Modern-day relationships should put into question the idea of love as the union between two souls. Instead of insisting that true love is the act of two becoming one, a multipolar world teaches us that love is more realistically made manifest by recognizing the uniqueness of each. Love does not require the dissolution of the self into the other. Forcing a person to make the ultimate sacrifice of his or her individuality only results in oppression and violence.
To disrespect the unique identity of the other is no more than the violation of one’s inner freedom. There is no need to call the other a “better half.” To do so is to assume that half of the person has been lost. The other, as that being who is different, is that special someone whose affection means the most. And yet, you cannot really promise to live and die for this person unless you accept and value the person that he or she is.
Two halves, hermeneutics reveals, do not equal to one. In truth, human beings desire to be recognized as whole selves. To think that a pretty wife can make a man happy is to reduce the other to a mere function that serves a particular purpose in a relationship. It is not happiness, but a “being with” that one must seek when the heart feels so alone. Love, Gabriel Marcel says, is an appeal: “Be with me!”
The trouble with forcing two different people to believe that love means being bound to an agreement is that one will have to necessarily make a sacrifice. It is not important to ask why and how. Even if partners know how, the reality is that there exists a hegemonic social order that simply imposes on people a cruel standard or norm, which explains why men have dominated and still continue to dominate women, why the strong controls the weak, and why the beautiful gets all the attention in this life.
If we intend to democratize marriage and deepen the value of human relations, then there must not be an automatic assumption of roles. The point is not just to understand who the other is. If a man cannot spoil a woman, then there is no reason for him to be in her life. Of course, some men might complain. Yet, if you love the person, then the same should be welcomed as an adversary who deserves respect, not an enemy who needs to be annihilated. It is a painful reality, but in the postmodern world, the distinction between truth and imagination has become blurred.
Politics in marriage means that the social order draws its meaning from the political. A husband must be willing to admit that a wife is not always a friend. You cannot demand that she must conform to patriarchal rules and thereby shed her identity. A woman is not a thing whose function is to satisfy the desire of any man. Think of human life as a desert rather than an oasis where flowers bloom. Only then will you be able to value why it matters to be with someone.
Jean-Francois Lyotard asks if postmodernity is “the pastime of an old man who scrounges in the garbage-heap of finality looking for leftovers.” Truth to tell, we are nothing but the stories we tell our children. Indeed, to love someone is to uproot ourselves from the normalcy of our individual lives. Love is most felt when you listen rather than when you have the urge to speak up. Human commitment must always welcome a state of chaos. While you have made a choice, you should also accept the fact that you cannot have absolute control over things.
You do not marry because you want peace of mind. You can only love a woman because you want her in your life. Hence, if you love a woman, then you cannot make any imposition. Perhaps, the desire for eternity is an oppressive ideal. But of course, John Leonard may be right in saying that “postmodernism is a cover-up for the failure of the French to write a truly interesting novel ever since the death of Albert Camus.”
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Christopher Ryan Maboloc, PhD, teaches philosophy at Ateneo de Davao University. He is the author of the four-volume “The Harshest Things You’ll Ever Learn About Love.”