Do you see yourself as a lover of love but seem to always seem to end up being hurt and disappointed by your lovers? Or, do you seem to somehow sabotage or lose interest in your lovers? If either of these questions resonate, this is a must read.
In Seven Loves: An Introduction, I briefly explored a theory known as the Triangle of Love. In short, we considered how passion, intimacy, and commitment interact to form seven types of love: friendship, infatuation, empty love, romantic love, companionate love, fantasy love, and consummate love. I left off with the suggestion that most of us tend to see romantic love as our ultimate destination. More often than not, this belief leaves us broken and unfulfilled. Today, I’ll explain why this is the case and offer possible solutions.
Let’s begin by taking a look at romantic love. Romantic love gives us the sensation of being possessed by love and intoxicated by our lover. As we soar to new heights of enlightenment, we realize we have finally found the ultimate meaning and fulfillment of our soul in our lover. Life takes on a new splendor and intensity that seems to open our eyes to the meaning of love…even life. The world is brighter, we feel alive and vibrant, and are completely engulfed in love’s magical spell. Our love is intense, overwhelming, and all consuming. It seems impossible that anyone has ever loved like this before. This is the kind of love that inspires movies, novels, and songs.
Romantic love, unfortunately, is a transitional space. At its zenith we come to a crossroad in love’s journey. One road ahead leads to consummate love (our true destination). The other road (which includes trying stay in this transitional space) leads to disillusionment and despair. Many of us, myself included, have taken the road to disillusionment too many times. Why does it happen? Perhaps a better understanding of romantic love will help me and others in the journey for consummate love.
Once we have been intoxicated by romantic love, we don’t want to lose that feeling. It is like a drug-induced euphoria. We also know the feelings that comes over us as this high dissipates. Where is that feeling of divine, transcendent ecstasy and the intense emotional connection we felt early on in the relationship? Our lover no longer talks or writes to us as much, they don’t come over as often, they don’t do this or they don’t do that anymore. We become frustrated, lonely, and even angry at them for failing to lift our spirit…for failing us and not living up to their promises. This love was supposed to be different. Ultimately, we crash and burn. Then, we start the cycle over again in search of another high, courtesy of romantic love.
When we strive to rise above and beyond ourselves into something unified, extraordinary, and limitless – like romantic love – we are having divine aspirations. When we look for this in love, we treat love as religion and our soul delivers. It is the nature of the soul to flow towards perfection.
As this divine perfection relates to love, it is helpful to consider sexual archetypes. In men, the sexual archetype of an ideal woman is called his Anima and she is unique to each man. For women, her ideal man is Animus. Within this ideal, each person has an innate sense of what it would mean to join as soul mates, forming a divine couple. Anima is every man’s dream of female perfection. She is everything I want and she never disappoints. Anima demands that her existence be recognized as unique. It would be impossible for anyone as perfect as her to have ever existed before.
The challenge in our relationships occurs when we project our inner spirituality (Anima) on people in the outer world for fulfillment. When I project my vision of Anima onto a real woman, Anima does what is in her nature. She pulls this lovely finite and imperfect being towards the infinite and the great archetypal themes swirling in my soul. She is filled with vibrant splendor, sensuality, femininity, and timeless beauty blended perfectly with heightened sexual energy and an erotic mind. All of this magic exists within her…for me. Our experience is unlike any other before and that no one can understand or grasp its intensity and depth of what we share. It is impossible that two people have loved like this before.
Our emotions and physical reactions to this experience are real but what we are reacting to, at its core, is an illusion. It is part of the human experience and billions of people have felt or will feel what we are feeling. It is human nature. Through our soul projecting, we each create our own cosmic drama and epic love story into the outer world. The problem with soul projecting is that no person can sustain the projection of another’s soul indefinitely. I cannot be someone’s eternal light, source of spiritual fulfillment, and eternal bliss. I am imperfect and finite. I cannot expect someone else to be this for me either. Yet, we all do it. I call you my soul mate, and you call me your soul mate. For a time, we burn like wild fire with love and passion for each other. It feels like we are walking hand-in-hand in the realm of the gods – we are a divine couple. We each sustain the divine projection of one another’s soul for a time but inevitably, like wild fires do, we burn out.
So, how do we handle Anima/Animus? Do I keep projecting her on women and riding the emotional rollercoaster on a Don Quixote-like quest for divine love and ecstasy? Do I ignore her? No, I can’t ignore my Anima…she won’t be denied. She is a real part of my inner, spiritual world. Rather than ignoring her, I can celebrate, express, and tend to Anima through my romantic and erotic thoughts, meditations, dreams, and art. Many of us are doing this, knowingly or not, on WordPress through our writings or art and find it very fulfilling. In a very real way, we are tending to our inner world and spirituality.
I will catch traces of my Anima bursting forth in the outer world and being projected on real person. It is okay to embrace and savor these moments. Even then, as real as these worldly sensations feel, I must recognize them as an intense spiritual release that will rise and fall over time rather. We can learn from the wisdom and spirituality of the ancient Greeks. Even their most ecstatic god, Dionysus, was celebrated in two states – present and absent. One cannot infinitely sustain transcendent Dionysian ecstasy – even Dionysus. The timeless pattern of energy expenditure and periods of recovery plays out in our relationships. If we can recognize this, we can savor the moments where we taste perfection without the disillusionment that comes with expecting divine ecstasy as a perpetual state of being.
In the context of love and sexuality, we must begin by first understanding what we are doing. Recognizing the concept of Anima/Animus as part of our inner spirituality and how it is expressed in the outer world is an important first step. Anima must be expressed and tended to. But, we have to set her/him free in a realistic way. It will require open, trusting, and non-judgmental communication with our lover. We need to communicate the importance of our inner aspirations to our lover in a way that is real and sustainable rather than expecting divine ecstasy as the norm and feeling hurt and rejected when our lover fails us. And, it will require our lover to do the same with us. We also need to be as acutely aware of our lover’s needs and inner aspirations as we are about our own desires.
If we are able to see the truth in romantic love and recognize the dance of illusion, we may escape the burn out and disillusionment that destroys our relationships. If we can achieve this we are on the road to consummate love. Love isn’t all about me and it isn’t all about you. Consummate love is all about WE.
Primary references in this exploration of love are the writings of psychologist, Carl Jung and the book, WE: The Psychology of Romantic Love by Robert Johnson. WE explores the origins and meaning of romantic love and shows how a proper understanding of its psychological dynamics can revitalize our most important relationships.