you from your husks.
He grinds you to whiteness.
He kneads you until you are pliant..
All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart…~ Kahil Gibran “On Love”