Jump to content
  • ENA

    A New Model of Love

    Excerpted from
    How Can I Get Through to You? Closing the Intimacy Gap Between Men and Women
    By Terrence Real

    The first phase of relational recovery, bringing the couple back into connection, requires the partners, as individuals, to move beyond gender roles that were imposed upon them, with or without their consent, as children. Relational recovery supports women in reclaiming their full authority and men in reclaiming connectedness. Once the partners can speak and listen, once they are reconnected enough to function as a real couple, we can work on their relationship. The second phase of therapy aims to retrieve the passion the partners once had and have lost. Like most of the couples I sec, the marriages of Judy and Dan, and Lester and Carolyn, degenerated over time because their capacity as partners to hold on in the face of difficulties simply wasn't up to the task. Overwhelmed by dozens of instances of disconnection, both large and small, each of them, in different ways, turned his or her back on their bond, and harbored, instead, a growing sense of disappointment and loneliness. The cost of letting go may have seemed insignificant at first, but it steadily grew' to the point of threatening their marriage's survival. In the first phase of treatment, women move back into intimacy by daring to tell the truth, and men move back into intimacy by stepping down from "privileged obliviousness" and coming in from the cold of disconnection. Each partner is asked to move beyond patriarchy's version of what constitutes being a good woman or man. In the second phase, reclaiming real passion, each partner is asked to move beyond his or her compelling, understandable, but ultimately childish fantasies, to move beyond patriarchy's version of love.

    The love story that Judy and Dan, and Lester and Carolyn, have been raised with ill equips them for real love's challenges. In order to begin the work of recovering passion, we must understand both what has been lost and also what has come to replace it. What has been lost is the state of authentic connection that we are primed for at birth, a state that is intrinsically ardent, vital, and, despite its ups and downs, pleasurable. The model that takes its place posits love as both exalted and unattainable. Connection is usurped by romance.

    I'll go write a poem
    and then take a nap.
    Or stand for a while in the sun.
    Some ladies are cruel to their knights.
    I know which ones.

    Thus begins Europe's earliest secular verse, William of Aquitaine's "L'Amour Lointain," "Distant Love," the first known modern love poem. The poem contains many of the characteristics that will become stock features of the tradition known as courtly love. In Aquitaine's poem, the valorous, faithful knight suffers piteously at the hands of a "cruel lady," who keeps her distance, not delivering unto the hero the sweet relief he so craves. This poem, as were many that followed, is essentially an extraordinarily well-wrought come-on, a three-part fugue sung by the lover, the coy maiden, and her resistance. (O gather ye rosebuds while ye may!) If courtly love had remained nothing more than a lighthearted seduction romp our lives might all be less complicated. Instead, it became nothing less

    than our culture's template for love. Lancelot and Guinevere, Tristan and Isolde-Europe's first great lovers spilled their amorous exploits onto the pages of the "romances," popular literature written in the vernacular tongue-the burgeoning "romance languages"- which set them apart from "serious" works written in Latin. The characters, themes, dramas of these romances became the foundation for romance itself, the cultural embodiment of our deepest feelings of connection. What are those elements and why did they so readily gain such a powerful grip on our collective psyches? The gift and the burden of romantic love is captured in the two-word title of its first known iteration: "Distant Love." The operative word is distant. Sir William's lover would undoubtedly have been some other man's wife. Courtly love, our prototype for romance, was adulterous. Any thoughts that these doughty knights were burning themselves to a crisp slaying fire-breathing dragons, cutting themselves to ribbons crossing sword bridges with bare hands and feet, humiliating themselves by submitting to public pillory; all for the sake of their wives, should be immediately banished. Whether it was Guinevere, Isolde, Dante's Beatrice, Anna Karenina, Helen of Troy, or Katharine of The English Patient, throughout Western literature, the women who seem to inspire men's greatest passions are those belonging to other men, or at the least star-crossed beauties who do not, and cannot, belong to them. I challenge any reader to find in the whole of modem Western literature a list of more than three scintillating, enraptured, heat-drenched ... marriages.

    The romantic love story is a paradoxical fusion of two extraordinarily potent messages. The first is that love, deep connection, is the most important, indeed the only truly important matter in the world. And the second is that true love cannot exist in this world. Romeo and Juliet in sweltering Verona; Jack and young Rose aboard the Titanic; Katharine and Almasy, the English patient, in the Saharan sands, even the prince and his enchanted swan princess-in our culture what great lovers have always done best is die. heartrendingly and gloriously. There is even a term for this apotheosis of passion-liebestod in German, "love death," the ultimate climax.

    User Feedback

    Recommended Comments

    There are no comments to display.

    Create an account or sign in to comment

    You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

    Create an account

    Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

    Register a new account

    Sign in

    Already have an account? Sign in here.

    Sign In Now

  • Create New...