Love as Cancer
The Personal Weblog of Edward W. Farrell   
Love as Cancer Tuesday, September 22, 2015
Tim Kreider complains about love and relationships that don't last in the New York Times:

I wish there were generally recognized stages of love, like there are for cancer, so that you could gently break it to someone without causing a panic. "Listen, I love you, but it's only Stage 1 - still very treatable."

For now I'm just savoring the illusory sensation of being in a relationship, even though I know it can't last. We're like a couple dressing up and splurging on a night out in a restaurant they can't afford. But I understood this going in, and now it's been so long since I've cared about anything enough to get hurt that heartbreak would be a welcome sign of improved mental health.

Like most writers of his ilk Kreider uses the term 'love' pretty loosely, but it doesn't take long to get the picture he's painting of the modern 'love' relationship:
  • A titilating sexual buzz followed closely by a fantasy world for two created by mutually reinforced self-centeredness and delusion
  • A desperate obsession to prolong the fantasy world indefinately
  • A short lifespan due to quickly exhausted efforts in the face of emerging realities and lack of incentive due to the fading buzz
  • A bitter end with a petulant story of betrayal, woe, and the falseness of a partner who promised but didn't deliver the goods
Since Kreider calls this love it's no wonder he compares it to cancer, but history has more often called it eros, lust, or insanity.  As Dave Van Ronk once quipped in a different context, the high of it "makes you feel like Superman--for the first five minutes. After that it's her problem."

This vision of love has always been around but the vast pervasive extent of it today--particularly the way it is held to be the standard operating procedure, even in marriage--is a Baby Boomer disease that is sadly up to another generation to correct since it has probably already killed the host.

So what do you do if you're sick of this sexual carnival and want to build a long lasting relationship that's based on love? Try this on for size: Forego sex with your prospective partner til you know that you can love them and they can love you. The very thought of this should immediately tell you some things:
  • If it makes you laugh, or panic, then you're probably not fit for a long term relationship based on love
  • If your partner laughs or panics, they're not fit for it either
But let's say you and your partner are willing to go through with it--at what point would you know that you're in a relationship that's based on love? At some point you'll have to ask yourself the following question: If my partner lost all their money, their health, or their ability to ever have sex, would I stay true to them anyway out of love? If your answer's yes, then you're already approaching your relationship on the basis of love.  If your answer's no, you're either not fit for a loving partnership or you're with the wrong person--and only your maturity and honesty can tell you which.

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