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Relationships • Mature Love

Beyond the Need for Melodrama in Love

For a long time, we may find ourselves repeatedly in the swirl of Romantic melodramas with the people we love. Though we’re committed to them and they to us, we can’t stop our relationships being filled with ups and downs: arguments that go on for days, accusations that we fling at one another in the late hours, scenes of jealousy, insult and recrimination. It’s exhausting and – as we ourselves recognise at calm moments – a slightly illogical waste of time.

A 19th century painting of a stage melodrama.

It might seem as if we’re simply very ‘passionate’ people. What can emerge in due course is a different realisation: that we’re very scared ones. And what we’re scared of is something rather strange sounding: an acknowledgement of our own happiness. We’re scared that, contrary to the turbulence we keep manufacturing, we have found someone who is actually very right for us and we for them. Whatever the arguments we keep getting into, we in fact see eye to eye, we are good for one another; we have – very surprisingly – found love.

This is what at some level feels entirely unbearable, because the thought that we might have laid a claim to love generates – in the unconscious – a countervailing and very frightening thought: that we might also lose love (something we have, probably, already experienced in our early years).

What we’re trying to do, by rocking the boat, is to make loss feel less strange and less threatening. We’re probing anxiously at a scab. We generate scenes of jealousy and accuse our lover of mad disloyalty in order both to scare and reassure ourselves. We are summoning up worries because calm is such an unfamiliar place.

We make it all so much more dramatic than it needs to be to drown out the fears we deep down associate with ordinary contentment. It can take most of a life until we eventually realise we might prefer to master our fears of loss than spoil all our remaining opportunities for happiness; until we learn to believe in our own luck.

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