I’m getting to a stage in my life where I’ve been considering whether I’m meant to be with one person or whether, like about half the population, I’d be fine being on my own. Despite having a creative background and personality that requires a lot of time to myself, I’ve realized recently that I’m meant to have one partner. An other half. I think I’ve known this deep down my whole life, but I only recently internalized the truth of it. (Just in time for Valentine’s day, as I’m single, again.)
The question that’s of utmost importance to consider; could I, or anyone, be realistically expected to maintain complete monogamy for the entire duration of a partnership, or marriage, in today’s social climate? Is this even necessary to maintain a good relationship? Are people who are naturally predisposed to be with a significant other able to manage multiple connections or bonds simultaneously? Is jealousy a manageable emotion? Or possessiveness? Or fear that your loved one will leave you? Can you be bonded to someone in a way that is both deep and fulfilling, and yet doesn’t fear loss?
I watched a video recently of a monk discussing love and suffering. She describes real love as something that makes no effort to possess. It has a holding quality, that allows the object of love to be free to live their path. The person who is loving doesn’t ask the object of their love to satisfy them in any way; they’re meant to find satisfaction on their own. This is an entirely different kind of love than what we’re taught to expect and to give in our society. We’re taught to love with possession, although it should be noted that some humans are biologically predisposed to do so. (In fact, men with certain genes are more likely to make for durable husbands, while other are meant – biologically – to be with multiple mates. Women have the same thing, but in lower percentages.) This is important to acknowledge.
Wanderlust is a show just released on Netflix about a woman, played by Toni Collette, that tackles these exact questions. I started an episode one night and was very quickly hooked. (If you’re interested or thinking about relationships and psychology, I highly recommend watching this show sober first, and then lightly stoned… you’ll appreciate the acting and writing to such an incredible degree. The show is dense enough to enjoy on its own, but with weed, you’ll go much deeper.) Collette’s character, Joy Richards, works as a relationship therapist, suffers an injury, and has to deal with a marriage that’s falling apart. Being in tune with her own needs (and other’s) as she is leads her to practice radical honesty when she decides to tell her husband that she no longer feels like sleeping with him. He initially reacts with fear, but that changes with time. The backstory is that they’ve been married for a long time, they don’t want to get divorced or lose each other, but they’re also not exactly on fire for each other anymore.
In her experiences with her patients, Joy sees where withholding desire can lead. She sees people who are no longer physically willing to speak, patients suffering grief that she and they know will never dissipate. She witnesses her neighbor’s (happy) marriage ending when the wife, who happens to be an exquisite pastry chef, realizes that she may be a lesbian. As she witness these relationships in flux, she realizes that she has to be fearless in obtaining what she needs, and as she attempts repeatedly to entice her husband to be with her, she finds that she can’t. Both she and her husband spontaneously engage in extramarital trysts, with varying degrees of guilt. After they confess to each other, she suggests that they try seeing other people. They agree, and the series begins. Because her character is a psychologist, who is aware enough to have a shrink of her own, she’s highly in tune with everything she and her husband are experiencing. The most inconvenient part of the already strenuous process is having to deal with the reactions of others. Her husband Alan, played by Steven Mackintosh, gets involved with a co-worker at his school, where he works as an instructor. The principal finds out and scandal ensues. Alan decides to eventually leave his marriage in favor of this pseudo relationship to give it a real go. Joy, in the meantime, floats from one meaningless encounter to the next, and has to deal with the repercussions of her actions. She does, alone, with grace, and all the while being clear with herself about the aspects of her life that are changing, and being brave enough to process every difficult emotion that arises. There’s even one episode entirely dedicated to one of Joy’s therapy appointments; this show isn’t for those with short attention spans or a half interest in interpersonal relationships. I won’t give away how the season ends aside from mentioning that there it’s worth watching and comes to a satisfying end.
The show is a well-written ode to how complex human relationships really are. (It ought to be well-written, it was created by Nick Payne, the acclaimed playwright responsible for “Constellations” and “If There Is I Haven’t Found it Yet.” ) They change constantly, as do we. This is good. Hold on to anything too tightly and it’s likely you’ll stifle it. Let it go and see if it returns. If it does, it’s likely meant to be in your life and will probably return repeatedly, as will the people you’re meant to be with.