And check out my joint blog with the love of my life and writing partner Dmytry Karpov: Kimberly ♥ Dmytry

Then his blog: Dmytry Karpov

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Men: Can't live with them...can't...what?

Love. Such a loaded word. I love my kids and I love strawberries. Surely the same word cannot be used for two such different experiences, and yet they are. The Greeks had more originality when it came to this word, using terms such as agape to denote feelings of good will and affection for family. S'agape means "I love you," in the way we might say it to our children or our spouse. However, agape also means equal opportunity love for one's friends as well as one's enemies. It is the closest to a spiritual form of love we get in this language.

Philia is the word for the love of a friend. It is a dispassionate, virtuous love. The word was developed by Aristotle and the emphasis is on virtue.

Storge is another term for affection, but specifies natural affection, as one has for their own child.

Thelema refers to desire, but not sexual desire. This is the desire to do something, to be involved in an activity that is worthwhile and fulfilling.

And then there is of course, Eros. This is the passionate sexual love that fills most of modern society with dreams of "happily ever after" and all that nonsense. It's the romantic version of love, one which is often confused with lust or infatuation. It's interesting to note that Plato revised this definition to include a platonic love, one that is more than philia but less than sexual. He also expanded the idea of this love to include the beauty of a person's soul, the beauty of a flower, the love and search of beauty altogether. He said that eros helps the soul recall beauty and contributes to an understanding of spiritual truth. When I look at all the beauty produced by various religions in the form of art, architecture, music and more, I can see the truth in this.

So, what does this have to do with the price of gas? Nothing. But it does bring me to my point, which is a question actually. Why are we as westerners, so obsessed with the notion of romantic love? Why do we feel incomplete without some romantic partner of our own with which to make love, make house or just make out? We are addicted to feeling in love. We are addicted to a cycle of climaxes, but the end result is always the same. When the initial fervor of loves wears off, which it will, we are left with reality. We are left with ourselves and a partner who may or may not know what they want or need. We are left with the knowledge that this person doesn't actually complete us the way we'd hoped.

I watched a movie last night "The Holiday", about two career women who've both been burned by love. One lives in England, one in a grand mansion in L.A. They decide to house swap, and of course, cure their broken hearts with new bo's. What the story doesn't reveal is that in six months, a year or whatever, both couples will have to choose who's going to live where, (since we feel it's essential to share a house with our romantic partners,) and both are going to have the same problems everyone has. They will also find that they didn't know each other as well as they thought and that great sex and awesome chemistry do not a marriage make.

Now please don't think I'm anti-love or anti-men or anti-relationship. I'm not. I've grown and been inspired by my love for another, and I've helped bring three amazing beings into this world through that relationship. But why the obsession? There are different ways to live. Ways other people, other societies, other cultures have found to work. Why aren't we willing to try something new? The answer, in part, lies in the way our culture is structured. We don't live in community, the individualism that makes us so American also gives us the feeling of being cut off and separate. As a result, we feel lost, incomplete, and we strive to find our"other half," or our "soul mate."

What's the difference? You may ask. Why should it matter why we mate, as long as we're happy? But are we happy? It doesn't look like it. Perhaps you are, and that's great. But would you be happy if you lost your spouse to something, anything? Death, life changes, divorce. Who knows? Would you still be happy? If not, then I would challenge your definition of happiness. If we're depending on something outside of ourselves to make us happy, then can we really claim that happiness as ours?

For years I have worked hard to make someone I love dearly, happy. I gave him everything he claimed to want, and still he's not happy. Have I failed? Yes. Did I ever have a chance of succeeding? No. I can't make anyone happy, and no one can make me happy. That's got to come from inside me. Inside him. And it is there, in all of us. We just spend so much time looking for those feelings of "eros," that we forget what we have inside us. I forgot. I still forget. But I'm fortunate that I have friends around me who remind me who I am. Who remind me that I am not separate from the love and light of God. Of the Universe. Of Life. I am connected to all and all is connected to me. In a very real way.

Does this mean I'll never have love, or even eros, in my life? Am I abandoning great sex for a life of contemplation? Not yet. I'll always have love in my life, and even eros, particularly if I incorporate some of Plato's ideas of eros into my definition. To see beauty and allow that beauty to lead me truth sounds like pretty amazing love to me. And to find the love and completeness in myself, so that I can live with or without someone and be happy, that sounds wonderful. Better than a first date, better than falling in love. Better even than great sex.

My question to you is this...what ways do you look outside yourself for feelings of completeness, happiness or love? Is it working for you? What would happen if these things stopped working, or disappeared? I challenge each of you, myself included, to examine the patterns that lead to addiction. Not just major--needing of treatment--addiction. But the addictions we all have that leave us feeling incomplete and miserable and searching for something or someone to make it all better. Are these true?

One more question. Can any of you, from experience or heresy, think of other ways relationships can be structured to support cooperation, internal happiness and less co-dependence? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Men, women, whatever your preference, we can live without them. And we can live with them if we come into the relationship complete and happy and looking to it for a mirror in which to see ourselves more clearly in order to grow. However, regardless of how miserable we feel they make us, in most cases it's not OK to shoot them. Sorry. :)


  1. you have touched on a subject that has always interested me.... I recently had a conversation about this with a friend.
    I lack the wisdom and have an over abundance of cynicism to offer much value on the subject.
    I know couples that are happier than I ever imagined possible. At least I think they are. Most every other couple I know are in the relationship still for a myriad of reasons, none of which have anything to do with any of the Greek words you spoke about.
    It is the most interesting topic I can think of. I hope others offer their opinions and ideas.

  2. Very interesting post, Kim. Thank you for sharing your link! A lot to think about.

  3. Thanks for taking a look at it Sarah. I know some of my ideas are pretty off mainstream, but even if you don't agree with me (and I imagine many won't) it's still fun to think about and see other ways of thinking.

    Neil, I'm not sure my track record makes me much of an authority either, but I'm learning from my mistakes, and learning from others. I'm sure I'll have a different view of this in a year. It would be fun to revisit this post and see how I've changed by then...

  4. "New ways relationships can be structured?"
    I am interested in exploring what a friend of mine has. She and her boyfriend live in separate homes. That way they get the eros... without struggling to share an abode.

    My problem is the past has been partially financial, in that it makes little sense to pay for two households when one could do.

  5. Linda,
    Another option is seperate bedrooms, and seperate accounts...more independence but with the option to share...

  6. Hmmmm, who needs seperate bedrooms, seperate accounts, and more independence IF; one can seperate their minds into two seperate states...?

  7. Being a Gemini, I have embraced and relished the fact that I have two sides of me. I dont read daily stars, yet i know from along time ago that I was able to live with both and disect both into two different mind sets. Turning one off and turning the other on when needed. Is this split personality? No,only to those who cant see the difference. And who said it is only Gemini's who can do this? Well, I believe there are certain people out there who can also achieve this trait, not for evil, deception, or anything else, other than to coincide and live harmoniously with all the facets of lifes journey. So why cant this be acceptable when it comes to love. I agree totaly in that it is only a word; more so it is the CONNECTION between the word and the gamet of feelings and emotions that are associated with its use....

  8. Anon: The ability to perceive dichotomous realities notwithstanding, and even assuming both parties have this ability and utilize it to the same degree at the same time...(right here we've ruled out 99.9999999999% of the world) but even presupposing all of this, there is still a need to manage the logistical daily realities of life.

    I think part of our growth in this form is to master the simple, normal, every day stuff in a way that is excellent and beautiful. This means we have to take responsibility for our sleep, money, time etc. This can manifest in many ways and does not in any way negate or diminish intimacy or shared experience, but it does help mitigate the tendency to enable, become codependent or take possession of our mate as if they belonged to us.

    This frees us to love from our heart, from within, and not from a place of property management or ownership.

    Does that make sense?