romantic quagmire

I have been in a romantic quagmire for quite a number of years now. The basic problem is that of one of the standard romantic tragedies, namely: A loves B, who in turn loves C; and since none of the loves are requited, the protagonists must persist in their unresolvable standoff until time tragically wears them down and they give up. Now the tragedy can be much prolonged if C turns out to be much younger than A or B are: B will only give up on C once she finds true love and marries, which in this case might take long enough that B will have slipped well into his mature years, at which point A will probably have settled for her second best choice, leaving B stranded in the non-matrimonial desert of his lonely 40s.

Now there are many directions in which this situation could be analyzed and a solution perhaps even found. I will consider three. The first is to cut the gordian knot with the ever more believable but nevertheless defeatist contention that the institution of marriage is no longer suited to our day and age, and namely to B. I do not wish to enter into a sociological analysis of marriage and shall let this solution remain acknowledged but not seriously considered. It sounds too much like a cop-out anyway.

The second solution is to council B to do what A does, namely to give up right away and find someone else. This however, does not take into account the sometimes enormous biological impossibility of such a wise suggestion. What should B do if he knows that whatever relationship he initiates, he would immediately quit should C come around. It seems dishonest to try to build a solid relationship with another while still “madly in love” with someone – were this even psychologically possible. B could certainly train himself to no longer like C, repeating to himself that she’s not that pretty, that her character does have its shadier patches and that she’s changed; but again that seems to be dishonest self-manipulation that in effect only really covers up the ‘problem’ without getting at the root of it: a mostly uncontrollable biologically-conditioned attraction. The only real solution is for B to wait until someone else fortuitously comes along and sweeps him off his feet. The tragedy remains in full force: B is left to sway in the winds of his emotional storm – waiting for a !@#$%ing butterfly to flap its wings somewhere down under.

The third solution (let us hope this one works) must somehow counteract the hopelessness of the emotional fate on which the last paragraph abruptly ended. How can one take the matter into one’s own hands and regain a modicum of control over oneself? I think the answer might well lie in a modified version of the first, untried solution. B must realize that if his emotional attraction is not to be changed, it can nevertheless be dealt with. This might sound like damage control (and perhaps it is), but it can also be a making-the-very-best-of-whatever-situation-one-is-in. If romance will always arrive unannounced, then so be it. We will find something else to do in the mean time, something that will prove durable and interesting enough to last a life-time, should no one at all come knocking in the end. I do not believe there is any specific activity that can be put forward as a good example; rather one must simply get into the habit of finding rewarding long-term activities, even if that activity is to spend one’s life trying to figure out how to solve the problem of our ever so unreliable emotional surprises.

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