"Aye, John, but that is precisely what you do not want to be doing. It seems to me, at least, the sign and signature of unhealthy attachment, of misguided purpose." We sat over a good coffee--what poetry is there not made better by some black coffee?--John had been doing some self-reflection recently, figuring the direction of his life, and he has this nasty struggle of insecurity and fear of something being missed. Just now, we were thinking of a phrase which any will find familiar, the idea of someone 'loving me for me.'
"But it asks a good question," I continued, "Why would you go and love another person in the first place anyway, why do you bother?"
"A year ago, I would have said 'for reassurance, support, for comfort, because it made me happy' and things like that. But right now, I can't say what I think-- all that seems all so complicated, and my relationships have never been so complex, and when they have, they burned like a pile of leaves. If two people had all those things on their minds all the time, they'd just end up sitting next to each other, holding hands, being reassured. And now that I think of it, all those ideas are precisely those pointing to a 'loving me for me' ideal of relationship." John finished, quizically.
"Slightly more talkative than usual, aren't you?" I asked, kidding. John wasn't ever short of words if he had something to say. "Here, I think someone told me this once. Now, what is the end of that kind of relationship, 'loving me for me'? Where does it put you? In a relationship, right?" He assented. "But after that, nothing."
"That's my problem!" John jumped in, "because that's precisely where I become too attached, too desperate, insecure. That's precisely where I abstract everything to the idea of having a girlfriend."
"That's what I'm saying. If you love her for her, you end up loving her for you. But then, if you can't love a girl for herself, why love her at all?"
"But I do love her, you forget" John reflected, "and if not herself, who else is there to love her for? In any real end, I suppose I love her as a child of God, but that's hardly practical."
"No, it's not, but it's right, I think. Someone told me 'Love works toward Salvation'. And in all desolation, I suppose that the only reason any of us would have for loving anyone else is that God loved them first."
"But how do I go about that? I can't just go out and say, 'We're off to the movies because God took you to the movies first.' That's ridiculous."
"No, I mean that when you look at Lu, you need to think not about how much you love her and whatever that would end in, but how much she is simply loved already--and from there, embark upon getting her to heaven. Love is, by far, most practically represented in a romantic light. When you can see the one great irrevocable good that can come out of it, it's easier to do."
"But what is it that I would do? What are you saying?"
"That you do the same as you always do, but that you trust God in it. Think, why did you choose Lucy?"
"Well, I suppose she's pretty..."
"I'll pretend for your sake that that wasn't the first thing you said"
"...and, well.... she's a good person."
"John, are you choosing a girlfriend or an employee? Why did you go out with Susie, or Joy?"
"Well, I guess I just wanted to go out with them. It was fun. And they were great, and pretty, and nice and all, but I don't know, I guess we never really got past just liking each other. But with Lucy, there are days when I don't want to hear a word out of her mouth and I'm tired and she's never understood how to play the piano but she insists upon plunking out chopsticks again. Or that one ditty where you roll your knuckles on the keys. Again and again.
"But I suppose that every day, I would still smile if she needed me to. I'd still drive her home and kiss her on the cheek after a row. I'd still love that scar on her forearm from the time she tripped coming into Ms. Nyler's class, if only because of the times we've laughed about it. And I'd be happy with her going out with her friends instead, or taking her time alone instead of me. And I look at her putting the pizzas on the display, and taking orders, and saying 'have a nice day' and I'm happy because she is. I guess the real difference is that I'd cut and run if I ever really believed that everything wasn't better for her having me around. Used to be I'd not go till I was damn sure I wasn't better off.
"I suppose I chose her because she is a good person, but also because she'd be a good wife, a good mother. I chose her for her sake as much as for mine. Because I think we'll both be better off. And because I think my children will be graced to have her as a mother."
"And that's why this is different," I proposed, "because it's objective?"
"I suppose, but I don't quite get what you mean."
"You chose her because of who she is, who she's chosen to be, and for her sake. And you love her because God does."
"Well, I'd say that's true, but they're just as true for you as for me, and I'd say that monogamy's pretty high on my list of relationship requirements."
"But that's just what I mean by objective! You chose her for the same reasons I would, or any other man. Because she's good, she's holy, she's beautiful, she's virtuous. And you love her in God's place, just as any man should."
"Yes, but you're not hearing me. I say there's something more than that. There's something to be said that she's with me, and no one else. There's something past all that objective stuff. All the good girls aren't just out with all the good guys. Life's not just one big orgy of virtue."
"And that's when you and she made the choice to be exclusive. And the thing that's different now with you, now you're with Lucy, it's that you really made that decision for a reason. And those reasons are all I think marriage is anyway. Just like a priest decides, for the glory of god, to spend his life serving the church, and therein receives the authority to facilitate, on God's behalf, the sacraments. You decided, and may decide in a much more serious way, to serve Lu with your whole self, and will thus receive the authority to facilitate, to embark upon that unity which can only be given to one, that physical pledge of the entirety of life.
"That, I think, is what Rob didn't understand. A priest doesn't suddenly stop finding women horribly beautiful just because he's made this decision. He does, however, choose not to act upon that most terrible beauty. Same, a married man isn't only ever going to see a good wife and a loving mother in that woman he has chosen and who has chosen him, but he will not act upon that with other women. If you are just going to love someone for them, and if that relationship becomes your only end, then the girl becomes an interchangeable asset. Romance is not in some 'True Love', but is in an irrevocable choice made upon an objective truth."
"Yes," commented John, cleaning the table, "that rant is all good, but you forget one thing. That even with all that objective goodness, it would never work if she and I were not friends, and if I was not able to love her like a sister."
"Well," said I, "I suppose that otherwise you would pretty much be screwed."
And with a nod, he followed me out the door, dumping our tray into the trash as we left. And that's what John and I talked about.