Imagine this: One day you wake up and find yourself in the same position you were the day before that, the day before that, and for that matter, the months before that. You wake up, you have to go to school or work, and you’re already late before you even started. But this day is different and you don’t know it yet. Because this day you find the one you will love forever.
Who doesn’t want that? Perhaps those with deficiencies for true love like psychopaths, cult leaders, and those who ascend to earth from the underworld, but otherwise, I think many of us have woken up on Sunday mornings with the hopes and desires of finding someone who will love us for us for who we really are. In turn, we will do the same. We will mutually love that person for the essence of their being.
When they are ill, we will bring them soup. When they are sad, we will comfort them. When they are tired, we will help them lay tired bodies to rest. In short, it will be a lot like a relationship with Jesus but add some awesome carnal relations. And in turn, we will have amazing experiences with that person. We will climb mountains, figuratively and perhaps literally. We will have as much fun and enjoyment with that person at a red light as we would at a theme park on our shared favorite holiday in the perfect weather – because we have gotten to the essence of that person.
Many would describe this as finding one’s soul mate. In a Socratic dialogue narrated by Plato, Socrates and Aristophanes discuss soul mates. Aristophanes claims that humans once had four arms, four legs, and one head with two faces. Zeus separated the two, condemning every human on earth to spend his or her life searching for their other half.
Any sane person would reject this story as mythology; however to add to this list of mythological stories worth discussion, I would include Disney movies and romantic comedies that suggest merely finding our “other halves” would complete us, make us whole, and seemingly eradicate and make nonsense of previous worldly problems. It was Virgil of course who said that “Love conquers all things.” But does love actually conquer all things? Is this fairy tale romance something we should consider worth pursuing because it is actually obtainable?
Many of us want to fall in love. We lay our weary heads against our soft pillows and fall asleep dreaming of the one person who we can spend our last scores with. The one person who will accept us for our flaws, our imperfections, our bad morning breath, our hatred for people who chew with their mouth open, our despise for those who hate the political party we also hate. We want someone who loves us for our idiosyncrasies.
Being human, this seems like a pretty good deal to me. Where can I sign up?
Not so fast. Let’s look at the fine print. We must face the facts and statistics. Most relationships will end before you die. Let’s forget that marriages where one or both spouses admit to infidelity is 41%, and may then end in divorce. Let’s forget that.
Let’s say you have found the perfect person. They don’t care that you believe that Newt Gingrich represents the pinnacle of rational personhood, that you love to play video games when they have something important to discuss, that the garbage hasn’t been taken out in months and there is no more room to sleep in bed because the rat’s nest has overtaken the sheets that haven’t been changed since New Years 1999. Love conquers all, right?
When considering our options and abilities to be with someone forever, we should look at things as they actually are, not how fairy tales and western cinema likes to get our hopes for. If you have a partner, chances are more likely than not that you two will break up before getting married. When considering marriage, don’t forget to consider that over 50% of marriages in the US end in divorce. Let’s say you and your life partner never gets divorced, circumstances still do not quite live up to the fairy tale standards we have engrained and embedded in our soft, delicate hearts.
First of all, be happy that you found someone you will never divorce. Congratulations on either finding love, or someone incredibly apathetic or invalid. But chances are pretty good that one of you will die before the other. That means you will have to spend years alone without your soul mate while you spend a torturous life on earth paying taxes and getting stuck in traffic behind people with ugly, foreign license plates.
I don’t know which is saddest: never finding someone at all, or your fairy tale romance ending at a funeral which costs thousands more than the engagement ring that signified eternity.
There we have it: most relationships will end before you die. If they don’t, your partner will die before you. Therefore, the most romantic event you can hope for is to die together, like in a car accident. Don’t worry. There will be roses aplenty at your funeral. And roses are pretty damn romantic.
Regardless of the existential crisis this thought may induce, giving up on wanting or striving to find your most ideal sense of true love, in terms that you have defined, still seems silly. Because a life without any love or shared emotional attachment with another being will always be more lonely than the existential abandonment that may tear you shreds in your soul mate’s absence.
While fairy tales are a joke and probably detrimental to our emotional well-being and our approach to conducting romantic relationships, I will argue that having someone for a month or a lifetime seems significantly more valuable than having no one ever. As far as a marriage ending up in divorce, I am still too young to determine that value, but I would imagine it depends on the persons involved. Even though you will leave this planetary realm the same way you came in, that does not mean you should not embrace every waking, savory moment with another person – if you are fortunate enough to have and make that work.
So go get ‘em, but remember that all things come to an end.