The one in the relationship with the least amount of interest is the one with the most power.
It’s a simple concept that wields a punch. Upon hearing and understanding its meaning all kinds of flashbacks zip through your mind. That’s how my mind responded years ago when I first discovered and taught this axiom of relationships. A line of women marched through my memories, not unlike Simon’s Kodachrome and I realized the wisdom in the axiom. I wonder what wise person put it into words.
This power concept capitalizes on the notion of emotional attachment, another reason why couples stay together. While this can be a positive motivation, love can certainly qualify as emotional attachment, for too many it’s a dysfunctional power play.
Consider love, though, while we’re not too far away from the subject. Classic philosophy remains for me one of the best contexts to do so, though I’ll take it a step or two farther.
In the rhetoric of love there has been contended a number of emotions that one might consider to be love.
Eros love as discussed in Inertia is a love of beauty and sensuality. It’s undeniable attraction, a sexual chemistry, a force as unstoppable as the rotation of the planet itself. It’s rooted in lust, that wonderful spa of sensation only available to the open heart, mind and pelvis. We like this, our senses aspirate its affects on the cerebral cortex and it makes our bodies want to party. It’s the love that drives us together.
A close cousin is mania. Take eros, strip away the sensuality and beauty, replace them with fear and jealousy and voila, mania love. It’s that very feeling when you realize you’re the one in the relationship with the most interest. It’s stalker love or that feeling you get when you call their cell and the ring has that little beep at the end that tells you they’re on the line with someone else and you’re already mad that they’re talking to someone other than you. Mania is not flattering, it’s doesn’t sell greeting cards, and it leads to crimes of passion.
Pragma love is one of practicality. It’s your-daddy’s-rich-and-your-momma’s-good-lookin’ love. Driven by security, one of the drivers of relationships, pragma finds satisfaction in having temporal needs met. Combined with eros and there’s much satisfaction in having sexual needs met.
It’s also the love-the-one-you’re-with love. Many pragmatic relationships begin on twelve hour shifts. If you’re spending more time with a dynamic, fascinating, beautiful, intelligent person at work than the one you married at home, the heart does the math in minutes and hours, and before you can say “workplace romance” rumors about your marital status are already blazing their trails.
There’s more; storge, philia, ludus and agape love, and chances are these will be addressed in additional posts. For the sake of emotional attachment, eros, mania and pragma are the loves at work in this reason why couples stay together.
By emotional attachment I’m talking about causal love. I stay because you have a job. I stay because you’re good in bed. I stay because you cook and I don’t. I stay because you’re the babysitter. I stay because you let me control you. I stay because you control me.
The emotional part is the relational impetus and the attachment part is the dependance clause. I [eros] you because you’re good in bed. I [mania] you because you let me control you. I [pragma] you because you babysit.
And the result is attachment. Place the word grasp in those brackets and you’ll have an even clearer picture.
Sogyal Rinpoche in the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying says,
“So often it is only when people suddenly realize they are losing their partner that they realize they love them. Then they cling even tighter. But the more they grasp, the more the other person escapes them… How often attachment is mistaken for love! …love is spoiled by attachment, with its insecurity, possessiveness and pride.”
I didn’t like that the first time I read it. It was my first wife who gave me the book with little purple asterisks around those words. Rinpoche continues with a concept pretty foreign to us westerners who do all we can to avoid uncertainty.
“How, then, can we work to overcome attachment? Only by realizing its impermanent nature; this realization slowly releases us from its grip.”
Impermanence. Phew. What happened to always and forever? All time and eternity? It was the death of my son, the hardest lesson of my life, that taught me that nothing in this life is forever. Not even love, or rather love defined in the composite of eros, mania and pragma.
The one who does the most grasping is the one with the least power. That’s my take on it. Let go. Allow the one you love to rest in your arms instead of your embrace. When they stay it’s not because of attachment, it’s because they want to. When they go and you let go with gratitude, you can have the grace of divorce.