[Photo courtesy of EBM Photography: thanks Emma!]
To what extent do we do things for love and how much for the idea of love? Are you a hopeless romantic or romantic masochist? Let’s talk about romance today.
I said in a previous post that personally, I think I’m a romantic masochist. I was of course, referring to my long distance relationship. 3 years in fact. Yup. Hard core right? This post is a sort of continuation from that one. Trying to fathom why I could do a long distance relationship for so long. Maybe beneath the surface there are other issues at play. Maybe you’re like me too and can relate somehow?
I like to analyze myself. Call it checking in, keeping tabs on myself and trying to understand why the heck I make the decisions and choices I do. I’m at a point in my life right now where I am trying to find out what I want, who am I and where am I going? So I’m doing a lot of soul searching and reflecting.
I’m an Aquarius. It probably says it all really. I think too much. Like, way too much.
In fact, I could probably just leave this here, go to the pub, knock back a few drinks and not worry so much. But my brain won’t let me do that. I like to think so we’ll continue.
Introducing The Hopeless Romantic:
I’m a dreamer, thinker, love to spend time reading, fantasizing and romanticising things. It’s my escapism. It’s a world where all the romantic stories play out in my head and they all have happy endings. They take me away from my stresses and struggles and all the crap I’ve experienced. They give me hope that I will get my happily ever after one day too. Ahh I could lose myself in my own world for hours dreaming up stuff. Staring at a blank wall … no sweat! My thoughts lead me to many wonderful places. I’m never bored. I was often yelled at by my teachers to stop staring out the window daydreaming. Not much has changed since school ha-ha!
I love coincidences, signs and symbolic meanings. The ideas of fate and destiny and our futures being written on the stars. I hate clichés but love creative, unique romantic gestures and stories. I believe in true love and happily ever after.
Yep. Hopeless romantic here. *shoots hand straight up like Hermione in Harry Potter*
I am realistic though and know happily ever after takes work. A lot of work. Add in blood, sweat and tears and a whole barrel of tolerance, patience and respect too. Eventually loves fades, we grow comfortable and all we have is companionship in the end but it’s still fun to believe in soul mates and finding The One who you want to grow old and grey with. That maybe we will find our other half one day when fate and destiny bring us to them and we’ll get butterflies in our stomachs and feel totally upside down.
I love all the great movies, novels and poems about love, about fighting for it, about dying for it. Disney rules! Ok the other Nobel Prize winning literature out there isn’t bad either. 😉 Any plot where there is a love story in it or someone is fighting for something or for someone they believe in and I’m a sucker for it. Pretty much glued to it, eyes wide open, cramming popcorn (half salted, half sweet with crispy m&m’s thrown in for good measure) in my mouth with a pack of tissues at the ready! On several occasions I’ve been caught reading all night because I just had to see how the guy found his girl! I’m addicted to those cheesy romance novels that are set in Mediterranean Italy and talk about passionate love, the beautiful Italian country and delicious food. A bath, glass of vino and a book like that and I’m in heaven! Oh and I was totally addicted and obsessed with Stephanie Meyers’ Twilight series during college! (I nearly got a Twilight tattoo – yep and even put myself in stupid situations– walking home alone at night, totally scared of the dark, just to see if vampires do exist! *face palm*)
It’s that fighting for freedom, love & honour—it just gets me every time and I get swept up in the story and kiss goodbye to reality.
And, yep you guessed it. I love war films that portray all that glamour and romantic heroism. I’d listen to my grandma’s stories of war time in England and be totally fascinated. (Well who wouldn’t get excited of tales of the US Navy hitting Portsmouth and all the American sailors being let loose!)
I love history. All the glossed over, edited and romanticised versions of it.
I love the military too.
Don’t get me wrong though, I understand completely that war is nothing like how Hollywood portrays it. It’s a world apart from that. Members of my family and close friends have served in the military so I have a fairly good understanding of what really happens. I’ve studied history so know how bloody and awful wars were. But the fact that someone can lay down their life for a complete stranger, to fight for their country and sacrifice their life and give up so much is romantic and courageous to me. Without a doubt, it’s one of the most beautiful and selfless things that someone can do. And I do love a s/hero. And that goes for the wives, husbands and families of military personnel too. They are the leading ladies, men and characters that hold the forte at home waiting for their sweethearts, sons and daughters to return. The silent heroes.
And what our ancestors achieved through war and fighting for their freedom, rights and honour is astounding. (OK, we’ll skim over the other motives for war like greed, power and hate.) It reminds me of medieval tales of knights and princesses and defending lands against evil. Countries not being afraid to be great, stand tall and be patriotic whilst their citizens and warriors scream their pride. Themes of passion, justice, faith, love, commitment, honesty, honour, courage, loyalty and heroism run through movies and literature and I blissfully indulge and lap all that up.
It probably explains why my first relationship was with a US Army infantryman from West Virginia! It was a whirlwind romance of 6 months and wonderful while it lasted! We met in Germany. What is with Germany? Maybe there is something in the water? But he was on deployment here, I was doing a work experience placement and we kept in touch afterwards by phone and email. He even came to visit me in the UK before heading back to the US. Before breaking my heart. *sob*
Ahh, so many people are probably rolling their eyes thinking, “bloody hell, that one is away with the fairies!”
Well, yes. They are probably right. I think I’m a bit nuts.
But behind every fairy tale there are lessons and morals that teach us about how to behave or act in society. I have morals and values I strongly believe in too. I’m always looking for the lessons in my life. The answers to why things happen or why I do things. The things I am supposed to be learning. What my purpose is. Why I am here. Forever analyzing myself and thinking “what if?” and “why?” The codes and morals I live by help me to always hold myself accountable to my actions and be transparent and honest. I have respect for myself and for others and I believe that is not just romantic but actually important for a good, stable, kind society.
But I am definitely a hopeless romantic. Head in the clouds. Dreamer. (My sister is probably spewing in a bucket right now reading this! We’re chalk and cheese!)
So with all that in mind, it probably wasn’t so difficult for me to jump into a long distance relationship and remain faithful.
Enter The Romantic Masochist:
The Merriam Webster dictionary definition tells us that masochism is,
“a sexual perversion characterized by pleasure in being subjected to pain or humiliation especially by a love object”
Maybe there’s a part of me that loves the idea of a romantic yet painful separation.
That for it to be true love I must have defeated everything, been tested and won.
Like I need to validate and prove the relationship is strong and meant to be.
That I must experience that pain in order to know that it’s worth it and it’s real.
The idea of kissing your lover goodbye not knowing if you will return; there’s drama, excitement and passion and that romantic story begins. It’s something you can tell you grandkids one day and maybe it’s your way of proving your strength of character to yourself or to others.
There’s something so deeply romantic in the pain of being separated from someone. You have intense feelings for them but you cannot have them. It’s a bittersweet feeling. Romeo and Juliet. Sturm and Drang. It’s exciting, you feel alive, you’re motivated and have a mission.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder as they say.
I guess unrequited love could fall into this category too. Not being able to have someone you want just makes them even more desirable.
When we are going through it though it’s just hell and often we’re not actually sure why we are doing it. I don’t think anyone chooses a long distance relationship just so they can feel the pain — a long distance relationship is tough. Unrequited love sucks — but there are certain pleasurable feelings in the suffering and maybe we keep getting drawn to relationships like that because something is missing in our lives.
Masochism of course comes in different forms. From sexual domination to obsessive, addictive behaviour that gives a sense of pleasure / pain experience. I’m talking about the latter in this case. I guess masochist behaviour can also be seen in break ups too. For example, to describe addictive actions– like not wanting to let go so you play old tunes that stir up those memories and feelings, Facebook stalk your ex with their new love interest to make yourself feel even more worthless and crap and re-read text messages and chat histories on your phone over and over to torture yourself and remind yourself you once were loved … OK I never did those things for too long but you get where I’m going with this right? I think we all go through a bit of romantic masochism at some point in our lives. I think it’s probably normal even and is a part of the grieving process of break ups and just highlights what is missing in our lives. It’s probably not OK though to keep doing these things.
In my second long distance relationship I’d look at pictures and re-read emails from Andriy, focusing on the past and what I was missing. I’d listen to music that stirred up memories and tell him on Skype how much I missed him. Feeling sad and melancholy I’d continuously do those things whilst knowing they would make me cry and feel shit. There was a part of me that weirdly enjoyed that. It was like reliving those memories and losing myself in fantasy. As if all the pain and suffering would sweeten the reunion and our happy ending would be amazing. That no pain, no gain, kind of attitude. That if it didn’t hurt so much then it wasn’t true love.
But doing those things and thinking that way blinded me to reality.
It led me into fantasy and I romanticised a lot. Fantasies are addictive.
And I spent more time reliving the memories, dreaming up future encounters and feeling crap than productively working on the situation and hurrying my arse up to get back to him. I was kind of stuck in this frozen perplexed state; enjoying the fantasies whilst simultaneously hurting and missing the physical intimacy but the relationship and my life couldn’t actually go anywhere.
I was to an extent even proud of telling people my boyfriend and I were separated by countries. I’d tell them how a British girl met a Ukrainian boy in East Germany in an old Soviet town at a Cuban salsa dancing class. It’s very international and unusual. I enjoy storytelling. But I was romanticising and looking back at things with rose tinted spectacles, ignoring the struggles I was having in the job market, my health and the fact I hated Chemnitz, I was focusing on the love story that was our long distance relationship.
This ego started to bring out the worst traits in me. I started being arrogant and judgmental of others who couldn’t do long distance.
I got resentful, bitter and jealous of others who had their lovers by their side whilst I didn’t.
Sometimes I played the sympathy card to get attention or had obnoxious moments insinuating my relationship was better or more committed or that people should praise me because I was going the distance while others weren’t. I was seeking empathy, sympathy and validation for my actions. In a nutshell: I was insecure, lacked confidence, was unsure Andriy was The One and was trying to convince myself and others this was true love.
I soon nipped this in the bud pretty sharpish once I realised I didn’t like these qualities. Those are not nice traits to have. I needed to get off my high horse and stop comparing my relationship to others. After all, it was my decision to do long distance, not theirs. I opted in for it and I could have left at any time.
Long distance isn’t for everyone. And it is totally OK if you are not the type of person to do long distance. It doesn’t say anything negative about who you are, nor undermine the strength or seriousness of your relationship. No relationship is better than another. We have no common ground for comparison because we are all different and all have different wants, needs, perspectives and expectations.
Like I said, long distance should only ever be temporary anyway and it does test the relationship and adds a lot of pressure and stress.
But I do wonder if I am somehow addicted to this idea of pain and pleasure or whether I just wasn’t ready to commit. Maybe I didn’t know where I really wanted to be so couldn’t decide if I should return to Germany or not. Maybe I was looking for something to make me feel alive and motivate me? Perhaps I was comfortable with having an e-relationship? I do like and need my space!
I think I am both a romantic masochist and hopeless romantic. I don’t intentionally seek relationships that are difficult nor do I like feeling pain but I’m a dreamer and believer that anything is possible. I think I am a hopeless romantic still searching for something but that makes me positive, hopeful and determined to try new things. To take adventures. To risk it all. To get my fairy tale ending. I work hard. I put in the effort and then some. I don’t like to fail. But I do enjoy hours of procrastination and often spend far too long in my own dream world dreaming about achieving my dreams, reliving memories or fantasizing scenarios when really I should just wake up and actually make them happen.