Thursday, September 3, 2020

Distorted Love

We're continuing our conversation about emotional and psychological well-being, particularly as it impacts our young people. So far, we've looked at the vast array of labels they carry, even for things that would have been considered normal parts of the human experience just a generation ago, how these labels keep them from connecting into communities, and how this leads them to a works-based identity that cannot fathom being valued for just who they are. And remember, this isn't just our young people. As it becomes more pervasive in our culture, this kind of stuff is affecting all of us.

Today, we're looking again at relationships, but this time, we're looking more toward the romantic side of things. Something that's becoming very popular among our younger generations is the concept of "open relationships" - the idea that you can commit to someone and keep dating other persons, too. Right alongside of this is developing "polyamory," a concept of love in which if you like someone and they like someone else, you simply solve the tension by dating them both because, hey, you're flexible like that. (This is, of course, putting a lot of our young people into same-sex relationships, not because they are particularly attracted to the same sex but because they are attracted to someone of the opposite sex who is attracted to someone else, and the only way to have a chance with the person they are attracted to is to make it a triangle and hope for the best.) And these are not my words - these are the words of the young person with whom I spoke recently, who talked about these things as if they are completely normal.

Now, we could say that maybe this generation is figuring out teenage love for real and discovering how fleeting it is and knowing that they shouldn't let themselves get too committed to something that's happening right now because it's all subject to change as they continue to grow. Or maybe they're really in tune with their own process of self-discovery and know there are things about themselves that they just haven't figured out yet, so they're leaving some doors open.

But what is more likely the case is that they are burdened by the labels they carry and the walls they've had to build up around themselves and the warnings that they've attached to their very existence, and they have this ingrained belief that it's not fair to ask someone else to commit to them. It's not fair, and it's not realistic.

After all, if you're "too much" to handle, how can you ever think it reasonable to ask anyone else to handle you?

So they think their only chance at "love" is to take it however it comes, to jump on it with whatever chance they get, to settle for less than their heart desires because if they don't settle for less, they believe they will have nothing at all.

And we're not just talking about secular kids. We're not just talking about kids who have no other frame of reference than what culture gives them. We're talking about church kids, too. The young person I was talking with is one who would claim a very intense personal faith. But that's not enough to convince this young person that the world is lying about this stuff. Lying about who this young person is. Lying about what love "has" to be. (Although, of course, the world doesn't phrase it that way. The world says this is what love "can" be if you're just open and progressive and cool enough to deal with it that way.)

The young person I was speaking with confessed that this open relationship and polyamory stuff doesn't work. But he/she staunchly defended the ideas in principle, saying that teenagers are just too immature for it and that if they were adults, it would turn out differently. Spoiler alert: no, it won't. This open relationship and polyamory stuff doesn't work, period. It's not because you're too young for it; it's because it's not what love was meant to be.

But it's what they're told love has to be because they are just too broken, too dangerous, too disgusting as human beings to expect anything more, to expect anything better. And so they settle for the idea that maybe someone will have them "on the side," like the pickle that comes with the sandwich. Maybe someone will make just a little space for them somewhere. Just a little space. And they'll call it love.

It's not love.

And that's why we have to keep telling them they're okay, so that they'll understand they are worth real love. They are worth the commitment that someone is going to make to them one day. They are not scary or defective or too much to handle; they will most likely (statistically) find someone who loves them for who they are, even the parts they think are broken. And when they do, they won't want to share that - and they won't want to be shared. Because it will be enough. It will be perfectly enough. It will be more than they ever imagined for themselves, more than they ever dared hope for. And yet, if they don't know it's possible going into it, they won't believe it's real when they find it, and they'll keep passing it up for something lesser because they're so convinced that they are lesser. That's why they've got to know, right now, that they're more. And they're okay.

No comments:

Post a Comment