**Spoiler alert. This post is the last installment of the “Why I Give Up Love” trilogy. I’d have to warn you, this blog post is not a conventionally rosy-eyed blog post about “how to love.” Far from it. This is a blog post about how NOT to love.
I may have a very specific idea about love, but I don’t know for sure what it is. In fact, I don’t know even know whether the kind of love that I want for myself would involve deep and penetrative romance. I have been in so many relationships that failed miserably — despite both the deep and the penetrative romance.
Love, first of all, should have nothing to do with the feeling of possession. In my last post on love, I wrote about how I think possession, or the want to possess your lover, is what kills love. I really mean it. Love is not , and should not be, about possessing, owing, or taking away the freedom from the other person’s life. Freedom is the very basic human’s need, whether that be the freedom to love, or the freedom to not love. It is wrong, from the beginning, to believe that true love involves an agreement that the couple shall possess each other. Possessing the other person is different from possessing an object. When we possess an object, the love for the object is the genuine love because you love it for what it is — for its quality whether that be its function, aesthetics, or its meaning.
But when you think you possess a person, it is not the quality of the person that you want to possess — because you simply can’t possess someone else’s quality — but rather the thought that you are capable of possessing a person. My gut feeling compels me to feel disgust from within every time I hear someone say something like, “he’s mine,” or “she belongs to me.” What’s wrong with that? Two things: first, to think that a person can be possessed is to reduced the person to a mere passive object that does not have its own agency. By doing so, you’re reducing a person to a mere object that cannot think, feel, and have its own sense of active ownership of its own existence. Human beings are free, and being free is the essence of human species. Second, to possess a person is to think that a person is no longer having a freedom to see you in a different light — that person cannot love you less, and also cannot love you more. True. Possessing a person by asking him or her to commit his or her life to you, whether to ask him or her to call you in a certain way (e.g., “my boyfriend,” “my husband,” etc.) could give you some comfort in the sense that it might make you feel that you are not alone, and that you are wanted. But often, make no mistake about it, calling a human being “my XXX” is nothing less than a pretentious self-fulfilling way of lying to oneself that one has a socially acceptable reason to engage in a legitimate sexual intercourse, when, in most case, there is nothing legitimate about it precisely because of how one sees the other as a mere “possess-able” object. Any attempt to make something external to the dignified nature of human species will subvert itself. The philosophers Arthur Schopenhauer goes as far as to say:
To marry means to do everything possible to become an object of disgust to each other.
Superficiality is another evil.
The reason why divorce rate is skyrocketing in many societies is because people get married for a really bad reason; one of which is to show his or her social circles that he or she is wanted. The root cause of divorce is bad marriage, and what exactly constitutes bad marriage? In societies in which I grew up, the “outright” bad marriage is the marriage between two people who get married because of someone else want them to. Some marriage last a lifetime, some do not. Any kinds of relationship, marriage or not, must be based on the mutual understanding of the two people involved — and just the two of them, not their parents, friends, society, etc.
I met a few friends who had to endure bad marriages in which they got themselves simply because they wanted to “look good” in the social circles of which they were parts. One of the most miserable people I knew said to me that she had to get married to a man whom she did not even want to sleep with, just so that she could pursue her goal which was to continue her study in the PhD level. In China, older generation parents prefer to see their daughters getting married and producing children rather than pursuing advanced degrees because most men are still thinking in conservative terms, and therefore would rather get married with a woman whose educational level is lower than theirs. One of the important conventions in traditional marriage is hypergamy, or, by dictionary definition, is the action of marrying a person of a superior class. So, when the woman has a higher educational level, it is difficult for the man to see how she gets married to him could be perceived as “marrying up.” So, this friend of mine, who later found out that she didn’t know why she wanted to do a PhD, had to get married with a man whom she did not like that much. She also had to pretend that she loved him very much especially on social media, so that she would “look good” in her social circles. There wasn’t any joy in the marriage. My question to her (which I didn’t get to ask) was, “why are you doing this to yourself?” Why is it so important to “look good” to other people? I don’t understand why someone would go so far out of their way just to please other people, who don’t really have anything to do with your life?
Therefore, this kind of relationship is what the philosopher and novelist Jean Paul Sartre would call “bad faith” (in French, mauvaise foi). It’s pathetic. Relationship between a man and a woman doesn’t have to be the way that most people in the society see as being acceptable. Human beings of “good faith” always have a choice, and we don’t have to follow either our natural inclination, or what other people want us to believe to be the given (i.e., granted as a supposition, acknowledged or assumed) in our society. Sartre sees bad faith as a feature of many unsuccessful relationships, as he describes its origins:
When a couple secretly realize that they’re not at all compatible, but then force themselves to believe that they can be “happy together.” Sartre gives an example a woman wants to be loved for her mind and can’t bear to pay attention to her own dark suspicions that her partner is, in fact. more interested in her body. Meanwhile the man realizes that the woman isn’t interested in him sexually, but keeps telling himself that he must be they both lie to themselves and that’s why they end up together and unhappy bad faith will lead them to throw the blame on each other, saying it’s the others coldness or lack of sophistication that’s the problem when really it’s their own doing. Sarte didn’t see bad faith has a surprising or unusual problem it’s a natural outcome of how our minds work he didn’t want us to feel bad, he just wanted to remind us to be as free as we really are.
As the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud writes in, what I believe to be one of the most important analyses of human social world, Civilization and Its Discontents, we human beings then, quite early on, made the decision to mark “free sex” something completely taboo, which then gave birth to a whole new enterprise involving ritualistic and semantic practices marking sex “restricted,” and therefore “not free,” such as marriage, boyfriend-girlfriend relationship, and so on. But don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that I am all for “free sex” or that I support wasted hookups. In fact, quite the opposite, I agree with a New York Times reader whose comment on the contemporary hookup culture has just recently been published, in which she writes:
I HAVE TO BE able to trust somebody before I sleep with them, and it’s hard to trust somebody that you’ve known for like two hours. I don’t get it, either. Guess I’m just an old prude.
I wholeheartedly agree with this reader. To have sex with someone, by and large, is to open your entire physicality to all kinds of risks, whether that be physical pain or diseases. So, although the idea of freely roaming around having sex with multiple partners might sound tempting, I still don’t think it’s worth it mainly because of the risks that it involves. Back to Freud, he isn’t talking about free and liberating sex as such. What he’s talking about is how we “cultured human beings” subvert our own desire to do so by creating a set of status markers to legitimize what he sees as being no different to casual sex: People think that in order to be able to have sex they need to have a “publicly declarable” sexual partner whom they would call by some euphemistic titles such as “boy/girlfriend”; to be stable citizens by getting married, to be good members of the family by reproducing; and so on. But that’s not the kind of life worth living. In order to understand the very core idea of the kind of life that is worth living, we must, as Jean-Paul Sartre has suggested:
…Be aware of existence as it is when it has been stripped of any of the prejudices and stabilizing assumptions lent to us by our day-to-day routines.
But once we strip down all the superficial facade of the whole matter, all of these seemingly benign and acceptable social performances come down to represent only a way for a couple to “spend an evening meal with each other,” which if we are to understand it through the lenses of Sartre’s kind of existentialism is much weirder than we think: in one of my most favorite philosophy’s website, having an evening meal with a partner is nothing but:
Dinner really means that when your part of the planet has spun away from the energy of a distant hydrogen and helium explosion, you slide your knees under strips of a chopped-up tree and put sections of dead animals and plants in your mouth and chew, while next to you, another mammal whose genitals you sometimes touch is doing the same.
That is, the end goal of getting married, or possessing someone by reducing him or her to a mere object, is simply to legitimize sex as an acceptable social norm in a particular society. But who have the right to represent the society anyway? If Freud was right, civilization is the root cause of hysteria, simply because it prevents us from achieving what we want, therefore suppressing our desire underneath the layer of the “socially acceptable.” Who can tell us what we should do? If we strip everything down, what’s wrong with being who we are? I believe that human beings are naturally “not bad” (maybe not all good, but definitely not bad), then we know what we want, and it is okay to want to get what we want as long as the methods of getting what we want doesn’t encroach upon other people’s right and liberty, and what they want. As Sartre writes, only when we realize that we are not free — and that we can be free — we can then live in “good faith.” It is only when we realize that someone else is making us think that “being unfree” is the only way we could live our life, that we can then escape from “bad faith.” I am putting my finger on it here: no bad faith love or marriage will last.
So, what’s the kind of love that I want?
I may not be the most moral person, but I still believe that a person does not need to have more than one lover. I believe in simplicity. Having only one lover who really know you, cares about you, is better having many lovers who can only use their genitals to please yours. As my good friend Kevin once said:
I want someone who gets me. When I am down, or crazy, or obsessive — not someone who just comforts me because she should, but because she knows how I really feel and what is happening in my mind.
That’s the kind of love that will last.
For me, to begin with, I want the kind of love that is mutual. I want the kind of love that is based entirely on the intellectual capacity of the two lovers. I just can’t stand people who don’t understand how to engage in an intellectual exercise. I don’t care how we get to know each other, and I don’t care if our social statuses are different in other people’s eyes. In fact, love is a matter between two people; so, I won’t even let anyone’s opinion affect any of my decision when it comes to love.
Like Kevin, I want someone who gets me, and knows what I want, who also allows me to get her, and know what she wants. I am done with a possessive, superficial, and bad faith kind of love. In a selfish way,
I want the kind of love that makes me want to get up in the morning to do my best to contribute to the positive change in the world.
I want the kind of love that makes me feel passionate about everything around me because I know I always have someone who is supporting me and giving me the benefit of the doubt.
I want the kind of love that makes me feel that nothing could be that bad, and even if it is that bad, she will always be there to pick me up and dust me.
Reciprocally, I want to be the person who gets her, knowing what she needs before she even needs it.
That sad part is that I didn’t think that this kind of love would be so hard to achieve. But it is. Therefore, I have given up love.
P.S. I can’t truly say that the idea of closing this trilogy loop is entirely mine. It’s actually not, but I actually have a few more things to say about love, and its intrinsic and intricate quilt of absurdity. This morning I was bombarded with friends’ posts about Back to the Future — arguably the best trilogy film of all time — about the fact that today is the day that, had the trilogy wasn’t just a movie but reality, Doc Brown and Marty Mcfly would be arriving from the past. This is the last time I will write in my blog here about what I talk about when I talk about love.