As parents go, mine weren’t bad, but I have concluded that they somehow failed to teach me a handful of things which might have made my life radically easier and better. Better both in the sense of being more pleasant, and much more importantly, better in the sense of being a better person, making a better net contribution to the world.
So, the latest key thing I have decided I have to make sure my children (as yet hypothetical) understand:
There’s more than one kind of love.
Recently I have read most of The Road Less Travelled by M. Scott Peck, started reading Authentic Happiness by Dr Martin Seligman, and am about half-way through Not “Just Friends” by Shirlet P. Glass. All of this reading has been in an attempt to better understand how and why I so utterly betrayed the trust of my partner Erin last year, that it might never happen again, and hopefully to ensure that our relationship can heal.
There has been at least one common thread of information through all of these books which was seriously news to me: The kind of love that one has for one’s partner (as distinct from platonic love) comes in two distinct and almost unrelated flavours.
1. There is the love of ‘falling in love’. This is the love that comes on like a drug. Driven, often unknowingly, by forces far from rational, I suspect that this is the love that so many songs are written about. All, or 99.99% of couples begin with this kind of love. It’s what keeps the species going… and it’s at least partly a great big lie. Why? Because it never lasts. This kind of love tells you nothing about compatibility, about your capacity to tolerate one another in the long term, or even to communicate effectively. That part takes work, comes later, and feels different.
2. That other part. The kind of love that lasts has nothing to do with the first kind of love. Movie makers almost never depict this kind of love because it’s not obvious, and it’s not interesting to watch from the outside. This is the love of trust and compromise, where another persons frailties and imperfections are met and accepted. There isn’t necessarily any underlying sense of attraction to drive it. It is a private matter; where the first kind might be demonstrative, this kind of love is like a business partnership: you don’t talk about the inner workings to people outside of it, even friends, without taking care to ensure fairness and openness; insider trading is a criminal act.
It is this second kind of love that it’s vital to explain. To tell the young victims of mass-media overload that there is another kind of love, that you can’t learn about by watching video hits. To make sure that they know the difference between and relative importance of thse two very different things. To make sure that they know about the second kind before they hurl themselves headlong into the jaws of the first kind.
I dearly wish I’d understood that difference when I finished High School. I’m sure I could have.