When meeting someone with an interest in pursuing a romantic relationship, looks matter though some may try to deny it. We do not see a personality or intention, at first sight, we see a face, a body. These things, shallow as they may seem, are important for initial attraction. As we grow to know something, the more internal things start shaping and moulding our attractions and we develop a more holistic sense of connection with someone. It would stand to reason that after long periods in a relationship, we become more attached to the human being than the body they exist in, but do we really?
I’ve always believed that when it comes to relationships, love is not enough. It may sound disheartening to hear, but relationships are held together by choices. Choices to love, choices to respect, choices to forgive, choices to try, choices to stay. What happens when we must live with the choices others make for themselves when those choices shake the foundations of who we believe them to be? What happens when we must interrogate what we based our beliefs on, regarding who the other person is? These are questions that illuminate the basis on which we build relationships, and they can be very uncomfortable to confront.
For queer people, as one example, issues of changing gender expressions and identities can impact relationships. People do not stay the same throughout their lives, and as was the focus of Part 1 of this series, we start learning about and experimenting with our identities late because we spend our formative years repressed by queerphobia.
It seems a completely valid objection to take umbrage at the fact that your partner who had a masculine gender expression starts expressing themselves more femininely, thereby affecting your attraction to them. However, what does it say about what a longstanding love for the person is based on? Again, as easily as we can choose to stay with someone, we can make the choice to leave – that is valid, but this conversation asks us to question the foundations of our attraction and our love.
When a cisheterosexual woman, as another example, finally starts realising who she is and what she likes after years of conditioning by patriarchy, does her partner suddenly lose the capacity to love and care for her based on such changes? What is the basis of that connection then?
It is worth considering that questions of love, desire, and attraction which we often position to be involuntary and sometimes divinely inspired, are also products of our socialisation. This is not to say that sexuality and who we are attracted to is a choice, but when the things we base attraction on remain superficial and corporeal, it can so easily be disturbed when those things change. More importantly, when a love that has been so diligently crafted over time with all the obstacles that come with it can be extinguished by changes in appearance or expression, perhaps we do not love people as much as we say we do, but instead, their bodies.
I realise that this instalment asks more questions than it provides answers, but this is a call to do some excavation. We must think about why we love the people we love and what love means when so easily disturbed. Perhaps a more honest approach is to see that less of it has to do with some divine compulsion we have no choice over, and more of it is simply our choice to show up every day and try one more time. That it is conscious and deliberate, and we are not puppets to destiny.With all of that said, do our relationships under the current repertoire of choices we make open themselves up to accommodating the changes we undergo throughout our lives or do they rely on us staying the same or hiding who we really are? If so, are relationships and coupling truly a price worth paying for personal stagnation? Perhaps for that, resonance can be found in a cemetery, where our love for dead things really blossoms.