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Relationships • Finding Love

Our Secret Wish Never to Find Love

The process of locating a partner to love is famously so hard, it may for a long time disguise an alternative, even more complicated reality: that whatever we claim, it would be a lot easier for us if we never found them. The hurdles of dating undeniably exist; that doesn’t mean that they aren’t also being gratefully used to hide – mostly from ourselves – a harder-to-mention wish to remain on our own. 

Painting of a melancholy young woman reclining on a pillow.
Crisanto del Monaco, The Sleeping Model, 1898

Consciously, we may tell ourselves that we would dearly love to land on a compatible soul. Inside, we are hard at work ensuring we won’t – and for a variety of hugely understandable reasons: 

— Because it is simply too painful to hope.

— Because we have realised that we have too much talent for identifying characters who can torment us.

— Because we have had enough of other people’s madness and too much experience of our own; because humans may be best enjoyed from a distance.

— Because recovery from a love that promised a future robs us of too many of our remaining years.

— Because we have understood – finally – how properly difficult we are to live with.

— Because no one is as perfect or as docile as the many attractive strangers we will never speak to.

— Because longing alone can be so much more gratifying than a scratchy day-to-day reality together.

— Because if we never love, we cannot be hurt.

— Because there has to be a limit to how many times we can be expected to take off our clothes in front of a stranger.

— Because we didn’t have the sort of childhood to develop the right instincts for this game.

But, as these are difficult thoughts to own up to, to ourselves and our friends, we may prefer to disguise our true intentions behind a choreography of well-designed failures. Love would have been delightful, it was just that:

— We chose people who we knew would be busy.

— We failed to call back those who were keen.

— We left the party before most people arrived.

— They’re all ‘boring’ or ‘unattractive.’

— We disappointed others before they stood any chance of disappointing us.

As a result, we can continue to experience with security one of the most risk-free of all beliefs: that we would love to love, if only we found the right person… We may be denied a partner, but we can hold on to something yet more precious: a sense of safety, and a sure belief that the appropriate candidate would, if they arrived, be capable of solving our suffering. There may be few stronger Romantics than those who manage carefully – and sometimes perhaps even wisely – to steer clear of anyone to be Romantic with.

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