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Is Passion Sustainable in a Healthy Relationship?

Doisneau, 1950.

Doisneau, 1950.

Tea: Pomegranate White Tea
Music: Jose Gonzalez: Heartbeats

Quote: Before long, Tom and Polly were sitting side by side, enjoying the blissful state of mind which usually follows the first step out of our work-a-day world, into the glorified region wherein lovers rapturously exist for a month or two. Louisa May Alcott’s An Old Fashioned Girl

Or for some tough love:

Mortal lovers must not try to remain at the first step; for lasting passion is the dream of a harlot and from it we wake in despair. C.S. Lewis

Question:

Dear Erica,

In relationships, do you have to sacrifice passion for sustainability? Is it possible to settle down and have a healthy relationship with the same guy who makes you feel like the heroine in a romance novel?

Best,

Baffled in Brooklyn

My Response:

Dear Baffled in Brooklyn:

A tricky question. If you see my post Princes and Pomp from January, I advise my readers to be wary of missing out on the love of your life because you are looking for some idealized hero who does not exist. However, if there is no passion, it is hard to have a sustainable relationship. Sex and sustainability go hand in hand. Anne of Green Gables might not have thought that Gilbert was her romantic hero, but all that romantic tension made it clear to the reader they had some serious chemistry. Nearly all good relationships have that initial spark. However, romance novels deal with the first step of a courtship, and as both C.S. Lewis and Louisa May Alcott reflect in the quotes above, that “glorified region” is a temporary state, and from it we must move forward.

Nearly all romance novels end with the courtship, which rarely lasts more than a few months.  We do not see a married Jane and Mr. Rochester arguing over who forgot to buy the butter, or Elizabeth nagging Darcy because the carriage is looking worn and she wants it to be replaced.  In a romance novel, one never sees the effect of the daily squabbles on a relationship.  It is one thing to deal with standard roadblocks during a courtship(disapproving relatives, crazy ex-girlfriends, or if you are Jane Eyre, a crazy wife living in the attic), it’s another thing to deal with your husband or lover never putting his socks in the hamper(Will they ever learn?).

The tension and drama of “Will he call? Does he like me? Can we make it work?”, all those agonizing moments contribute to the excitement of dating. And as you settle into a stable relationship, you will find not only the heartache, but also the excitement caused by those moments fades. Passion does not disappear, but it does take a different more sustainable shape, and if you hope to feel like a heroine in a romance novel for the entire relationship, you are guaranteed to be disappointed.  For a look at passion in an old married couple, you should read Anne Tyler’s Breathing Lessons. The middle-aged couple, Maggie and Ira, bicker over all the mundane affairs of married life, but still have enough passion to make love at a funeral. One can only imagine what sort of tea they were drinking.

Yours truly,

Erica

February 26, 2011   1 Comment

Old Fashioned Remedies for the Doldrums

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Tea: Peach Tea
Music: Trouble by Cat Stevens

Quote: “Things worry me sometimes, but I just catch up a broom and sweep, or wash hard, or walk, or go at something with all my might, and I usually find that by the time I get through the worry is gone, or I `ve got courage enough to bear it without grumbling,” answered Polly. An Old Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott

While nearly every young woman has read the classic Little Women, another great work by Louisa May Alcott, An Old Fashioned Girl, is too often overlooked. Polly Milton is the story’s charming heroine, an old fashioned country girl, who wins over her rich relations and the adorable Tom Shaw with her sweetness, humour, and a healthy dose of common-sense (reflected in the quote above). By and large, a great deal of worry and unhappiness is caused by thinking too much of one’s own personal grievances. Polly’s way of dealing with her worries may be old-fashioned (even for her time-and we are talking about the 19th century!), but it is as effective today as it was in Alcott’s sweet story.
Keep in mind, when I say worries, I am not talking about the worry endured by a single mother who doesn’t know how to put food on the table, or the crippled soldier who doesn’t know when he will next see his family. I am talking about myself, and many like me, who are disappointed that they didn’t get into the graduate program of their choice, or that the dream job didn’t materialize, or (and this is the most common cause of the doldrums) that the guy they like isn’t calling. Bastard! For women and girls like myself, whose small petty problems can feel overwhelming, Polly’s old-fashioned advice to go “catch up a broom and sweep, or wash hard, or walk”, coupled with her tendency to help others is an excellent remedy for the doldrums. As my mother says, life is not fair. When I’m feeling sorry for myself, I try to remember how much worse things could be(have you seen how those children live in Slumdog Millionaire?), go for a walk, tidy up the house, anything to keep me from moping.

Before you think Polly is too much of a goody two-shoes to have any relevance for us modern day women, I should make you aware that she displays a healthy antagonism towards her arch-nemesis and rival, Trix, and recklessly splurges on a new pair of gloves and bonnet when she shouldn’t. Who could really like a girl who did not say something bitchy once in a while or spend too much on a new dress? And that brings me to my second remedy for the doldrums. If cleaning the house, exercise or charity work does not drag you out of your moping, put on your sexiest dress, curl your hair, and hit the town. Better yet, put on your sexiest dress and volunteer at the nearby convalescent home. Even in a wheelchair, men do notice! Just making a little bit of effort with your appearance will have an effect on not only those around you, but on your own self-esteem. Never underestimate the power of a little lipstick when you need to rescue yourself from the doldrums.

January 22, 2011   No Comments

Princes & Pomp

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Tea: Mint Medley
Music: Pachelbel-Leppard: Canon

Quote: “Perhaps, after all, romance did not come into one’s life with pomp and blare, like a gay knight riding down; perhaps it crept to one’s side like an old friend through quiet ways; perhaps it revealed itself in seeming prose, until some sudden shaft of illumination flung athwart it’s pages and betrayed the rhythm and the music; perhaps… perhaps… love unfolded naturally out of a beautiful friendship, as a golden-hearted rose slipping from its green sheath. -L.M. Montgomery

or put bluntly,
“True love comes quietly, without banners or flashing lights. If you hear bells, get your ears checked.” Erich Segal

You may not find Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables series next to Jane Eyre at the bookstore. In fact, it would most likely be relegated to the teen literature department. But, Anne’s prickly relationship with Gilbert has to be considered one of the best literary love stories, and provides a number of lessons for us modern day women. What true romantic was not intrigued by Anne’s feisty rivalry with Avonlea heartthrob Gilbert Blythe? Their initial bickering evolved into a warm and affectionate friendship that had you rooting for them from the the first time he called her “Carrots”. However, when he professed his love for her, she turned him away because he did not fit her romantic ideal. Dreaming of drama and adventure, she left home to find a romantic hero, only to find everything she wanted could be found in her small hometown and in the friend she had foolishly brushed aside.

As we look for love in the twenty first century, we should do our best to avoid looking for an unrealistic romantic hero outside of our everyday world (a prince on a white horse). Those princes do exist, but are few and far between. If you are not careful, you may miss out on the real love of your life because you are too busy chasing an illusion. Don’t overlook that childhood friend, that roommate, that colleague or old boyfriend who doesn’t fit into the romantic ideal you have foolishly created for yourself.

January 13, 2011   2 Comments