Posted in Of Psyche

Of Love and The Imagination

One of The Problems With Love

We see love broadly as two things – something fickle and frivolous and magnificent and fated when we are younger, and something necessary and domestic and safe and unglamourous when we are a little older. We might fail at achieving either, question the emotional mechanism of the world or our own as being responsible for our failure. We try romanticism, we try anti-romanticism, but neither provides us with what we want – a constant, fool-proof, all encompassing love, akin to a pension plan. Only we prefer calling it something as cringe-inducing as True Love, Forever.

It’s not fashionable to admit it anymore, but what we’re looking for in a partner is a Saviour. Whether religion is alive or dead, we’ve substituted it with the search for true, personal love. When we think of that one, covering all bases, around when you need them, exciting when we want to be excited etc., what we’re looking for is a solution to be saved from all the dullness and misery of life. When we’re feeling wretched, completely down and out, we turn to them to cuddle us into meaningful existence.

But, all we have to suffice ourselves with is a video chat. Or by the time they’re physically around, that cuddle has lost its appeal. If our partner had just been a spiritual idea rather than a physical entity, perhaps we would have fared better at that moment. Which is why we have books and music and celebrities.

Sandy Love (Courtesy: Pixabay)

You see, most people fight against these industries feeding into our minds ideas of love and relationships and most of all, meaning and happiness that is often furthest from our realities. There are adverts celebrating #RealBeauty , but you’d be hard-pressed to find someone with facial hair or a bulging waistline on them. And that is because, even when presented with real beauty, love makes us airbrush it to maximum perfection. When presented with a real person, fulfilling acceptably our individual algorithms of what we find desirable, we bathe them in a rose-tinted light, which helps gloss over whatever is unacceptable.

Here we are, hankering after acceptance in our partners, in ourselves, thinking that is the mature way to love. The honest way to love. The kind way to love. The loving way to love. But, you can’t do it. You just can’t do it. It would be superhuman to be that honest, and further yet, accommodating, and none of us have enough Kryptonite in our systems to do it.

Imagination helps by providing you with enough substitutions to your partner’s imperfections right from the start. It’s like Nature planned it that way from the outset, for by the time you are aware of your unconscious imaginative inputs, you’re really in love too. They’re not the person you thought they were, but nevertheless they’re the person about whom you care to think a lot.

You don’t really think of your parents. Sure, you tell them you love them once in a while. You tell people anecdotes from your childhood, or point out quirks in your parents’ personalities. But, unless you are forced to think about them in a therapy session, your parents don’t drive your imagination, don’t weigh over your critical faculties.


With friends, it’s even less so, which is why we tend to prefer their company. It is the most non-committal, most un-thought-after relationship of all, which is why we get it wrong so often. If we thought about our friends the way we cultivate thoughts about our partners, we’d have better friends. But friendship, unlike love, is what we most tend to fall into. It is the least imaginative of relationships, which is why it is the only one we can’t bear to live without.

Imagination not only helps induce and culture romantic love, it prepares fertile ground for it. Moreover, it helps you get over what hasn’t worked, and potentially strengthen you for what could work. When you think about the most banal romantic comedies, pop music or chick lit, you envision them as sugary confections, as far away from the dark, bland nature of love as possible. But, look closely, and you will find much that renders true and unpleasant beneath the icing. You’re unlikely to find an unironic adult contemporary number called “I Love You But You’re So Boring” playing on the radio on Valentine’s Day*, but something like “I’m So Lonesome, I Could Cry” has long been around to take care of you.

Cupcake Love

It’s not enough to have love. Periodically, sporadically, unlimitedly. What do you do with yourself the rest of the time? When you’re by yourself, or even with the person that has such hold over whatever meaning you have as a human. When you are single, or when you feel single even if you’re officially with someone, you have to find reasons to validate your existence. That may be some grand purpose or some humble one, some great desire or a simple one (such as those who declare, “Ice-cream is Life”) or a non-purpose purpose, the kind that nihilists have made into an option for quite a while, where you claim to live without meaning because you don’t choose to die, and hence live a life of pleasure, making you a hedonist, and giving you purpose anyway.

On the other hand, if you can lay all these options to rest, and outsource your meaning to another person, you’re more relieved than anything else. Sure, they drive you mad, but it’s better than you driving yourself mad. Sure, they think you’re crazy, but you think they’re crazy too, which is better than you thinking yourself as crazy. You’d even be disappointed to think they’ve accepted your craziness. What would you have to talk about, in thirty years?

Wouldn’t you rather have an exciting, animated relationship, than one where you spent a long time being polite and editing yourself, until one day when the dormant volcano in you bursts forth with unacceptability – and you find that not only have you lied to them all this time, you haven’t loved them much? A little bit as a natural consequence of having to co-habit with someone you don’t find thoroughly revolting, but only that much.

It’s the scariest thing – to be as close as is possible, for as long as is possible – to someone as flesh and blood as you. You’d rather blame it on fate, other people, desperation or dating websites than your own conscious admittance that I am wretched without you, but with you, I hope not to mind my wretchedness so much. I’d rather distract myself with your loveliness, a little embellished though it maybe, in the hope that you’d do, kind of, the same thing for me.

Your imagination not only propels and sustains you through love, it insulates you from hurt. This person may have revealed themselves to not be worthy for all that you’re putting into the relationship, but your imagination makes you believe there is someone else who would. I don’t believe in soul mates (I, certainly, wouldn’t want to be with someone who is anything like me), but I do believe there are people who are more than willing to try to be decent human beings with people who are of similar minds and inclinations as them. That we can’t be Saviours for each other, but we can be Companions.

What do you look for in a person you love?

* I’ve found a Beautiful South song that goes by this title, but it does not seem as sincere as, say, Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On”.

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Writer, Blogger, Kate Bush Fanatic

16 thoughts on “Of Love and The Imagination

  1. Wonderful post as always. “I Love You But You’re So Boring” versus ‘I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry’ is a great idea! Being married this post makes a lot of sense. Though there are up and down moments (and my wife would say the same thing!) we always manage to find things to discuss. Be it our jobs, a TV show, music, travel hopes, or each other. I think as you say imagination just might be the key. Imagination is a key to life I honestly believe. Then again, maybe I am just lucky 🙂

    1. Thank God it applies to marriage too! I was worried about that, because I don’t think you can give a fair assessment of the condition of love without having done it all. Ideally, it would be best to record it at stages (so as not to be condescending towards young love or find older love uninspiring), but most of us don’t get it all, often because we don’t believe we can have it all. That was my inspiration to write this, because people seem to swing towards an extreme optimism or a depressing reality. And our natural instinct to imagine gets confused with that.

      I couldn’t agree more with you. Imagination is perhaps the only thing that makes life bearable. And you’re lucky to have both love and imagination!😀

      1. Absolutely. I love the idea of it in stages because it sometimes feels like the level grows after a year, after 5, after 10 etc. I appreciate the dilemma you mention, and it can be difficult to find the balance. I suppose for me it was because it happened, or started to happen when I least expected it. But back to the imagination it is indeed the most wonderful thing. Occasionally I will come across someone ‘going through the motions’ in essence. Just clock in and out of work every day, have the same meals every week with no variation. We all get in ruts obviously, but that extreme level is someplace I never want to be.

      2. Couldn’t agree more. And it is especially difficult to avoid that being an almost 30 year old woman in a conservative, traditionalist society. I would have said I’d rather die than live that mechanical, uninspiring life, but now I’m worried I’ll actually accept it! Sometimes, commitment can be a delirium you’re too much into to get out of. To quote Chandler from Friends, I might get “too scared” !

      3. Ah but you are a thinker and it does not matter if all you did was write fan fiction, or more books, that automatically disqualifies you from being unimaginative. But I realize I say that as being an almost 50 year old in more of an open society so maybe my concept of it is greatly different!

      4. No, no Robert, you are right. People have lived through wars and physical pain and bad marriages by cultivating their imagination, surely I could live with societal expectations? It’s just that people think I’m overly romantic to not be desperate as they expect someone with a ticking biological clock to be. I’m not waiting around for, I don’t know, Ned from Pushing Daisies (not that he isn’t welcome 😉), but I’m not gonna do what they effing tell me to!

        It is getting harder to preserve whatever faculties I have for imaginative thinking. Hope it’s just a phase, and not a consequence of life and getting older.

      5. Never do what the effing tell you to do! That’s when you go punk rock on them if they try to get you to conform! But I understand what you mean. And everyone is different. I know people my age with a drive of a 20 year old. And I know 20 year olds who sit around like Alfie from that Lily Allen song! Just be you, as trite as that sounds.

      6. I don’t know why I find it hilarious that you referenced that song! So true though, lol, I think even Alfie Allen got a job on Game of Thrones.

        I used to want to be in the vicinity of art because it was inspiring, purposeful and extremely attractive. Now, it’s taken over a desperation, become an insulation, and though that attitude seems to work for some, I don’t like it myself. Love art for art’s sake, not because it saves you from life for a little while. But, it has been that way more or less all my life. This is subject for another blog post, but I don’t want art to be escapism. It’s my f**king right to flaunt it!

      7. I actually had no idea that Alfie was ‘real’ and is Theon! Seriously! I agree with your approach. Art gives so much that it should be possible to love it for art’s sake as you say rather than being a life preserver!

      8. It definitely is a preserver, but we should try to make it more for us, shouldn’t we? Some people think it is a substitute of life, but it “is” life, or should be more than life. Other wise, what is the point. Why make a film just to make people forget themselves for a couple of hours? That is noble and humble, but films, people’s imagination and talent can do so much more.

        I don’t watch GoT, because I’m afraid I’ll obsess like I do with Doctor Who. That’s more or less my approach to love too!

      9. Totally agree with your movie analogy. Look at any famous work of art that is hundreds, or perhaps even thousands of years old that people are still going to, writing about it or trying still to figure it out. Take the Sphinx for example. Millions of people have seen it by this point which means all these years later it still has an influence. In other words it wasn’t created for people to walk around once and say ‘cool’ and then leave!

        I only recently watched all the series of GOT up to now. The story line does get intriguing and shocking and is compelling, but I still find the level of violence to be too gory for my tastes. I look away during those violent bits.

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