This is the second part of a series, “Five Things About Love (that are hard to understand)” by Miles McClellan. This series originally ran on McClellan’s blog and he was kind enough to share it with you, dear reader. So here’s to love – the good, bad, and all the nitty gritty (sometimes pretty) stuff in between. The last entry was for the young at heart. Happily, I find love’s challenge is something that most couples figure out as they move away from their youth together. This one’s for everybody, though. I am still relatively young myself, yet I have a feeling I will need to remind myself of this as much when I am 60 as I will in a few short years when I turn 30.
For it is a much harder thing to learn, that love knows no boundaries.
When we envision what love should look like or what it should feel like, especially when we try to predict when we will be ready for love, we tend to ascribe certain boundaries to it. We create checklists, prerequisites, like a “sweet spot” we imagine for ourselves, or for the man or woman of our dreams.
In our own cases, we tell ourselves that we can’t fall in love unless we have something else fall into place first. In the case of our partner, we grow up teaching ourselves that true love is only possible within the boundaries we, ourselves, have created for them. We will only allow ourselves to fall for someone who is and has “x,” “y,” and “z.” Commonplace as these practices are, they are misguided.
We should not kid ourselves that love answers to us.
Love rarely shows up in the form we expect. It has its own placement and its own timing, and you are not the one in control. It is a mind-numbing, heartbreaking truth, a reality that we should be confronting every day, that we could encounter someone who hits within our self-manufactured boundaries, even in their complete, dead-on, bulls-eye center…
And feel nothing.
Just as we could encounter someone so far removed from that comfort zone that we have to struggle within ourselves just to recognize they are anything remotely like us at all… and yet fall harder, farther, and more deeply for them than we ever imagined possible.
There is no sin in keeping a standard, but we too often allow our standards to become strongholds. That said, I must acknowledge that two people within one another’s comfort zones can certainly fall in love. Of course they can. Having commonality always makes falling in love easier. Such a pair can stay in love just as well, but listen to me… he or she who sees falling within those boundaries as the cause, let alone a necessity, for the lasting of such a love is not looking closely enough.
Commonalities only help with the fall. Regardless of their similarities, those who stay in love have learned to confront its challenges, not only embrace its comforts.
In the long term, it is ultimately those who are more dissimilar—those who have more to conquer in love—who can stand a better chance to survive the test of time… and those people are more often waiting outside our comfort zones than they are within them.
Editor’s Note: “Five Things” is a daily series running until Feb. 15. The third thing about love, something that can be particularly difficult to explain, is coming tomorrow. Click here to read the first post, “Love is not an easy thing.” All images for the “Five Things About Love” series are courtesy of Blume Photography
Miles McClellan is the author behind the psychology, philosophy, and fiction blog How to Throw a Book. Already a graduate of the University of Georgia’s Grady College, he is a student of all things psychological and recently published his first book Vigil of the Ageless.