Friday, November 06, 2009

Loved and Lost

(News-Herald, November 5) Is it better to have loved and lost?
It’s cliché to call men commitmentphobic. There’s more to it than the picture of men as hungry buffet diners who won’t settle for just one food. Plenty of men, and women, too, fear commitment for the same reason some folks fear heights, water and pointy objects—something in their gut warns This Way Lies Danger and Hurt.
Hence the proverbial alternative to “loved and lost”—never to have loved at all.
Most of us would opt for choice three—to love and not lose. But that’s probably less likely. Not just because couples and love can fail; sometimes timing, circumstances, geography or courage fail. The only method guaranteed, the only way to be sure that you won’t lose, is not to love at all.
The benefits? Relative safety. Lack of danger.
Is that better than loving and losing? After all, loving and losing hurts. It stings. At its worst, losing leaves you reeling and torn open, betrayed by someone who had the keys to your heart (or your house, or bank account). You are left not only bereft of love, but doubting your own worth, your own senses, your own judgment.
But even the best losing leaves a curious emptiness, a place where someone once filled up a corner of your heart. Even if you are a happy, fulfilled person, a good love brings you happiness beyond what you can find for yourself.
Still, safety is way overrated. To begin with, it’s a lot harder to achieve than it seems in theory. And while “never love at all” could mean hiding in the basement, what it usually means is relationships that are safely half measures, a partner chosen precisely because they will never get close to your heart, or someone who is convenient and familiar. And that usually ends up creating a lot of hurt for which there is no justification.
Yes, losing love hurts. But if someone offers you a supremely delicious chocolate muffin, you’d be a fool to pass it up just because the experience of eating it will only last a few bites.
Love always risks loss, not only because things might not work out in the end (whatever “the end” is, exactly), but also because love, like everything else in life, costs.
It’s not just the time and effort that you put into it yourself. You pay costs in your relationships with other people, your availability, focus, attention. Commit to the person of your dreams, and you lose a little control over your own fate.
Love has an opportunity cost as well. Opportunity cost is an economic concept—spend a dollar on chocolate, and you give up the opportunity to spend it on pickles. Choosing to stay with one person means choosing to go without a whole bunch of other people. It takes a grown-up to make that choice, and some people grow up faster than others.
Once you’ve grown way up, you’ve accumulated much stuff in your life, and holding love can require a major rearrangement of the furniture. When you’re young, you don’t have much furniture, but you have a thousand future possibilities that have to be sacrificed to gain that one real, actual love.
So loving means you will lose something, and while the romantic ideal is that you’ll lose something you’ll never miss because you’ve acquired a priceless gem for the cost of a jar of pickles, it’s human to miss some of those things anyway. That’s why it’s wise to choose with your eyes open, fully aware of the cost, so you don’t second-guess yourself later and mess up the Good Stuff.
Love, at its best, makes you stronger and better, helps you grow, helps you become more yourself, teaches you how to help someone else do all that, too. That’s how you know it’s love, and not something smaller or uglier in faux-love mask.
Loving and losing stinks (just so we’re clear on that). But if you did the love part right, you are still stronger and better after it has passed, certainly more so than if you had never loved at all. And while losing is bad, the stupid stuff you do from fear of losing is far worse.
Love is not for the cowardly or the childish. In the end, death eventually does part us all. So there really is no question of whether we win or lose—only if we’re going to get in the game. Unlike some games, this one rewards the courage to risk losing.

1 comment:

Giulia Panda said...

I totally agree, I find myself not in a relationship only because I'm afraid to get hurt as I've been before, and to hurt someone as I have done unfortunately.
I guess it's true that you don't have to worry about if and how it's going to end, you have to enjoy love whilst you have it.

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