Love. As much of a hopeless romantic that I am as a mere twenty-one-year-old, this word gives me the proverbial butterflies in my stomach along with hot flashes of dread, terror, and fear. Love is a rollercoaster of emotions where you must accept that when you love someone and someone loves you, you have both the power to heal each other and, conversely, completely devour one another’s souls.
After reading Eat Pray Love for the billionth time, I finally picked up the sequel to Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir of her travels in Italy, India, and Indonesia. The sequel is called Committed, and it’s Elizabeth’s story about what happens after she is forced to marry her Brazilian-Australian lover after the two of them have both recovered from nasty divorces. If there is any point that Committed drives home, the book shows that we must learn how to let love in.
We cannot choose who we love, but we can choose how to love them. Just as Eat Pray Love came at a perfect time in my life when I was single and traveling abroad on my own, Committed came into my life when I began having a serious relationship with a man that I love dearly. (Hi Derek.) Here are several quotes and concepts that resonated with me after reading Committed.
“Every intimacy carries, secreted somewhere below its initial lovely surfaces, the ever-coiled makings of complete catastrophe.” (Gilbert, p. 5)
Romantic, emotional, and sexual intimacy offers no guarantees. Even marriage has a way out, so here’s looking at the pragmatism of prenups. Save to enjoy the journey because you never know how your relationship will turn out. Let love in. Take the chance.
“As the old adage goes: A fish and a bird may indeed fall in love, but where shall they live?” (Gilbert, p.6)
As the other old adage goes: opposites attract. Love requires compromise in situations where people who fall in love cannot help but be two completely different sorts of creatures—figuratively speaking.
“You can be certain that the modern Western woman’s love story will have been examined by her from every possible angle, and that, over the years, her narrative will have been either hammered into a golden epic myth or embalmed into a bitter cautionary tale” (Gilbert, p.36)
Is it truly necessary to make the love of your life really be the end all and be all of your life? The love of your life may in fact play a momentous role in your narrative, but they are still only a part of your life. Do not lose your own identity in your own story. Live your life. Loving someone adds to your life; it should not take away from your own story. Love interdependently, not independently or dependently. Know the difference between living alongside another person and living for another person.
“Marriage becomes hard work once you have poured the entirety of your life’s expectations into the hands of one mere person” (Gilbert, p. 48).
Do not expect your significant other to meet every one of your needs. That is not a burden to place on someone else. By that same logic, do not let your significant other delude you into thinking you are capable of doing everything for them—even if you are a foxy Alpha Female. You can’t. It’s not possible. (Don’t take that as a challenge.) The only person you can ever please is yourself.
Using the words “always” or “never” in an argument “absolutely murders any chance of fair or intelligent discourse” (Gilbert, p. 214).
When you argue with your significant other, do not throw in the words “you always ___/” or “you never ____”. It’s tempting in the heat of the moment, but ultimately, these over exaggerated conclusions are a sign of angry and frustration instead of logic. Be fair and honest with your partner.
“Pre-Freudian philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer told about the essential dilemma of modern human intimacy. Schopenhauer believed that humans, in their relationships, were like porcupines on a cold winter night. In order to keep from freezing, the animals huddle close together. But as soon as they are near enough to provide critical warmth, they get poked by each other’s quills. Reflexively, to stop the pain and irritation of too much closeness, the porcupines separate. But once they separate, they become cold again. The chill sends them back toward each other once more, only to be impaled all over again by each other’s quills. So they retreat again. And then approach again. Endlessly.” (Gilbert, p. 223).
I was shocked when I read this theory on modern human intimacy as comparing humans to cold porcupines. It sounded silly, but to me, it made sense. I finally understood why I always wanted to be close with a significant other, but at the same time, when we got too close to each other, we would retreat. The relationship with ebb and flow, back and forth, and we’d dance this peculiar dance of scared intimacy.
It’s certainly easier said than done to simply say to let love in. It’s a struggle for any relationship, but it takes honest, patience, and a great amount of humility to trust another human being with your heart. On that note, I leave you with a quote from the prequel to Committed AKA Eat Pray Love.
“I’m choosing happiness over suffering, I know I am. I’m making space for the unknown future to fill up my life with yet-to-come surprises.” –Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat Pray Love.
Choose happiness. Happiness is more than just an emotion; it is a skill. Don’t be afraid. Take a chance. Take the plunge. Open your heart and let love in.
SOURCE: Gilbert, Elizabeth. Committed: A Love Story. New York: Penguin, 2011. Print.